Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman, Part IV

When at Work, Work and Work Hard

There wasn’t a lazy bone in Harry Truman’s body. Throughout his life, Truman made the most of every single day. From his years on a farm in Grandview, Missouri, to his “retirement” at the Truman Library (during which he was in the office six days a week), the former president believed that every minute counted, and that one should work while at work.

Effective time management is one of the most important attributes of great leadership. It is impossible for a leader to effectively manage his responsibilities without effectively managing his time – for our lives are lived within the context of time.

In order for one to maximize time usage, it is important that the various activities of life have their proper place. There should be time for work, leisure, family, rest, learning, and a variety of other pursuits. Concentrating on work while at work frees up time for other activities within the 24-hour day.

As was discussed in the first installment in this series, President Truman liked to get an early start to his day. The first order of business was a brisk walk, followed by the reading of several major daily newspapers. After breakfast, Truman could be found at his desk in the Oval Office by 7:00 a.m.

Truman began the workday with a fast-paced meeting with his top advisers. He would come to the meeting with assignment packets for each member of his team. These packets were put together in the president’s study the night before as he meticulously prepared for the next workday. The remainder of the day included a whirlwind of appointments, lunch at 1:00 p.m., then a brief nap in the residence.

Upon waking from his afternoon nap, Truman began what amounted to a second workday, which would last well into the night. In the end, Harry Truman would work from 12 to 18 hours on any given day.

When we think of planning, we usually think of long-term projects, or goals for a new year. However, we should be planning each day, setting aside time for various tasks that can be grouped together and knocked out in a single “chunk” of time. We should work while we are at work, avoiding idle chit chat, web browsing, or other time sinks. Engaging in these types of activities amounts to stealing from our employers as they are paying us to work for them during certain hours of the day.

The Pomodoro Technique, a time management tool, was discussed in an earlier post that may be found here. The idea behind this method of time management is to focus on a single task for a “chunk” of time, allowing for a break after 25 minutes of work. The task list is also of paramount importance and should, along with the calendar, drive the day’s agenda.

Don’t be lazy! Commit to work while at work, leaving more time to spend with the most important people in your life.

Note: You may access the other articles in this series here: Part I, Part II, Part III.

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