The time management industry has exceeded $1 Billion annually worldwide, a completely ridiculous figure for something that simply cannot be managed. Mel Brooks could have had a field day making a movie about time management; rounding up stray time on the open range and herding it into a corral to ship it off to market back east. Or, he could have made an equally entertaining movie featuring millions of workers trying to outwit the evil villain, Procrastination, by, of all things, managing time.
There are things we can manage, but time is not one of them. We can manager choices and priorities. We can manage our actions, and sometimes our reactions. In managing these things, we can also manage our productivity. This is what the massive time management industry is attempting to do with all its timers, focusers, todo lists, time slots and alerts.
Judging by the diversity of products, techniques and tricks you must play on yourself, there isn't a universal best system.
Let's keep things simple. Instead of running around in circles trying to manage time, what people must do instead is manage matter, more specifically, manage what matters. Instead of trying to squeeze tasks closer and closer together in the illusion of managing time, we should instead be separating out the tasks that don't matter and focusing exclusively on the ones that do.
In order to do this we have to actually spend some time thinking about what matters instead of letting other people tell us what is important or urgent or critical or overdue. In order to determine what matters, we have to understand why we are doing something. This implies that we have a purpose for our actions. Purpose is the key to managing matter.
Counterintuitively, managing matter acts as an accelerant for productivity and provides the illusion of time slowing down, the faster we accelerate. This is a basic principle of performance, and, in contrast to the continuously frustrating battle of trying to wrangle time produces some very beneficial benefits by meeting the basic human needs for meaning.
Every master in every discipline is first and foremost a master of the basics of that discipline. To achieve mastery, or even any recognizable degree of proficiency, the fundamentals must be so ingrained and familiar as to be almost instinctive.
However, it is not just the technical proficiency that positions a performer, player or contender in the top echelon. More important than what one does, how one does it, when or where it happens, is why. The path from novice to master is long. Technical perfection is seldom enough to sustain one's journey along that path. The true sustaining energy arises out of purpose, which provides the answer to the question, "Why?."
Have you ever met someone who says they are in the best business there is, or that their job is the best job in the world and they still don't believe they get paid to do it? I've heard this over and over. I was just watching a video from a friend this morning, and he said it again in his video.
The thing is, all of these people are doing something different, and yet, they each believe they have the best job in the world.
This is not something you can dismiss with a "different strokes for different folks" quip, because there is a common element, a common thread, a common experience that all these people share that creates the opportunity to have the best job in the world. That common experience is Purpose. They each have a purpose for what they do. Their desires and motives arise out of their purpose. Their faith that they will both succeed and enjoy themselves is derived from their purpose. Their purpose provides the impetus and direction for their actions. Purpose gives them focus and as a result they never have to wonder what matters or what is important.
This same principle applies to organizations. If you've ever been fortunate enough to have been able to say, "I work for the best company in the world," you understand the importance of purpose in providing an environment in which people can thrive together.
Purpose is the most basic of the basics for both people and organizations. Purpose can grow, evolve and be refined, but it must always be present if more than just a moderate level of performance excellence is one of your objectives.
Purpose is equally as important to businesses whose objective it is to be market and competitive leaders. Unfortunately, businesses, as they grow, sometimes lose sight of their purpose or, as management and leadership changes, lose touch with their original purpose. A clearly defined purpose for a business is important, because it is important to the people who supply the creative energy for the business.
Moreover, in the past, when the world has undergone a major paradigm shift as we did when humanity shifted from the hunter/gather model to the agrarian model and again, when our ancestors made the transition from the agrarian model to the industrial paradigm, the new technologies always created more jobs than the previous paradigm had offered because the paradigms themselves were labor intensive. Each of these major paradigm shifts created greater access to information, as well. The current paradigm shift is definitely increasing access to information, but it is not creating new jobs. In fact, due to advances in robotics and automation, there are fewer and fewer jobs. Couple this trend with the ease with which information intensive jobs can be outsourced to developing economies and it is not too difficult to visualize a scenario in which wages and wage growth play a less significant role in the lives of employees than we witnessed in the last century. The age of "looking for a job" is coming to an end and will be replaced with the age of "looking for a purpose."
This scenario should not be viewed as a threat, but as an opportunity. Individuals and organization will innovate and produce new economies, and they will be driven by purpose. The unprecedented access to information currently available on the internet will facilitate this innovation. It is therefore more important than ever to understand the nature and dynamic of purpose.
In the future, employment will not be a matter of looking for a company to work for, it will be a matter of being able to fulfill a purpose for companies and people who need that purpose fulfilled.
There are seven Primary Purposes that serve as the foundation for desire and which propel faith and hope in people.
- Survival is activated by Anxiety or Stress; there is a desire for Predictability; the hallmark attribute is Caution.
- Security is activated by Intimacy and Trust; there is a desire for Consistency; the hallmark attribute is Sincerity.
- Conquest is activated by Restlessness and Power; there is a desire for Control; the hallmark attribute is Aggressiveness and a Charismatic Presence.
- Community is activated by Honor and Prestige; there is a desire for Respect; the hallmark attribute is Ambition.
- Quest is activated by Curiosity and Discovery; there is a desire for Understanding and Exploration; the hallmark attribute is a desire to Solve the Mystery or Puzzle.
- Actualization is activated by Passion; there is a desire for Completion; the hallmark attributes are Sensitivity, Compassion, and Empathy.
- Transcendence is activated by the question, "Why Not?"; there is a desire for the Unconventional and Unorthodox; the hallmark attribute is Independence.
Understanding how these Primary Purposes work within organizational and cultural constructs will allow individuals and leaders to accelerate progress toward their goals, for it is purpose that sustains and supports us as we pursue our goals.
For example, it is easy to visualize sales as requiring a Primary Purpose of Conquest, but there are other nuances. For consultative sales, a Secondary Purpose of Actualization is extremely important. For other types of sales roles, Security as a Secondary Purpose will be important.
Another quick example. For someone managing the security of your operation, you simply do not want someone whose Primary Purpose or even Secondary Purpose is Conquest. For this role, you would want someone with Conquest as a Latent or Dormant Purpose.
Organizations currently key off of mission statements, but to resonate with employees on a more basic level, they will begin their alignment with purpose statements that can support any number of missions.
Here are some thoughts from contemporary business literature to support the importance of purpose.
- Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of Built to Last, were able to document that organizations that really put purpose and values at the center of their companies rather than simply giving the requisite corporate lip-service to these intangibles, outperformed the overall market by 15:1, and, perhaps more significantly, outperformed competitors by 6:1.
- Data from an international longitudinal growth study of more than 50,000 brands show that companies who put improving people’s lives at the center of their agenda outperform the market by large margins.
Jim Collins in Good to Great underscores the importance of purpose: "In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work."
Substitute almost any endeavor, pursuit or goal you undertake for the word life in that quote--career, company, adventure, family, project, etc.--and the importance of purpose become apparent, for purpose if the spring from which meaningfulness issues.
Sure there are outliers, exceptions and unexpected surprises, but if you're looking for consistency, there has to be a consistent element that provides the consistent experience of meaningfulness. That element is purpose.
Aside from the meaningfulness that accrues from purpose, there are many additional personal, collective and societal benefits.
Purpose is the foundation of what matters for individuals and organizations. Losing touch with purpose leads to depression, separateness, emptiness, boredom, disinterest and mediocrity. Purpose is the difference between positive and negative when it comes to attitude, emotion and performance.
Simplification of choices about priorities, activities, decisions, and the people with whom you surround yourself is a clear advantage of undertaking Purpose First.
Purpose First is an initiative any individual or organization can undertake as a means of recalibrating and reorienting the personal or collective compass to true north. Preemptis has developed an assessment that identifies the Primary Purpose for individuals and organizations and consultatively works with clients to create a harmonious alignment Purpose and objectives.
Guidance counselors in high schools currently don't advise about purpose, they advise about careers and jobs. True careers don't exist without purpose. A career is not a protracted tenure with a single company, it is a pursuit of a purpose. This is just one of the things that must change in our educational model as we move deeper into the uncharted territory of the new paradigm.
Corporate leaders who find they have managers and employees who are not motivated must first look to themselves and examine their own sense of purpose. Delivering dividends to shareholders is not a purpose. This simply isn't going to resonate with employees unless there is something deeper and more resonant behind this goal. Positioning the company as an acquisition target is not going to motivate employees without stock options unless they feel they are part of something that has a more significant purpose. An objective without a purpose is a struggle. An objective with a purpose becomes a cause.
Chances are, you can see yourself somewhere on this list above. Because teams and organizations operate as collectives of people, these same Purposes apply. Understanding Purpose can facilitate activities, choices, selection of team members and simplify many organizational and operational situations. Learn more about the seven Primary Purposes and take our free Personal Purpose Assessment here.