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How Does Your Purpose Help Your Relationship with Time Management

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Prioritizing time management

One of my favorite movies of the last five years is 2017's Lady Bird. It's a coming-of-age story about a high school girl and her tense relationship with her mother. The titular character, Lady Bird, spends most of the movie dreaming about leaving her catholic high school in Sacramento and moving across the country. Near the end of the movie, there is a quick yet meaningful conversation between Lady Bird and Sister Sarah-Joan, one of the nuns working at the school:

Sister Sarah-Joan: I read your college essay. You clearly love Sacramento.

Lady Bird: I do?

Sister Sarah-Joan: Well, you write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care.

Lady Bird: I was just describing it.

Sister Sarah-Joan: It comes across as love.

Lady Bird: Sure, I guess I pay attention.

Sister Sarah-Joan: Don't you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?

This back-and-forth discussion shows the importance of what we spend our time focusing on each day. It also illustrates the importance of understanding your purpose, aligning your goals with it, and focusing your attention on leading and serving the people around you. When we focus on the activities and people in our lives that inspire joy, we find a heightened level of fulfillment and a reward for continually bringing our attention to those areas that propel us forward.


What is your relationship with time management? Does the idea make you cringe a little bit?

It does for me.

There is a strong propensity for leaders to focus too much on time management without stopping to ask what is actually managing their time. Often, leaders prescribe solutions that don't address the problems at hand. Another issue of time management comes from the failure of leaders to empower and trust the people in their lives to handle the tasks set before them adequately. Trust is the bedrock for any relationship, and high-functioning teams must let trust govern their actions to operate effectively.

Purpose radically impacts our ability to understand, prioritize, and manage the circumstances of short-term and long-term goals. This is precisely why honing in on purpose elevates teams to run after a common goal and support one another in the process. Reframing activities through the lens of your purpose, both personally and corporately as an organization, creates affirmation and forward movement to reach your goals.

In her book, Get it Done, Ayelet Fishbach notes that several factors determine whether we seek to compromise or prioritize our pursuit of multiple goals, "the first of which is whether you see your actions as reflecting who you are as a person. Do your actions tell you or the world something about your identity?" Time management is all about the pursuit of multiple goals. Most leaders feel the tension between the items on their "to-do list" and the number of hours in the day. Goals compete. Purpose connects our choices with a deeper clarity about our identity and how we create a more significant impact.


During time management discussions, one thing to keep in mind is your locus of control. You may be working on particular projects with precise demands. You may not be in a position to have a lot of freedom in terms of job activities. There may not be a lot of freedom available to you to lay out or dig into these types of questions on a day-in-day-out basis.

However, during those more flexible moments, how do your actions line up with your personal goals and the goals of others on your team? How does this impact the daily results for your organization? You have a unique contribution to make within your organization that will add value to your team. It's easy to let your attention move away from the tasks that are right in front of you. By recognizing your purpose, it becomes easier to see the impact you make on your personal bottom line, along with the organization's goals.

What is in your control, and how can you carry some momentum forward in your life? These questions provide some guardrails to work with and open the door for greater clarity of direction. Another pivotal aspect of your locus of control is learning when to let go. It's about understanding where to direct your frustrations. More than likely, you're not going to be able to change everything that grinds your gears, but you can learn to pick your spots and bring your attention to meaningful problem-solving.



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