Episode 9: Taking Time to be Present

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Are you achieving important desired outcomes for the day, the week, month or year? Are you managing your time or is it managing you? Does it feel like there is never enough time to focus on what is really important to you? How would those around you, your boss, your direct reports, your family describe your ability to be present with them? If you have pondered those or other questions about how to best manage your time in order to be the best you can be at what you do, please join us for our next VoltCast ‘Taking Time to be Present.’ Jeff Smith will explore these and other questions about managing time with Lee Hubert, Principal Consultant with Voltage Leadership. This promises to be a fast-moving practical discussion on time management with insights on how to design your time for the highest levels of personal and team effectiveness.


Lee Hubert is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Keynote Speaker with Voltage Leadership in Roanoke, Virginia. He brings energy and enthusiasm to grow leaders at all levels, help managers reduce conflict and build teams that produce results.

Lee has served in various human resources and leadership development roles at Fortune 500 companies including: MCI, Wisconsin Energy, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Wake Forest University Hospital, and the Hospital Corporation of America. As a public speaker, he has presented leadership development topics at management retreats and strategic planning sessions throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern USA.

Lee brings over 20 years’ experience in Management Training, Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Succession Planning, Employee Relations and Conflict Resolution to bear for clients of Voltage Leadership.

A native of Syracuse New York, Lee holds an MBA in HR Management from Upper Iowa University Fayette.


Jeff: Welcome to Voltcast Illuminating Leadership this week. It is another gorgeous day in Virginia. Tuesdays appear to be our beautiful day Lee.

Lee: It is.

Jeff: That’s Lee Hubert I’ll introduce him in a moment. For my folks that are calling in or listening in from China and Germany, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Israel thanks so much for listening. And then all across the United States, it is Election Day. Thank goodness we got here. It has been a heck of a journey just to get here.

So today is about Time to Be Present, that’s the name or show. So today we’ll be going over time management tips and suggestions. I really appreciate all the folks all over the US and all over the world. They’ve listening in to our Voltcast shows. Ways to get to us; you can of course call us so again it’s Jeff Smith, call us at 866-472-5788.

You can email me at jeff@voltageleadership.com our website is www.voltageleadership.com you can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. You can connect with me at LinkedIn or @Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting or @Lee Hubert at Voltage Leadership Consulting. And you can follow me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders.

So Lee, today thanks for coming in and glad you could be here. Lee works with the team here at Voltage Leadership Consulting, a fantastic facilitator and coach able to get out and run board meetings and do amazing things with high potential. Has just done a fantastic job connecting with all of our folks and also an awesome guitarist and can play a mean Jethro Tall or whomever he’d like.

Lee: I do have to admit my Jethro Tall set has been held in very high regard. I’ll bring it in sometime but at least Lee any Tall heads out there?

Jeff: There you go. So today Lee and I have been really looking forward to this. And when we started shaping up this show, this was one of the very first topics. We get questions like- we ask questions let me ask this way; are you able to get to your desired outcomes for the day, the week, the month or the year?

Are you managing your time or is it managing you? Are you happy with where your time goes? I tell you sometimes within the week it’s been a blur, other times it feels like it was really intentional. But there are some weeks where you’re like, “Holy cow where did the week go right.”

Lee: I use those words.

Jeff: I don’t know, does it ever feel like there’s enough time? It feels like there’s always this there’s just not enough time in the day these days. And I’d also just say that one of the things we’re going to talk about is, when you actually have time, are you present with your employees, with your boss, with your significant other?

In my case with my wife, with the kids, my direct reports. It feels like there’s just so much time and it’s never enough there. So we’re going to talk about that today. We’re going to talk about some time management tips, we’re going to talk about how can we do things differently and how can we be the best you?

And I know that that’s going to start with some intentionality.                              But as you put together, this was Lee’s idea for the title; Taking Time To Be Present, what does that mean for you Lee and what does that mean for our listeners today?

Lee: Well interesting question thanks Jeff great to be with you again I think we’re on a roll here. Taking Time to Be Present; I think it has two key areas. Number one is how you allocate time, that precious resource called time, and is it allocated to things that matter?

The second thing is to your point, how to be present in the present. And if you’ve ever had that experience where you’re talking to somebody you mentioned your boss, your staff, whomever, your family, your spouse your significant other, are they in are they present?

Jeff: Right.

Lee: And you know when you hear the feedback sometimes when you’re not. So a lot of times in the workplace we can avoid misunderstanding, duplication of effort and really build great productive relationships by understanding what it means to be present in the present and taking the time to do so.

Jeff: I’m going to run you just through some numbers real quick. This is from Scott Eblin’s Overworked and Overwhelmed, and we had Scott on the show about a month ago. So we all get the same 168 hours in a week.

Lee: We do?

Jeff: Right. so it’s when everyone talks about oh I just don’t have enough time, well guess what, the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of England to the person that was working in the manufacturing floor, we all have the same number of hours.

Lee: There isn’t enough time.

Jeff: Yeah there isn’t enough time. But let’s talk about where those hours go. So immediately let’s assume eight hours sleeping times seven days, that’s 56 hours gone.

Lee: Are you getting eight hours of sleep out there?

Jeff: Exactly probably not.

Lee: Okay heads nodding okay.

Jeff: Yeah probably not. There’s a lot that think that they can get by on less than five. Less than 5% of the population can actually do that but a lot think they can get away with it.

Lee: Less than five hours you’re talking about?

Jeff: Yeah less than five hours. But only 5% of the population can actually get by on less than five hours.

So a lot of those that think they can get by with under five hours, they’re fooling themselves.

Lee: That explains a lot.

Jeff: That’s why caffeine is so popular.

So then there’s breakfast, lunch, dinner that’s another extra hours right two and a half or so. So we’re down to like 92 hours. Then there’s half an hour commute times five days that’s another two and a half hours. We’re down to 92. You work 10 hours a day for a lot of you, that’s five days that’s 50 hours. We’re down to only 42 hours of discretionary time. 42 hours Lee. We started with 168 we’re down to 42.

Lee: And that is a luxury if you get that.

Jeff: And this is again from Scott’s book, 72 hours of our time is spent tethered to that thing called the iPhone the Smartphone, where we’re still connected by that rope to the workplace right. Wow so that doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot of time for us anymore.

Lee: Do we have time to do this? I’m pressed for time here Jeff I don’t know.

Jeff: Yeah well that’s why it’s only an hour show.

So Less I would say, gosh what are some of the practical tips of best practices that you think we can share with our listeners? Maybe you give a few I’ll throw in a few that I’ve got but let’s just jump right into it with some practical tips today.

Lee: You mentioned an important point Jeff just a moment ago about what’s it like to be the best you can be. And as you know from Scott Eblin’s material which is really excellent and I’ve seen it, read it I know you’re certified in some of it life GPS those kinds of things.

So how do you determine your peak times and effectiveness with an- you used the word intentionality- with intention which I love. I think that’s great. There are all these different factors that play into that. So what I’d like to do is to share, let’s talk about time management first.

Jeff: Okay great.

Lee: If we go on the premise that there are two key areas one is that precious commodity where do we allocate it, because we all have the same 168 hours in a week.

And we know you all are sleeping at least 40 of them right or 48 of them, eight hours a day ha-ha. And then how do you manage that? The second part is how to be present. So here are some 10 common time management mistakes pointers about how to avoid making time management mistakes. The first thing may seem obvious maybe it’s not, it’s just you don’t have To Do list.

Or the reverse I see sometimes people have hyper To Do listism. I’m sure there a DSM for that, it’s an abbreviation for that an acronym somewhere. But you’ve got that running notepad, and it’s got 17 layers of notes on it.

Jeff: Sure.

Lee: This is what happened last month and that was important but did I remember to update it on my new list? So the other side of that is people don’t do that at all. So they kind of just wing it.

Jeff: Yeah so start with a To Do list right, and good. And one tip on that that I always suggests is one thing is to have a To Do list but also next to it how long does it take? Because a lot of times what will happen is why start something that’s going to take an hour if you only have 10 minutes? So if you have like two five-minute tasks, do those two five minute tasks.

But first have a list but also maybe estimate how long it’ll take so when you have a moment you can scan that list quickly and decide which ones you’re going to work on.

Lee: Forethought. So I’m sure we’ll get into putting the big rocks in first and all that in a little bit. But the next two points are just all about that. Think about prioritizing.

So I’ve got a list, I use the ABC system other people use whatever they use. What are their A’s right?

And am I avoiding the A’s that have to happen this week? And I see the heads nodding again. So it’s so easy and tempting to go to the C’s. I can knock this little C off it really doesn’t have a great impact. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of my A’s or my B’s. So having the list and prioritizing and I’ll add to your point not setting the personal goals for managing time. So setting the goal and making the task fit the time.

Jeff: One of the time management mistakes I see is not setting personal goals. So we do all the business stuff and don’t leave any time for the rest of our life. And we just run through those numbers.

Lee: Oh yeah.

Jeff: Even at the best we’re probably 42 to 50 hours, maybe we have a day off in a week. So, that’s a lot of stuff we want to get accomplished. So you got to make sure your personal goals also have a chance. We’ll hit later but that’s a problem.

Lee: Well and later when you’re doing that, are you present afterwards for when people around you are telling you where you at. But then number four for me is failing to manage distractions. In my HR practice when I had people in my role up in my team, is what I used with my door.

If my door is wide open, come on in, talk about your dog, your cat, your grandma everything’s great. If my door is ajar just a smidgen, it means knock first, come on in and talk business. If the door is completely closed it should be something really urgent that needs immediate escalation, otherwise that means my door is closed. But other times people just fail to manage the distractions. I know you’ve got some thoughts on that.

Jeff: Yeah I have to go to that one in a couple of minutes.

What are some of these other time management mistakes?

Lee: Good old-fashioned procrastination, I just didn’t get to it.

Then to your point, the next is taking on too much. I can do that. I can do that, No, no I can do it, no I can do that.

Jeff: I can top you.

Lee: I can do that. Then you get to just you mentioned thriving on busy. People confuse activity with achievement or activity with results. So it’s the busy disease. That is just plain old multitasking; the light on your hard drive is blinking. Are you really doing things well when you’re multitasking?

Jeff: Yeah probably not.

Lee: Probably not and just like a computer you probably aren’t. And then not taking the pause that refreshes, just walk away from it for a minute. You are not an indefinite or infinite reserve of resources. You must take some periodic just to drain your brain.

And finally 10 is the ineffectively scheduling tasks. You mentioned that is like okay don’t start something that you know is going to take an hour. Don’t hold an important meeting on Friday afternoon at 4:55. If maybe you’ve been procrastinating be honest, own it and then put it on your calendar and own it.

Jeff: Okay so couple of these that I really liked; failure to keep a To Do list, not setting the personal goals, distractions, just taking on too much. And a lot of you I know are out there you thrive on being busy, you take honor in just like, “How are you today?” “Busy.”

And then obviously not taking breaks and we’ll talk about multitasking. When we come back from break, so speaking of time, it’s almost time for break. When we come back from break what I really want to hit on the very first is how do we handle interruptions?

Lee: What did you say I can’t …?

Jeff: Exactly and I’m getting.

Lee: Hey Jeff you got a minute?

Jeff: Boy he’s annoying. Can you believe that so.

Lee: Sorry I don’t mean to interrupt you but you got a second?

Jeff: We’ll thanks for being here maybe. And when we come back from break we’ll pick up on how do we manage interruptions? So thank for being with us and we’ll be back in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back and I’m so glad that you’re with us today. I’m here with Lee Hubert and we are having a conversation about time management tips and best practices, about how do you stay present and get the most out of your workday. Before the break we went through the 10 common time management mistakes.

What we’re going to do now is give you some practical tips and tools. I’m going to start it off by how do we handle interruptions? Those nasty little things whether, “Hey Jeff you got a minute?” or “Hey Lee I only need like 12 seconds.” And he’s laughing because Lee was one of the.

Lee: Yeah I’m an offender.

Jeff: He might have come by and said, “I got two minutes,” and next I know he’s propped up his feet on the desk and I think that was our 15 minute there right then.

But how do we handle those interruptions? So one of the things that I always say is when someone comes to your door, assuming you have a door, it can be a cube or door. It’s when they ask do you have time, you can dictate how much time you’ve got. So, “Yes I’ve got time for one minute. If it’s going to be longer than one minute, then we need to do it a different time.” And you can judge sort of by people and this is not being rude.

This is something you talk about in a one on one ahead of time. We talked about one on ones previously. But that’s something that’ll talk about in a team meeting and one on one saying, “Hey I’ve got about one minute right now.” I’m will to tell you that I work with a gentleman named Kevin Scott. Kevin went out and bought and sand timers that were like one minute, five minute and you can see it move.

And he’ll flip it over and says, “You got one minute go.” And you’re supposed to be out of there when the sand timer is out of there. So that’s one idea. Lee give me a couple of your ideas.

Lee: I have a healthcare that does that exact thing to keep them on track. Well a couple other ideas is to block off call back time. It’s almost like office hours, we talked about it a little bit last week.

So what you have to say if I’m the boss you’re coming to knock on my door and I understand what you have to say is important, and remember we talked about predictable one-on-ones. So you’re not going to miss me it’s a question of priority a lot times at that juncture. So part of it is block off call time, have office hours and know your people. Now I’ll share this little story anecdotally it’s anonymous. But there was a leader in an organization whose name was Jeff.

Jeff: Wait that sounds familiar.

Lee: Yeah we worked together in this high-rise building a couple of floors apart and I would say, “Hey, got a minute?” “Sure Lee always got a minute, but here’s the feedback. Lee, you start talking now and by the time you get off the elevator two floors from here you’ll be ready to tell me what I need to know.”

Jeff: We were about two floors apart, and Lee would always give me the back story. And I just said, “Lee it’s great but if you need my time let’s just cut to the chase.”

Lee: Learned behavior and I’ve actually worked really hard over the years to do that. So part of it is about knowing your people. And if you’re being interrupted you can almost tell it’s like the boss is prioritizing, or whoever you’re interrupting is prioritizing. Be respectful of their time.

Jeff: I want to go back and this is again a couple of weeks too. Well it’s being the rescuer. Let me save them.

So what I’d like to encourage you was this a worthwhile interruption? So when a person comes and they’ve interrupted, now you’ve been distracted. Okay at the end of it, let them know, “Hey, in the future you don’t need to interrupt me with this.” We can do it one or two ways. It can be, “Hey you’re really good at what you’re doing.”

Give them that confidence and saying, “Hey your thinking was spot on, next time just do without me.” Or, “This could have been one that could have been saved into our one on one, off back hours et cetera,” so that you can start to teach the folks behaviors.

Lee: Oh yes.

Jeff: So I’m going to, why would I make a decision? If you’re willing to make a decision and I can interrupt you I’m going to come do it.

Lee: To that point I bump into this frequently when we onboard people all over the country.

These are smart people, scientific and medical people all over the place. And when the managing up in the first 90 or 100 days they’re getting their sea level, they’re establishing the communication trail up to their boss. So they’re trying to find that watermark about how frequently and what kind. And they’ll eventually figure it out like where you just said the words, next just go ahead and do it.

Jeff: Yeah. One last thought on this and I’m going to move it ahead is when they come and knock on your door, sometimes walk them back to their desk or their office, because if they get into your office and sit down, next thing you know you’re in a 15 or half an hour minute meeting. So if you can walk back now you’re in control.

And I’ll often use that where it’s like, “Okay let’s walk back to your place and we get it covered in one to two minutes.” And then while I’m up and about I can maybe say hi to some of my team all that and then get back to my desk. So there’s not a silver bullet in this. But I do think that it’s letting people know a good time to interrupt you.

Lee: What was that…?

Jeff: Teaching them when a good time is, like our one on ones.

As well as saying, “Hey you had this. We didn’t need to handle,” or “Guess what, we’ve got this thing called Frequently Asked Questions, we created it for a reason. And this question was one that you could have gotten yourself.” So teaching people by the tools.

Lee: Yes.

Jeff: I’m going to build up off of sort top 10 tips to mindfully manage our time. So we’re playing a little bit with Scott Eblin’s work again from the Overworked and Overwhelmed. And if you want to hear more about it, go back about a month on Voltcast and you can get even more from Scott.

We touched on this a little bit but I knew we were going to be doing this radio show so that we were going to hit this a little heavier. So maybe Lee if you could start, I think the first one we’ve already kind of hit on here the, recognize and overcome the tyranny of the present. That’s a little bit the interruptions right?

Lee: The tyranny of the present; sounds like an off-Broadway show; the tyranny of the present.

Well you mentioned something really important just a moment ago. Set the time limit early in the discussion. And a couple of weeks ago we talked about being a victim.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: Are you able to say no? Are you able to provide boundaries to people? It’s like dealing with your kids, right.

They’re going to know where those boundaries are. They know when dad’s an easy mark or they know when mom’s a little tense, they’re going to find out where those boundaries are. Your staff and your other people around you will do so too.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Lee: So mindfully managing time that word mindfully from Scott Eblin I just love that. The one commitment we all need to make to successfully pursue mindfulness is to manage your time with intentionality. Sounds like clichés, but if you do that you’ll be your best. We talked about it.

So the first one in terms of overcoming the tyranny of the present is a certain amount of stuff that you’re going to have to do every day. Try to manage that flow to give yourself some wiggle room. If you don’t, you’re going to fill it up and you’re going to have no flexibility whatsoever.

Jeff: Yeah.

Lee: Second thing is you just ask yourself, is what we’re doing really even necessary? Or we spend all his time on meetings what, why do we; is this even necessary?

Jeff: Let me hit that one for just a second. So I had a client that wanted us to fill out Excel Spreadsheet, keeping track of all people that we coached and send it back to him. I missed it one time, just forgot and next thing I didn’t even realize for a whole month.

Lee: You were probably interrupted when you forgot.

Jeff: So it was in October a couple of years ago and then it came to November and what I’d always done was I just updated. All of a sudden all this stuff was from September I’m like what happened to October? Well I realized they never cared.

So it took me three to four hours to give all this information. So then I just called and I waited a few days in November they didn’t call. So I called them and just said, “Hey I didn’t send it in, it was an accident.” I owned what I’d done.

But they were like, “Oh yeah we haven’t looked at that like over a year.” I’m just like, “Okay I’m billing you three hours a month for this,” but it never to any of us to sort of stop it.

Lee: Sounds really important to me.

Jeff: Once we were able to do, instead we moved to half an hour once a month and we just sort of went over everything that needed to be covered and then we got it done. So stop and ask, do we really need to do this. Another tip here is pushing your calendar’s reset button. I love this tip. Basically what this is saying is, are we working on the most important things?

And what will end up happening is we get stuff that’s just stuck on the calendar and it just stays there, and then it just stays there forever. Next thing you know you’re attending this meeting and you’re like, “Why am I even in this meeting?”

Lee: Sounds familiar.

Jeff: Yeah and it’s just easy and does the staff meeting always need to be an hour long on Tuesdays or has it outlived its usefulness?

Again this came from Scott in our interview with him. He works with the CEO where they look at the calendar Friday and they look and say, “how do we take eight hours of the next week?” because often if you think about it, what happened was those commitments that you agreed to two and three weeks ago were a priority two or three weeks ago.

Now when it’s Friday and you’re looking to the next week, are they still the same priority? Could you delegate that to somebody else? Would your time be spent better somewhere else? Could you send somebody and just get a five minute debrief? So my challenge to you is why don’t you start Fridays, looking out a week ahead, two weeks ahead and saying, “Do I still need to attend all this?”

And then at least twice a year I have my folks that I coach sit down and really assess are they spending time in the right things, and where would they want to spend their time? So literally I had a guy two weeks ago, he had 45 hours of standing meetings before the week even started. There was no time to do any work. So he had to reset.

Lee: He must have been really important.

Jeff: He’s in a significant position but he’s not the CEO and he’s not in the C suite.

Lee: Were you interrupting him when you pointed this out?

Jeff: Well we have never been able to have a whole hour conversation without being interrupted.

Lee: There you go.

Jeff: Here’s number four and we’ll probably do one more here before the break. Understand and set your operating rhythm. Learn what works for you and optimize your time and energy attention throughout the day. We do something at Voltage called Time Metabolism.

But first thing in the morning I am full of energy so I love to do things early in the morning. So I’m going to have coaching sessions, I’m going to facilitate in morning, things like that.

Learning your operating rhythm is critical and then figure out when do you need to be at your best thinking or leading your team and matching your activities to that.

Lee: Really so if you’re going to be present in something that is important, and you’ve scoped your calendar and have done everything you talked about so far, don’t do it during that time when you’re not your best.

Jeff: That’s right.

Well you know these rocks that you were talking about earlier, you want to talk about rocks?

Lee: Yeah I mean everybody is balancing multiple demands for your time. So in a prioritization, we’ve done this in many management off-sites. We have a jar, we have rocks we have sand, we have rocks of different sizes. How are you going to get everything into the jar? So you have to think about it, it’s a thought exercise.

So you put the big rocks in the jar first. So envision the jar, you’ve got some rocks about the size of a quarter or bigger the rocks and everything else is smaller. You’ll not fit everything in the container unless you put the big rocks in first.

Jeff: Exactly so big rocks are things like one on ones with your staff.

Lee: Your ‘A’ priorities.

Jeff: ‘A’ priorities, so one on one with staff, personal time right absolutely for me that’s important. I know we both like to get out and go for a jog especially once I get my knee healed up.

Lee: I got that too.

Jeff: Yeah for section one of the things that I’d want to you to know is yeah big rocks really matter and if you’re not careful your day gets filled with emails and interruptions.

Lee: Sand.

Jeff: So we’re about ready for another interruption here so we are at our break. So Lee and I will come back on the other side. We got five more leadership time management tips for you. So we’ll be back in two minutes and looking forward to talking to you after two.


Jeff: Welcome back. And we’ve been talking about time management tips today and best practices. I’m here with Lee Hubert and Lee and I have been engaged in a conversation just hearing some of our best practices that we use with folks that we coach, facilitate and talk to. So before the break we’d gone through sort of out top five points on the list on how to mindfully manage time.

We just left off our most important rocks. So I really just want to stress to people, we often our business first. Don’t forget to put those personal rocks in. Also remember like your health and fitness and whatever else is important to you. But making sure that gets on the calendar. As we continue on, Lee I think you’ve got the next tip up.

Lee: Yeah what we’re talking about is taking some time for off-line thought or unconscious thought. And this is what you think it is, and then we get into the gearbox in a little bit it’s going off-line. And I don’t mean off-line being tethered to an electronic device like Scott Eblin talks about it. It means like as you know we go jog go move your feet. Go play a guitar, go golfing, do whatever you’re going to do. I find that when I’m in that off-line place, then all of a sudden whamo, the ideas come.

Jeff: Yeah and I’d encourage put thinking time on your calendar. I know this sounds crazy. The first couple of times you do it, you’re going to stink at it. I’m just promising you because we’re so busy our attention spans are so short. But try to put down about two hours of thinking time a week on my calendar.

Do I honor it every week? No. But what I try to do is just what Lee said, I try to not have a beer, I try to walk, I try to just think about my week and what’s going on. It’s hard. And it’s not always honored every time but I tell you when I do I always come back refreshed. Another one is setting boundaries and guardrails.

So basically this is we need to be consistently at our best, and to do that we have to be able to set boundaries, so that we can recharge ourselves. I know we’ll talk about that a little bit more in the next segment here. But this is, are you protecting some of your own time? So one of the habits I’ve got into based off this work, is being able to when I get home I put the smartphone away. So that five to eight o’clock is family time.

Lee: Absolutely.

Jeff: And that’s just become a boundary and a guardrail. I also will talk people say, “Hey look I’m in a one on one I don’t want to be interrupted. This is the time I’ve got to coach Lee or Jennifer or Marisa, that I just can’t be interrupted.

Lee: Office hours.

Jeff: Office hours, right. So do you set boundaries and guardrails? Vacations are another critical thing. I can’t tell you how many people now feel like that they must check in from vacation. If you feel like you really must do that, hey I’m sad. But could be that maybe you only give them a half an hour in the morning. I’m going to check in from eight to 8:30 and then rest of the vacation time is yours, trying to figure out those boundaries and guardrails.

Lee: That’s beautiful I love in fact the imagery about boundaries and guardrails. People are so overwhelmed right now and they’re tethered to their electronic devices. And to your point about thinking just a moment ago, sometimes it takes people just a certain amount of time just to crank down, or to get calm.

Jeff: Well this is kind of a funny one. We all have to go to Disney World about every 12 to 18 months. And if you would ever see me in Disney World I’ll be walking around with a pink case.

Lee: And pink ears too.

Jeff: Yeah I would like that. Here’s why, we still need phones because we’re going to text and with the family. We got six of us total we got four kids. So when Beth and I go we still need a phone. But if I’ve got my phone, it’s just a little tempting to check that email. And I found myself one time when I was standing in line with Lydia my oldest, where I checked something, and it wasn’t anything that I needed to see.

But once it was there, the next half an hour I was back in the workplace in my mind and I totally missed that 30 minutes of standing in line of having that connection. So what I’ve done is I swapped phones with Beth. So then I’ve got her pink phone, I can’t check my email.

But I still have an ability to text her back and say, “Where are we, and where are we meeting for lunch?” So we’ve been able to do it but that’s an example of a boundary of I’m not going to check email. And I know that I’m not perfect and if it is there I’m going to do it.

Lee: You’re controlling the tyranny of the present by removing the present. If your Smartphone is not there they’re not going to get you.

Jeff: Exactly. Here’s tip number eight; use yes and no strategically. So use yes and no strategically. One of the quickest ways to end up feeling overwhelmed and overworked is, to mindlessly say yes to every request.

Lee: Mindlessly.

Jeff: Yes, I like that. My friend Derek Strand who I used to work with, he’s out of Richmond. Derek used to say this, in some cultures it’s very hard to say no.

Lee: Oh yeah.

Jeff: So instead of saying no what he would suggest is saying yes more slowly. So I love it, isn’t that great there. What that meant was instead of saying yes, it’s more of a, “Hey I’m honored that you would think of me. Would it be possible for Lee to do this in my place?” “Gosh you’re saying that need it by Friday, with all things that I’ve got going on, I think I could do it but I will not be available to do it until the following Friday.”

So see how you’re not saying no because cultures I know that you guys work in, it’d be very hard to say no, it’d be disrespectful. Some of the cultures it’d be disrespectful. I also just say watch saying yes. A lot of us are pleasers. The best thing about getting a little older is that I’m much more willing to say no.

I was recently asked to join a board, and I was able to say to them, “Hey, I’m honored, I really appreciate what you’re doing. But given that I’m already on a couple of boards, I’m running my own business, I coach in one of my kids sports teams, I’m honored.

But if I attend to that, I just wouldn’t be able to serve you well could I give you another name?” So it felt good to me to not just say no but to be able to give a name. So managing your yeses and no’s is going to be critical.

Lee: Let me add on that if I can because this is really important in our clients in finance, in healthcare, in laboratory, in distribution and technology just about everybody I’ve bumped into are doing management on sites and training, sometimes you hear the words we’re doing more with less. And you mentioned the word pleasers, or people who don’t want to be able to say no.

They don’t put the guardrails up, the family goes begging. The answer is yes, hey a Ms. Manager Mr. Manager can you handle this? “I can do that I can name that tune.” Now I’ll tell you I’ve been walking down the hall months and weeks later, and I look into the eyes of some of these leaders and they’re just walking wounded okay.

Now I’m not saying they’re not invested in their job and all that, that’s not my point. My point is I think there are times it’s unrealistic what the expectations can be, what they will accept, and sometimes what leadership is willing to put on them without thinking about it.

Jeff: I think often we think that we need to be a superhero as a leader, and say that we’re to hit something by Monday, when maybe the person asking for is happy a week later. So I think part of this too is just saying, “Hey we may still be doing this work but it doesn’t have to be done by Monday and folks don’t have to give up their whole weekend.”

“Is it possible to be due by Wednesday or Thursday, instead of always just saying yes we’ll do it, hey how about yes and we’re going to have it by Wednesday? Is that acceptable? I’m amazed how often people are like, “Absolutely.”

Lee: And/or is it possible to have a logical and good point of delegation?

Jeff: Hey Lee was that a dragon that I just saw?

Lee: Yeah you saw the distraction dragon. Say that 10 times. One of the things for tip number nine which is a big one is taming the distraction dragon. Check your email specific times of the day, ignore them the rest of the day. I ask this really a lot of people. If you were to name the top two or three things that take you off task that get you distracted, what are they?

And if you could reduce them or eliminate them, what would that do for you or what would that spring you to focus on? That’s really important. So name them for me. Some people are political junkies in the blogosphere, some people are on the sports radio, some people are digital zombies walking around with their Smartphones. Whatever that thing is that’s really kind of taking time, what are they and how can you reduce them?

Jeff: Yeah so we got to tame that dragon and email that is not always real work, so watch email, Facebook, check in as well as the person that’s two cubes over and always comes over and talks about the latest TV show.

Lee: Hello.

Jeff: They can be the distraction dragon as well.

Lee: Yeah absolutely.

Jeff: I think we’re ready for number 10 here.

Lee: Number 10 is to consider your impact. You’re communicating with what you say, with what you don’t say, with your body language, with your eye contact. You’re doing a one-on-one with somebody and if you’re not present some people are going to take away from that experience disrespect.

Jeff: Yeah I’d also add on this, are you a workaholic? Are you the one that’s sending the text at 10 o’clock at night, and that means that everybody feels like they had to answer? So what’s your workplace too? Right so it’s interesting in our company here, there are times that I get emails from people on the team.

And I’m really cognizant of if I respond does that become the new norm that we’re going to keep getting on the weekends? And is that what we really want as a firm. So we have to really think about are you one that’s promoting this workaholism and the like.

Lee: There’s something to that because you get that text or that email and it’s like two o’clock in the morning or 11:30 at night and you go, “Really?”

Jeff: So hey my shout out to Scott Eblin again for these top 10 tips.

Lee: Not easy for you to say.

Jeff: Again from Overworked and Overwhelmed so excellent work Scott. Hope those helped you more a little bit more substantially in that. We’re going to hit a little bit about being present when there’s just never enough time. So Lee I know you’ve talked about office hours and all that. But when we’re talking about being present what are some of the best practices you’ve seen and what does it mean to you?

Lee: Let’s talk about what being present is. we have a couple of definitions, if you look up in a dictionary it means the period of time happening now, living in the present moment, the here and now. The opposite of present is what happens to a lot of people. It means you are absent.

And the definition of being absent is the unique ability to discourage or confuse your staff, your customers, your significant others, by not being present, not paying attention to what is being said or what is being done. And even the synonym to that are things like distracted, preoccupied inattentive, vague, absorbed, far away, lost in thought, in one’s own world, blank, vacant, empty, miles away.

Jeff: So what I hear is that for us to really connect and get the maximum out of our experience with people on our teams, is we’ve both got to be present, and we’ve got to have good time management tips so we we’re able to meet them where they are.

Lee: Know your people, know yourself, manage your time, be present.

Jeff: Fantastic. So what I’d like to talk a little bit about, we’ll start it here and then we’ll continue in this conversation, you and I both love the book 5 Gears, and it is an outstanding book by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, 5 Gears: How To Be Present When There’s Never Enough Time. There’s a YouTube video about five minutes that you can look up.

There’s also we’ll explain the model here. But there are five gears, which in America that’s a sort of standard car. And if you can just picture this is kind of we show up in a car. So why don’t we run through the gears quickly and then we’ll do a deeper dive?

Lee: Here’s the gearbox like you say we use the gearbox analogy. You’re trying to go someplace, first gear is when you feel fully rested and you recharge. Second gear is when you are connecting with friends or family in nonbusiness mode. Third gear is kind of the middle gear you shift up or shift down, important gear when you’re socializing including the workplace.

Fourth gear is when you’re working and multitasking. Most people spend around 80% of their work time in fourth gear and more about that in a second. Fifth gear is when you are really in the zone, this is your focus time. You’re working without interruptions.

So you’re usually work strategic project and then we have this thing called reverse, which is really good because we just don’t go in one direction; forward all the time. We make mistakes and have to back up and say, “You know what, I own this.”

Jeff: So those are the five gears. We’ll do a deeper dive on those in just a moment. I think that we’re probably in fourth gear where we’re working and multitasking it’s time.

Lee: Do you have a second Jeff?

Jeff: Yeah I think it’s time for a break. So when we come back after the break we’ll give you a little more deeper dive into five years, but we’ll be back in two minutes after the break. Thanks.


Jeff: Welcome back and thanks for being here with us today. I’ve got Lee Hubert with me and we’ve been discussing leadership, time management tips, how to be present. And right before the break we went through the Five Gears Model.

And we’re going to a little deeper dive with that and then wrap up with some of our best practices and tips. So Lee as we kind of quickly went through the five gears, what are some of the ways that you use these five gears with our clients?

Lee: Well you mentioned one in particular and I’ll call it one of the big personal rocks when you were at Disney World.

You understood that you were in fourth gear, or attempted to be in fourth gear.

Jeff: Absolutely multitasking.

Lee: Which was business mode and you had this first or second gear experience or second gear experience with your daughter that would’ve gone begging. So astutely you understood that and swapped phones with your spouse. So that’s a great example. But there are so many. One I think of remember in our first shows we talked about the disc profile and how people are wired.

We work with a lot of different leaders who have a fair amount of D or C in their profile. I can make one person in the world of finance who is a brilliant person, does great work. But managing the staff when they get this person’s airspace, they’re really thinking of the leader is kind of cold and distant and it’s really not so.

Jeff: Yeah. So one of the things I think I’d have folks do with this is figuring your gear order and understanding which gears are easiest to get into and which ones are the hardest. So for me fourth gear, pretty easy. Believe it or not, second gear pretty good. I’m able to stop and enjoy my family really connect with friends.

Lee: I believe it.

Jeff: Yeah so I’m good at that. First gear, yeah sometimes good sometimes not, this is maybe taking time to do some deep reading, getting a run in, making sure you get all your rest. The gear that’s the hardest for me is fifth gear, and that’s really the focus time.

So I picture if we’re driving down the interstate you’re kind of in cruise control. Sometimes you lose track of even like the exit and how occasionally how fast are you going. To me when I really hit it is a great coaching session, maybe when I’m giving a speech.

Sometimes when I’m writing our blogs, I can really get into it. But then there are other times I sit down to do it and it’s just like I can’t do it. So what happens? How do you suggest people work on their gears when once they’ve identified it, what do you do to sort of start to work on these gears?

Lee: Well let me use the financial leader I was just talking about. We got behind the manager’s closed door and in this case it was me.

We did the coaching mode. And we were talking earnestly about what was his default gear, where did he start. So he defaulted almost always more than 80% to fourth gear. And he would tell you, “I’m not interested how your weekend, I don’t care,” it didn’t show up on his radar screen. Now that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, but it’s just not how he was wired.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: Very high C on the disc. So what we did in coaching mode and for him to be present, was to say, “Look, downshift, start in third gear.” People are going to look at that and go, “Okay maybe talk about the World Series or God forbid the election or whatever else is going on in the contemporary day, but that’s not all business.”

Jeff: Yeah I worked with a similar one that he’s always in fourth or fifth gear. He’s fantastic, he’s got CEO potential, he’s amazing. People don’t really want to work with him because he’s always in fourth or fifth gear.

So I’ve talked to him about getting to a meeting like five minutes early, and just asking. Talk about the sports team. Be able to just ask about people’s weekend and he’s got some people who got grandkids. Ask those questions, he’s like, “you’re kidding me.” I’m like, “No I’m serious like you’re really going to do this.” Well he comes back a few weeks later and his engagement scores went up tremendously.

Lee: Think about that.

Jeff: And it’s not that he’s like so much better, the intensity of instead of coming in immediately at two o’clock bam here we go.

Lee: Yeah.

Jeff: There’s this warm-up period and he’s still intense.

Lee: I like the warm up thing too. Think about it, you mentioned the word engagement and this whole thing is wrapped in the word intentionality. So if somebody comes in and they’re all business all the time, and that’s fine, that’s appropriate sometimes but not everybody thinks that way.

Jeff: Well and another way I’ve used after I read this was, I realized that I didn’t always use second gear like I could have. I take Henry to school my youngest often and it’s only a couple of minutes away. It’s probably a seven to eight minute venture when I take him. Sometimes I continue and go to work.

Those seven or eight minutes I always treat them like gear four, here’s just one more thing to do. The radio is on, it’s like there’s a long stop light in between I check email. After reading this book and listening to these guys, I turned the radio off, I put the phone away and that seven or eight minutes I really connect with Henry.

Look I was going to spend those seven or eight minutes the same way. It’s 7:30, I’m already skimmed email, I know what’s going on. Instead now Henry and I really connect, we laugh we have a good time. So when he gets home that night I’m able to get back into second gear with him instead of it being just a fourth gear activity.

Lee: Now let me understand this; you still only have 168 hours in your week.

Jeff: I still have 168.

Lee: And you didn’t have new time.

Jeff: I did not. Okay well I repurposed it though.

Lee: Yeah well repurposing I love it. My default gear when I wake up a lot is fourth gear.

Jeff: And a lot of people do.

Lee: And you put that pad next to your bed and it’s like write it down or it may go away, I don’t want to miss it right. But then I realize I need to downshift especially I get around and my wife Jane we’re at Smith Mountain Lake it’s beautiful. There are times I’m out there pitching brain waves and she’s like, “What?”

Jeff: I love that. Well I think that’s great. The five gear we’ll give it some more justice here in some future shows, I think we learned a lot about it. Again the challenge that I’d have you do is, learn about it, figure out which gear is the easiest, which ones are the hardest and then start to play with that a little bit. And see if that doesn’t help you be more present and connect to the people that you’re running around with.

Lee: I would add one thought that. For leaders it’s the constructive and purposeful use of fifth gear.

Jeff: Right.

Lee: When fifth gear is on when you’re thinking wow two hours has gone by and you didn’t even notice it, because you were catching some serious gray matter. That is beautiful time to be in forethought strategic planning mode, you’re not interrupted and you really are your best.

Jeff: Is there one last tip before I wrap up the show?

Lee: Well just what we were talking about before, remember the two things that we’re saying is know how to manage your time and know your people. Take the time to know your people.

Jeff: Good. And I think that if you listen back to sort of the tips and understanding, don’t try to all 10 of these. Pick one, pick two.

Lee: I have a To Do list I want to get them all done.

Jeff: Yeah exactly. So take a deep breath and go back and really say okay there’s one I want to do. Maybe I want to work on three nights a week I put my phone away from five to eight and I’ll recheck it. Don’t expect you’re going to be perfect. So it’s been a fabulous show back with you Lee, thanks for being here.

Lee: Yes sir.

Jeff: Next week we’re going to have Jon Hagmaier on the show. Jon started out as a teacher and a coach and ended up starting his own software business for education, grew the business from really the couch to 100% organization. It sold earlier this year. And Jon is a CEO, an entrepreneur, a really fantastic guy. He’s also very active in his community.

So we’re going to have him and talk about his leadership lessons, things that he learned and give us some real practical advice about what he did right and some things he wishes he’d done differently. So Jon will be on the show next week on Illuminating Leadership, so we look forward to seeing him next week at one o’clock.

Just in wrap up. Thanks again so much for being with us from all over the world. Lee thanks for being here and giving your insights again. Again if you would like to reach us during the week, please call us at area code 540-798-1963. You can email me at jeff@voltageleadership.com. Our website is www.voltageleadership.com.

You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership, you can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting. You can connect with Lee at Lee Hubert at Voltage Leadership Consulting. Follow me on twitter @VoltageLeaders. You’ve been listening to Illuminating Leadership, we’ll see you next week at one o’clock with Jon Hagmaier. Thanks and make it a great week.