If there is a universal response when greeting friends and relatives, then it is likely to be “Good thanks. Really busy”. I am not sure what I would do if I asked a colleague or client “How are you?” and they answered “Great. Got absolutely nothing to do”.
Perhaps a survey is needed. Maybe someone has already researched this across the globe, and came up with very different responses to what I usually receive. But, to be fair, I say it myself when responding to that same question every day! “Good, thanks. Really busy”. Maybe it is a 20th/21st century phenomenon. Personally, I feel that in the past 30 years, the pace of life has been steadily accelerating.
And simply keeping up gets harder. It is not difficult to find training courses on time management, self-help books detailing how we can make the most of our work day (and life), and documentaries about almost every possible area where we can squeeze just that bit more out of the mere 24 hours a day we are given.
For me, I dissect my days mostly into 30 minute slots, and then task my ever-diligent personal assistant with the impossible job of trying to get me to stick to it. Some days she even succeeds ☺
So, are there any common threads with race to the finish line? Working with western business people around the globe on a daily basis, I have put together a brief list of the top 10 things that I believe that international business people/entrepreneurs and expats have in common when it comes to time, and specifically how they manage theirs. And I quite sure that most of my clients will be able to identify with these (apologies to those of you who can see yourself here):
Busy people are not patient people. Doesn’t mean they are not nice. But they don’t have time for niceties with the strict deadlines they have. Remember the old saying ‘if I wanted it tomorrow, I would ask for it tomorrow’, or words to that effect.
2. Travel too much.
The internet has given us unprecedented access to information. Anywhere. Anytime. But it would be naïve to think we don’t need to travel anymore to get things done. When people I ask where I live, I tell them quite honestly – 50% in Philippines, 25% in Hong Kong, and 25% in an airport. And I could easily name at least 50 clients and friends who travel more than I do.
3. Always tired, always busy.
This is an obvious one (given the topic of this blog). And speaks for itself.
4. Control freaks.
Probably no surprise here. Squeezing every bit of life out of your day requires remarkable drive, and being a control freak helps. Maybe not so much for your blood pressure, but it certainly ensures that things get done.
5. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Although this may seem at odds with the whole control freak comment above, successful busy people delegate anything and everything they can (and monitor it closely of course). They see the value in getting the right people to do the right job, multiplying their effectiveness (and number of hours to get things done).
6. People first.
Go back to point 2 – ‘travel too much’. Why? Because there is still nothing quite like shaking hands, sitting down over a good cup of coffee, and working through business matters. So, they travel. And meet. And learn. And then trust. They place people first in their business, whether that be staff, clients, suppliers, whoever.
7. Learn fast, change and adapt.
An obvious one perhaps. And it is irrespective of age in my experience.
8. Don’t quit.
A good friend of mine said that successful people often waste time. Not because they are not smart, but sometimes they are so focused on not failing, they refuse to give up (even if it is a waste of time) when other lesser beings would have already moved on to something else. Interesting observation I think. Call it tenacity, perseverance, or pig-headedness perhaps?
9. Great with business planning.
Again, no surprise.
10. Poor with life planning.
I have left the best for last. And this is the whole point of this article/blog. There are some fundamental must-do’s that are usually ignored or left until the last minute even by the most organised control freaks among us. Because of course we will all live forever right? I will call it ‘life planning’ but it is sold to us under many differing names.
So many times, I have thought about doing a checklist (sort of like when you do a questionnaire when going to a new doctor for the first time). And then asking clients to complete it. It would include some obvious things such as wills and life insurance. And some not so obvious things such as health insurance, shareholder agreements, succession plans, business exit strategies, trusts, wealth management and tax advice. I don’t profess to deal with all of this. On the contrary, I go to the experts.
But sometimes we are so busy, we overlook the most important planning of our lives – protecting our family by proper life planning. Sadly we don’t live forever, and so many times I have seen much of this life planning is left until it’s too late to deal with ourselves. And so it falls onto the shoulders of our families.
“The trouble is, you think you have time”. Reality is, we don’t.