Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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How Your Daily Decisions Determine Destiny

We often do not consider how seemingly insignificant choices lead to habits that have long-term consequences.

How we choose to spend our mental energy and physical time impacts us and those around us.

Lots of little decisions add up and create outcomes, so we must make sure we are making good choices, even about seemingly insignificant things.

A friend lamented that her recent flight was delayed by 4 hours, and she was upset that she lost those 4 hours. How did she lose those hours? Instead of working on a report with an upcoming deadline, which was an option, she watched movies. Why did she watch movies instead of working, even though she knew it was going to cause her to get behind with her work? “Because,” she said, “The delay was not my fault. I deserved the break.”

She felt as though that time somehow did not count because the delay was outside of her control. Instead of maximizing the time she had, she made the choice to try to relax. As a result, she wound up working on the report Sunday night before the Monday morning deadline. She time-sabotaged herself and it caused more stress later.

We make choices like this all the time. How can we be more mindful of our small choices so that we do not sabotage ourselves?

We sometimes think “this time does not matter.” The reality is that ALL time matters. It is up to us to decide how we spend our time, and that means not allowing external events, like flight delays, derail our focus.

People who are personally and professionally successful are always revisiting how they spend their time.

They are constantly asking:

“Is this the best use of my time?”

“Is this what I should to be doing?”

“Am I accomplishing what I want to accomplish with this activity?”

What we decide to do on a consistent basis determines our success.

1.Cultivate good daily habits. Create small daily habits that move your goals forward. It is easier to be disciplined when you have already made the decision to take the right action.

2.Plan to control your time. There will always be interruptions, distractions, and external forces that threaten to derail your schedule. Tasks are easier to accomplish with an action plan. What projects you need to work on within the week? Plan how to tackle them. It gives you control of the time you have and allows you to track your progress. There is less time wasted when you have a detailed plan for each day.

3.Work ahead of deadlines. Many people miss deadlines because they underestimate how long a project will take. They do not plan their work properly, they procrastinate, and then they are late. Set deadlines to avoid procrastination or the “I still have plenty of time to do this” attitude. Deadlines inspire action, improve productivity, and ensure you hit the target. Therefore, assign them to every goal and task. Doing this helps us work more efficiently toward the right results. When we map out projects and create due dates ahead of schedule, we gain that the sense of urgency, and then if there is a crisis, there is time to adjust.

4.Focus. Improving focus as a daily practice requires discipline and conscious decisions.
Decide to be more intentional about how you spend your time.
Decide to be productive.
Decide not to waste time.
Decide to ignore distractions (even the really irritating ones!) because it is better for you. Decide to not allow the actions of others to derail your decision to focus on what needs to happen.

5.Be very strategic with your time. You should know the activities that take you closer to your goals and schedule those activities in the day. If you do not run your day, your day will run you. When you take control of time and use it wisely, you free yourself up for new opportunities. The important activities get done. Having control of your time protects you from needless stress and allows you to plan for the success you want.

6.Monitor and evaluate. Be relentless about measuring your actions as you determine what is working and what is not. Evaluation gives you the feedback you need to determine where you need to allocate more time and where you need to adjust. Knowing you are on track gives you more time to schedule the next activities. That process tells you when to make changes in scheduling. It restores your control of your own time.

7.Be ruthless. Protect your time. There are all kinds of time vampires that threaten to get us off schedule. For most of us, people are the most important part of our business and personal lives, so we must protect our time so we can dedicate the right amount of time to the people most important to us.

What do you do on a regular basis that contributes to your time management success?  Please leave us a comment we would love to know how you manage your time to be successful.


  1. David Eastburn

    Lt General Hal Moore: In combat I would periodically detach myself from the chaos around me and ask myself, “What am I doing that I should not be doing? What am I not doing that I should be doing to influence the situation in my favor?”

    • Mary Kelly

      Dave! You are so right! It is so important for all of us to step back and reassess. We have to make sure that we are keeping ourselves accountable. And it is hard. We are off in time so busy going 1000 miles an hour that we don’t take the time to stop to make sure we’re going in the right direction. General Moore was one of my favorites! You are awesome!

    • Laurie Mays

      That couldn’t have been easy! Thank you for your service, sir!

  2. Christie L Roberts

    Such a great article and so true. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you so much for your kind note! We are all trying to be better leaders during these difficult times!

  3. Larry Helms

    Great report. Over my time here on this earth I have observed how some folks are always behind in there personal and professional endeavors primarily due to their many poor time management habits often formed by influence and association of less productive individuals. It amazes me to see some people go through the motions of working harder wasting time and getting very little accomplished falling short of personal and job expectations. Some folks don’t see how others get so much accomplished and have no clue why they are being pass over for promotions and pay raises.

    A see the key to success is how one can transform one self from from less productive time managements habits that become ingrained in our work ethic leading to lower productivity and cause frustration.

    I see my time in the Navy working on the flight deck in the arresting gear on the USS Kitty Hawk during the Viet Nam War an eye opener when it came to time management.

    • Mary Kelly

      Hi Larry!
      Wow the Kitty Hawk! That was real. And I think you were so right. So many people waste time partly because they don’t know any other way and partly because they’ve never seen any other way. Thank you so much for your kind comment! I appreciate you so much! Go Navy!


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