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Time to grind an axe

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

An employer once asked me to figure out why a restaurant and bar he owned was doing so poorly.  He suspected the manager was the source of the problem, but asked me to basically live at the establishment to determine the matter with certainty.

I was twenty-two  years old and I was about to be schooled.

A day or so after my arrival,  I called the owner and told him whatever the problem might be, I suspected it was not the manager.  The manager was up early and left late. He knew the employees well and he was friendly with the customers. He was one of the hardest working people I had ever met.

A week later I called the owner and told him I had found the problem: it was the manager.

The list of  issues was long, but suffice it to say he was working so hard because he didn’t work smart. He was a sweet fellow, but an organizational disaster with no time management skills. The employees were stealing him blind and the customers were leaving unhappy. It was a bad situation and one of my earliest lessons in business. It took me another 25 years to integrate it into my own life, but that’s another column.

If you find yourself working really, really hard, sacrificing your health and relationships to your vocation, stop for a moment and look at your tools.  It could be your axe needs sharpening.

Start with time management.

We so often work without a plan we grow accustomed to being run by our business rather than running our business. We spend our time reacting to situations, managing by crisis and frenetically challenging ourselves to keep on keeping on. The pace we thus establish is good for few and while sustainable for a surprisingly long time, only at a great personal cost.

Don’t get me wrong.  There will be times when we will work long, hard hours. We should feel challenged.  On occasion, we should even feel stressed. But when our health and those around us begin to suffer as a result, we are striking a poor bargain.

Your travel clients will be some of the first to notice when you fail to work smart. A failure to plan will show up as missed details, delays in deadlines, and hurried research. If you are lucky it may never extend beyond the occasional lapse.  More is at risk, however, if you fail to keep your business in good repair.

Time management is not about placing yourself into a straight-jacket.  Rather, it’s an opportunity to free yourself to do the things you do best and to do them well.  It’s a chance to rediscover valuable minutes and hours with family and friends.

Take the time to look at your business plan and the way you structure your time.  Gauge the level of stress you take to work and back home everyday.  If you find yourself working harder than you feel you should, evaluate your plan and make adjustments. Here are a few articles to get you started.

Your clients, your family, and your health will thank you.

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