Those of us who live in most of the United States or Canada, were reminded last weekend about time. Each spring and fall, we dutifully change our clocks by an hour, often griping about the hassle. Sometimes we do this only after missing an appointment, making the transition even worse.
It’s a hassle, yes. But this twice yearly ritual is an opportunity to reflect on how we are using our time. Some time ago, I heard Ken Blanchard talk about intentional leadership. He described the typical scene each morning when our alarm clocks go off.
We jerk out of bed and start rushing through our morning routines – leaving coffee rings, toast crumbs, and splattered toothpaste in our wake. We jump into our cars and rush to work, still in a state of panic. We climb out of our cars and into our desks. As we madly wait for our computers to boot up, the anxiety that yet another day may get the better of us begins to settle in.
“What if,” Ken suggested, “we turn this daily scenario on end? What if we think of our alarm clock as an opportunity clock?”
Think about it. When you start each day in a reactionary mode, you’re much less likely to achieve your most important goals. You move from reacting to the alarm clock to reacting to emails, to voicemails, and to urgent requests from others. By days’ end, that important project you’ve had on your to-do list for weeks has aged yet one more day.
What if, instead, you were to start each day focused on the opportunity to make the most of your next few waking hours? Suddenly, distractions and interruptions would fall away, and your priorities would become crystal clear.
Intentional leaders know that the countermeasure to living-by-alarm is living-by-ritual. What you make time for, and what you do not, become the leadership rituals that define your influence, your style, and your legacy.
Whether you decide to have a clean desk, an empty inbox, run every morning, or eat more vegetables, you are articulating your values and setting an example. You are creating a set of rituals that fill you with energy instead of drain you.
Here are 3 ways to take advantage of your daily opportunity clock:
1. Connect Your Rituals to Your Higher Purpose. To be an intentional leader, you must first connect your rituals to your own higher purpose. What are your values? How would creating strong rituals around those values move you and your organization toward your goals? Connecting rituals to your higher purpose gives them the power to inspire and motivate you when they seem hard to maintain. You can find simple exercises to help you do this in my book Work On Purpose.
2. Take the First Step. Once you have identified a ritual that aligns with your higher purpose, take a first step in the direction of your goal. Change one thing. One simple thing. Drink more water. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Spend the last 10 minutes of the day identifying 3 key actions for tomorrow. Any small change can be the start of your leadership ritual if it honors your values. Test your tendency toward keeping habits with this short quiz developed by Gretchen Rubin.
3. Repeat and Reinforce. To really lock this in, you need to keep up your new ritual. What support can you create in your environment to make this easy to maintain? Is there someone who will do this with you, help remind you, or keep you focused when you start to fall back into old patterns? Sometimes a reminder placed in plain view, or a change in furniture of your office or bedroom can be the jolt that keeps you on track. If you’re a techie, take advantage of smart phone reminder apps to help keep you on track.
Becoming an intentional leader is a journey. Decide today what your leadership journey is about, and develop the rituals that will support you and bring your values to life.
Question: Is something keeping you from focusing on your priorities? Please leave your comment below.