How many times have you heard someone say “Sorry, I’m late“ recently? Or, perhaps, you have had to use it yourself?

If there were a way to count the number of times “Sorry, I’m late” has been uttered, I would have to believe that the frequency has increased on a per-person basis. This seems to be the case for many of the business leaders and managers with whom I work. What is going on? I think it is because the classic idea of “time management” has been overshadowed, dislodged and/or disoriented by the combination of readily accessible new technologies, instant communications, a plethora of choices and channels and, to boot, a near dystopian competitive and cultural pressure to act faster and more efficiently.

As if in synchronicity, my Good friend would seem to agree (via Google Trends), with 536K results presently for the exact term “sorry I’m late” and experiencing a recent spike:

Sorry I'm late - myndset strategy

Cher Lloyd - Sorry I'm LateNotwithstanding that the reason for the spike above is an eponymous song “Sorry I’m late” (so contemporary), the reality is that people are living and working in an ever-compressed 24-hour day. And people are running late… all too often.

Time is everywhere, yet…

Clocks are ubiquitous and agendas are electronic. Yet, our time is off. People seem to be increasingly overrun, overwrought and… late. I think that there are precisely three reasons for this phenomenon among current business managers:

  1. The current generation of managers were not brought up or trained to manage with the new tools and they have not adjusted accordingly. {Tweet this!}
  2. Far too much of what we do — meetings we attend, people we talk to, emails we reply to — has little to do with what’s important. We lack a strong, precise and shared “North” setting. {Tweet this!}
  3. It’s inherently difficult to have electronic precision in a human world. It takes time to listen, to be polite, to develop an idea or to decompress. {Tweet this!}

Sorry, but…

First, we tend to pack our agendas with activities that, individually, we feel are legitimate and relevant. But, taking a step back, we don’t take the time to plot strategically how we will allocate our time.

Set your North

Secondly, we don’t allow for the “human” time that is predictably unpredictable. I know that I can be guilty of this. We need to include in our agenda “air time” that accommodates the unexpected conversation, the serendipity of a chance meeting and the opportunity to smell the roses.

Thirdly, we need to design and confirm our “North.” We need to have a way to tie how we spend our time with our direction and our purpose. This is true on a personal level as well as for one’s organization / business. Ideally, the North direction is aligned on a personal and professional level.

Here are three practical tips to get you on your way to carving out more time:

  1. You need to revisit one’s notifications on a regular basis to make sure that you only receive notifications (especially on the phone’s lock-screen) that are from ‘critical’ sources
  2. Make sure that your calendar has “air time” to allow for the predictably unpredictable. In other words, pad your agenda with pockets of nothing.
  3. Clean out your mail inbox to make sure that only the key messages enter your priority inbox. Not only should you not EVER receive alerts of incoming mail, but you need a hygienic inbox that does not hang over you like a black cloud. One day, I certainly hope we will be able to do the same thing with SMS as well as Linkedin and Facebook messages.

But, most importantly, set aside time to find your North!

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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