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Is Time…the limiting factor to accomplishment?

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past weeks I was engaged  in a number of conversations with professional staff that had a common theme…”time”. Here is a summary of what I heard:

“I didn’t get it done on time.”

“I couldn’t find the time.”

“I ran out of time.”

“If only I had more time.”

“I wasn’t given enough time.”

“There’s no time.”

Here is what  Peter Drucker has to say about time.

Time is your limiting resource and it is totally irreplaceable in your life. You cannot expand the amount of time you have available per day, week, or year, as you can expand your other resources such as capital and people.

Yet, everything you do requires your time. This means that your accomplishments and your effectiveness are set, or limited, by the way you manage your time, your scarcest resource.

Unless you manage your time, you will not be able to manage anything else. The management of your time, therefore, is the foundation for your effectiveness. And the good news is that you can manage your time and improve the management of your time with practice and with constant effort. (The Effective Executive, Chapter 2)


Effective people know that time is the limiting factor. The output limits of any process are set by the scarcest resource. In the process we call “accomplishment”, this is time.


Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been translated into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan his course. He needs to think about desired results, probable restraints, future revisions, check-in points, and implications for how he’ll spend his time.

The action plan is a statement of intentions rather that a commitment….It should be revised often because every success creates new opportunities. So does every failure….A written plan should anticipate the need for flexibility.

In addition, the action plan needs to create a system for checking the results against expectations….

Finally, the action plan has to become the basis for the executive’s time management. Time is the executive’s scarcest and most precious resource. And organizations…are inherently time wasters. The action plan will prove useless unless it’s allowed to determine how the executive spends his or her time.

Peter F. Drucker, “What Makes an Effective Executive”, Harvard Business Review, June 2004, p.60

I read something recently that initially seemed to run contrary to Drucker, in that the writer made the following observation…”you can’t manage time”. And he went on to say that when you approach the issues you are dealing with from a “time” angle, you have little chance of being effective. His underlying premise was what you really manage is your activity during time. In other words, the focus needs to be redirected to the principles and systems that you use to make conscious decisions about the activities that occupy your time. He was in agreement with Drucker, just another way of saying the same thing.

If you’ve struggling with “time” issues, here are some questions to reflect on:

Do I consciously behave as though time is the limiting factor to my effectiveness?

Do I start and end my day with good time practices?

Am I respectful of others time?

Am I blaming others for my “time” issues?

Should I ask for the observation of others about my time management style?

Am I afraid about the truth about my existing time usage?

Am I afraid of missing wasteful activities I enjoy doing?

If you jot down your reflections on these questions, I’m certain you’ll find a few clues on how to improve your effectiveness…and thus, accomplishments!

Categories: Leadership Tags:

CPAs & Social Media

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Below is a link to an informative presentation made recently by Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, who is the CEO & Executive Director of the Maryland Association of CPAs. Tom is an interesting and forward-thinking CPA who I enjoy following on Twitter. He has emerged as a leading voice in the application of Web 2.0 technologies and social media in the CPA industry.

Check it out…

CPAs and Social Media – Passing Fad or Valuable Tool?


…and discover why it just may be “all about your Whuffie”!



Categories: CPA, Social Media Tags: ,

Vital Friends

November 30, 2009 1 comment

Stumbled across a book the other week titled Vital Friends, by Tom Rath. What caught my eye was that Mr. Rath had authored Strengths Finder 2.0(which I found fascinating), so I decided to see what he had to say about vital friends. I also was curious because I recognized a link to the book First Break All the Rules…and for those that read it perhaps you recall question #10 from the list of 12 questions…Do I have a best friend at work?

First, here are a few quotes from the press and a brief description of the book:

“A workplace without friends is an enemy.”
The Washington Post

“Friendships are good for business. Companies are coming to discover that, yet are at a loss at what to do about it. . . . what Gallup has uncovered about best friends stands out as novel.”
USA Today

“Let friendship ring. It might look like idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected to their jobs. Having a best friend at work is a strong predictor for being a happy and productive employee.”
TIME magazine


What’s the quickest way to ruin a friendship? Do great friendships have anything in common? Are close friendships in the workplace such a bad thing?

These are just a few of the questions that #1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath asked when he embarked on a massive study about the impact of friendships. Along with several leading researchers, Rath pored through the literature, conducted several experiments, and analyzed more than 8 million interviews from The Gallup Organization’s worldwide database.

His team’s discoveries produced Vital Friends, a book that challenges long-held assumptions people have about their relationships. And the team’s landmark discovery — that people who have a “best friend at work” are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job — is sure to rattle the structure of organizations around the world.

Drawing on research and case studies from topics as diverse as management, marriage, and architecture, Vital Friends reveals what’s common to all truly essential friendships: a regular focus on what each person is contributing to the friendship — rather than the all-too-common approach of expecting one person to be everything.


This book was a easy read facilitated by the fascinating study results. In his opening remarks, Tom Rath states “The energy between two people is what creates great marriages, families, teams, and organizations. Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we put almost all our effort into self-development….Throughout my professional life, I have attended countless development programs that aimed to make me more productive. Even when I have dedicated time to developing others, my attention has focused on each person’s self-development. I had it all wrong. The potential was hiding within each relationship in my life”.

Tom said he had it all wrong. It’s the energy between/within a friendship that’s incredibly powerful and worthy of our attention. We shouldn’t be surprised that Tom had it wrong, or that most of us do also. Our culture incessantly hits us over the head every day with self-development promotion and we become preoccupied with too much focus on me.

Do you have a vital friend?

Here is his definition of vital friend.

1.      someone who measurably improves your life.

2.      a person at work, or in your personal life whom you can’t afford to live without.

They also identified a more objective litmus test using the following questions:

If this person were no longer around, would your overall satisfaction with life decrease?

If this person were no longer a part of your life, would your achievement or engagement at work decrease?

If you can answer yes to either or both questions, then you have found a vital friend. And according to Tom Rath, if you strengthen these vital friendships, benefits that might accrue include:

·         an improvement in your physical health

·         more happiness on a day-to-day basis

·         increased engagement and achievement in your job

·         clear expectations between you and your spouse, relatives, friends, and coworkers

If you’re missing out on these vital friend benefits…the book is worth the quick read.

Categories: Leadership Tags:

Inbox Chaos

November 29, 2009 1 comment

For most of my email using years…I’ve struggled with inbox chaos. Simply put, the inflow was consistently greater than the outflow. At times, my inbox contained 200+ messages(that’s as many as I recall/willing to admit).

200+ messages = Arrrggghh!!…not a good feeling. When you have hundreds of messages in your inbox, you’ve created a messy situation for yourself that includes:

  • Inefficiencies every time you touch your inbox
  • Lost productivity
  • Stress
  • Dissapointed senders
  • Bottleneck/roadblock/hindrance/obstruction to whatever you’re connected to
  • Missed opportunites
  • Confusion
  • Perceptions of out of control

And when you take a step back…this is certainly not a model for excellance in serving internal and external customers.

I thought perhaps I was the only one who struggled with inbox chaos, but a recent review of inboxes here at SN-a CPA firm- indicated it’s an epidemic! Our reports show that certain folks have thousands of messages in their inbox. Yes,…thousands!

My personal goal was that I should never have to scroll/page down to review my inbox messages. For the past two months my inbox has been in the 20-40 message range. Below is the program I followed:

1. Take action when you receive an email.

Adopt the “Four D’s for Decision Making” model by a resolve to take one of the following four actions:

Delete it: If the email requires no action, hit the delete button.
Do It: If you can quickly respond to the email, do it so you can delete or archive the email.
Delegate It: If there’s a more appropriate person to respond to the email, forward it on to them.
Defer IT (Set a Reminder/Add to Calendar): If the email requires thought at a later date, change it to a reminder—or if the action requires your time, change it to a posted appointment to your calendar.

If you’re returning to your inbox after a few days away, try sorting your inbox by sender to identify chains of emails from the same people and to respond to the most current email in each chain.

2. Respect other people’s inboxes.
● Don’t CC people unnecessarily.
● Don’t reply to all if the reply is only relevant to one or two of the people on the email.
● Unless confirmation of receipt is needed, try to avoid sending gratuitous “Thanks” replies.
● Make it easy for recipients to act on your emails by using subject lines that are descriptive and specific. Consider beginning your subject lines with words like “FYI:,” “Reminder:”, “Urgent:” and “Action Needed:” to help recipients quickly understand if action is needed and if so, how quickly.

3. Organize your inbox.

Set up rules so that emails that you get regularly from a particular sender (such as newsletters and alerts) are automatically routed to a particular folder and kept separate from your normal flow of emails. Reserve your inbox for incoming messages and messages that you will act on in the near-term.

4. Moderate your inbox exposure.

Email can be interruptive, so give yourself time to focus on other tasks. Turn your email off sometimes to give yourself uninterrupted time to work on projects.

Try adopting the Four D’s for Decision Making to better manage your inbox…give it a week of effort, diligently, for 7 days.

I’m interested in hearing about your successes/obstacles…please share.

Categories: Leadership Tags:

Getting the Right Things Done

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Effectiveness = getting the right things done.

Sounds simple, right?

But for most of us, whether we recognize it or not, this is a significant daily challenge. What are the right things? What are the wrong things? In order to get your hands around this concept, it is essential that you possess a high-degree of self-awareness or a good friend/accountability partner, who can challenge you to discover the right and wrong things. Most of us need the latter.

Here are a few thoughts from Peter Drucker.

To be effective the knowledge worker is, first of all, expected to get the right things done.


Every knowledge worker in a modern organization is an “executive” if, by virtue of his or her position or knowledge, he or she is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results.

The Effective Executive, pp. 5-9


What Needs to Be Done

Successful leaders don’t start out asking, “What do I want to do?” They ask, “What needs to be done?” They then ask, “Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me?” They don’t tackle things they aren’t good at. They make sure other necessities get done, but not by them; they appoint someone else. Successful leaders make sure that they are effective! They are not afraid of strength in others. Andrew Carnegie wanted to put on his gravestone, “Here lies a man who knew how to put into his service men more able than he was himself.”

Interview by Rich Karlgaard, “Peter Drucker on Leadership”,, November 19, 2004


If you’re interested in becoming more effective, and thus by definition, getting the right things done… reflect on the following questions and consider the action items.



What am I getting paid to do?

What should I do if I am being paid for getting the right things done in my position?

Are the “right things” as I define it, in alignment with my employer/immediate supervisor?

Am I doing things that I shouldn’t be doing?

What are those things that are getting in the way of me doing the right things?


Action Items

Eliminate or reduce the activities that do not contribute to effectiveness, i.e. the things you shouldn’t be doing.

List the activities that you question whether you should be doing them or not.

Talk with someone about your findings.


Remember, effectiveness is a habit, a mix of practices. The good news is that practices can be learned. And one learns by…, practice, practice, and still more practice.

I’d be interested in knowing your observations and findings.

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