The Three Resources You Can Bring To Bear To Change Your Future
There's a lot of talk about tea parties lately. Most of the excitement involves gatherings of U.S. citizens who declare they've been "Taxed Enough Already." To me, though, "TEA" has always been an acronym for Time, Energy, and Attention... the three "personal resources" you can bring to bear to make a contribution, improve your circumstances, and change your future.
If you were left with nothing but the shirt on your back, you'd also have these three personal resources to work with to bring yourself back to health, wealth, and an inspiring life and future. Others may, intentionally or unintentionally, conspire to rob you of these; but no one can really take them from you unless you let them. They're your bedrock assets, your core, your fundamental fallback position. How you use them, separately and in synergy to create other resources, will determine your success and overall well-being.
You don't have unlimited quantities of these resources available to you, but neither are they truly scarce. You have all you need to succeed - an abundance, really - if you are wise in the way you invest them.
How you spend your time is how you spend your life. Think about it. You have a limited resource of time on the planet. Does that mean you should stress-out about making sure you never waste a minute? No... when you look back, you'll probably note that some of the best times in your life were during "wasted" moments. Go ahead and waste some! It'll make life worth living. However, naturally, you want to be aware of how you prioritize the time you are trying to employ productively.
Years ago, I was working a stressful job that required long hours, a lot of running around and "firefighting," and I tended to roll up my sleeves, pull down my tie, and work up a sweat every day. One day I came across one of my team members who was clearly not as stressed out as everyone around her, including me. I gave her some tasks to do, and she cheerfully and calmly accepted. Before I left her desk, though, she asked me: "Michael, have you ever heard of a guy on his death bed saying his one wish was that he'd spent more time at work?" The comment got my attention (see below). From that day forward, I tried to minimize the firefighting by maximizing the thought I gave to priority.
There are a lot of resources on the subject of time management, but the basics never seem to change. Find a way to have "protected" time to get your work done - I used to partner-up with a peer who would block-out time to handle the "public" parts of my job, like questions from employees, while I churned through my to-dos (and I would later return the favor). Plan your work, then work your plan... you don't want to be caught just flailing around from one emergency to another. When faced with a list of equally-important chores, some people have good luck knocking out a couple of the "easy" ones first, to get momentum; I prefer the opposite, and have a personal rule to always do the hardest or least-fun thing first. Whatever the method, re-focus on your time management and find what works for you.
When you consider your energy level, it's easy to see how these personal resources work together, and affect each other. How many times have you thought "I'd have used my time more productively today, if only I'd had more energy"...?
You can't add more time to your life, but you can seem to do so by managing the time you have more effectively, and by bringing more energy to your endeavors. Energy is a more elastic resource than time; you can actually change your personal reservoir of energy, investing a little on the front end to get back more on the back end. The key is to start with your physical vitality. How's your diet these days? Your fitness level? How much sleep are you getting?
I've worked for years with a premier global consulting firm, known for the world-class smarts of its consultants. As I coached them, one of the first things I noticed is that it was extremely easy for them to burn out, They brought seemingly-endless amounts of youthful energy to the job, but within a few months of sleepless nights, leftover pizza dinners in the team room, no exercise, no water, and poor overall care-and-maintenance, in many cases they were exhausted and even miserable. The happiest among them (and the most successful) were the ones who developed some basic practices around nutrition, exercise, supplements, sleep, and hydration. The same is true of all of us. Don't take energy for granted. Without it, your time will be unproductive (maybe even unpleasant) and you will have a hard time paying...
You can have plenty of time for a project, and the energy you need, but lack focus. This is the most mercurial of your personal resources, and the one that can either compensate for slight deficiencies in the other areas or deplete abundances there. In fact, my consultant friends were able to compensate for their low energy and lack of time by leveraging, on average, superior ability to pay attention and focus on the task at hand.
You've heard stories, or seen movies, about pro athletes who have remarkable focus. The big-league ball player who seems to be able to ignore thousands of screaming fans as he winds up to pitch; the golfer who seems not to hear the click of the cameras or whispering in the gallery as he pulls back the putter. Excellent performers in all walks of life are able to bring great focus to their efforts. You can sometimes see the same laser-like attention on the part of a good salesperson focusing on his customer, or wielded by a great leader as she describes a vision to her team.
We've also all met the person who seems to have the attention span of a moth!
The key here is to practice, and a great place to start is at home. How much attention do you really pay to the people you love and live with? If you have a spouse, start right now, tonight, when you get home: set aside some time, suck up the energy, and devote yourself to paying attention to your beloved. Don't think about how you'll react to what she's saying, just think about what she's saying. Don't tell him what he should be interested in, ask him about what he is interested in. See if it doesn't make a good impression... and, over time, if practicing doesn't make you more attentive in general, to everyone and everything important.
The Fourth Resource.
Most people, especially entrepreneurs, will tell you their TEAM of resources isn't complete without Money. Maybe. And you certainly should be thoughtful about how you invest money, and how you can improve your life by creating wealth. But I see money as a secondary resource. If you are great with your Time, Energy, and Attention, there's little you can't accomplish. Many people get into business for themselves precisely because they can have more freedom in investing these resources, and because doing so effectively brings them tenfold profits in all categories.
Sound like your cup of TEA? Welcome to the Party.