Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creating Time

It all started at my annual physical last month.

As an executive coach, I routinely ask a client when was their last physical. This one question often startles people at first. But, I explain to them that if we strive to be authentic leaders, then we need to regularly care for ourselves as well as our organizations.

The result of asking this question has been interesting. Time and time again, I have had a client call me back and share about how during their annual physical the doctor solved a recurring health problem or discovered a problem before it got worse. For example, I remember asking a macho executive when was the last time he had a physical. “High school sports” was his reply. I recommended he have one given he was working extra hard, married with children and in his upper 30’s. Weeks later, he called me back with his blood work results. They were very poor and if he had continued with no treatment, the doctor told him he was in line to have a major heart attack. He told me that he knew he should have gotten around to it but was just too busy. Nevertheless when he did, he realized he should have been going to the doctor regularly for years. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

With this in mind, I realized in late November that I had been asking people about their annual physicals and did not remember when I had gone in for my last one. So, I quickly called up the local clinic, made an appointment,t and went in early for my blood work.

On the appointed day, I had my blood pressure checked, height measured, weight checked, etc. Then, in walked my doctor with his usual grin and my paperwork. We have known each other for years, and given we are nearly the same age, we always spend time catching up on children, work, life and, of course, my health.

When we went through my blood work, he told me my cholesterol had gone up eight points. He was not pleased with this and told me I needed to exercise more. It was a kind but pointed speech, “Exercise more, watch your diet and come back in four months. I want your cholesterol to be going down, not up.”

At that point, I knew I was at a crossroads. I am an avid gardener and three seasons out of four I can garden with the best of them. Six hours of yard and garden work is common on weekends. After work in the spring, summer and fall, a half an hour of pruning, clipping and weeding are not uncommon. I like it and find it relaxing. But while this is nice, it is not exercise.

“How much?”, I asked.

“Thirty-five minutes, five days a week,” was his reply.

“Consider it done,” I said.

And just like that I started walking thirty-five minutes every day. No excuses get in the way now. If my doctor said I needed to exercise and walking could fill the bill, then I was going to do it. Period.

From my vantage point as an executive coach, it is common for me to hear that time management is a major issue. “I am swamped,” “Every day is packed,” “I am way to to busy to (fill in the blank),” are phrases I hear on a regular basis. I have even said them myself during certain times.

But I know from experience that good health is a gift. It comes from regular stewardship and attention. I also know that good health takes time and energy. So, with my doctor’s words in my ears, I have walked every day since my physical, only missing four days due to family based travel.

Which leads me back to time. We do not really manage time. We create it. As the only beast on the planet who wears a watch and checks it regularly, and the only beast on the planet who differentiates between 8:59 am and 9:00 am (FYI: a doctor at a seminar years ago told me that 9:00 am on a Monday morning is the most common time for people to have a heart attack), we can try to manage time all we want and most days time wins.

Nevertheless, with a clear set of priorities and goals, e.g drop my cholesterol through regular exercise and a good diet, we can create the time to get something done. If I can create time to garden, bake all our bread by hand, read books on a regular basis and keep up with office work, then I can create time for regular exercise. The choice begins with me.

So here is a question for you: What are your goals and priorities?

Know these and you, too, can create time. It sounds simple and in reality it is once you have clear goals and priorities.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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