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Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Time Leadership; the process of shaping the culture of productivity in your company” with Author Julie Morgenstern

The reason for this is that time management does not happen in isolation. It happens in a community. How one person spend their time directly impacts the people all around them. That is especially true for a company’s leaders — -their work habits set the pace and tone for the entire company. Most execs I coach don’t […]


The reason for this is that time management does not happen in isolation. It happens in a community. How one person spend their time directly impacts the people all around them. That is especially true for a company’s leaders — -their work habits set the pace and tone for the entire company. Most execs I coach don’t even realize that when they send an email at 11pm or from their kid’s ballgame on Saturday afternoon, they’re sending a second message: everyone should be checking their email late at night and over the weekend.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing organization and productivity expert and New York Times best-selling author Julie Morgenstern. Julie has spent more than 30 years helping individuals and major corporations (American Express, Hearst, HARPO, Deloitte, Microsoft, FedEx, and more) overcome disorganization to achieve their goals by designing “Inside Out” systems of time and space that feel natural and easy to maintain. In her most recent book, Time To Parent: Organizing Your Life To Bring Out The Best In Your Child And You (Holt Paperbacks, available now), Julie extends her organizational skills to time management for parents, designed to help them organize their time by bringing more balance and productivity to family life, work time and self-care. Based on her years of field work and nearly a decade of research on the science of human development, Time To Parent presents a revolutionary framework that frees parents to savor time with their kids and on their own, from birth through college. With more women than ever juggling a family and career, Julie’s expert advice offers concrete methods for finding the ultimate balance.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was once a notoriously disorganized person. From the day I was born until the birth of my own child, I lived in a constant state of chaos. I was a classic, right-brained creative type, operating out of piles, spending half my days searching for things. I lost absolutely everything you could possibly imagine. The usual little stuff: keys, watches, umbrellas, gloves, wallets — things you simply stop buying after a while. My day of reckoning came when I had a baby. When she was three weeks old, I decided it’d be a beautiful day to take her for a walk. I starting running around the house, gathering items for her diaper bag. Every time I thought I was ready, I’d think of something else to bring. By the time I was packed up, more than 2 hours had passed and Jessi had fallen back asleep. I had missed the moment. And I realized, perhaps for the first time in my life that being organized is about being ready. In a fit of determination, right then and there I dumped everything out of that bag, and created a system.

That diaper bag was the first thing I ever successfully organized. And though it sounds small, it was truly significant to me. Because it wasn’t about the diaper bag. It was about being able to take care of my child. Never again would my daughter miss an opportunity because I wasn’t ready.

It has become my professional mission in life to help every person who feels trapped by chaos or held back by overly burdensome systems make the life-changing discovery that no matter how long you have been disorganized, and no matter what form of clutter is keeping you from achieving your goals, there is hope.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The executive team of The Oprah Winfrey Show realized during the final year of the show’s taping that someone ought to be thinking about what will be valuable to save for the future once the show is over. So, they hired me to conceptualize and lead the creation of the show’s archive. As you can imagine, it was quite an honor, and quite a responsibility. My team and I worked onsite for several months running the project in tandem with the entire company while they were producing a final year of amazing shows. We designed treasure guidelines, provided the staff with decision trees and systems to quickly identify what was valuable, and how to categorize and tag their treasures for easy retrieval. We organized collection drives to funnel items of historic, practical and sentimental value and distribute these to their most useful destination, i.e. Ms. Winfrey’s home, Harpo office, auction, given away. Along with organizing valuable items, we also designed systems for identifying items of no value and dispose of them properly (shredding, recycling or trash). The whole process allowed the company to focus their time and energy on creating a memorable final year of shows, while also creating a nurturing process of closure which honored and celebrated the remarkable chapter in Television history they have been a part of. By spearheading getting these systems in place early on, the executive team reaped the benefits of having the final distribution of items complete within a month of the show’s closing.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Time Leadership, what I call the process of shaping the culture of productivity in your company, is an essential competency that every executive in today’s world of work need to master. Over 30 years of delivering productivity coaching, speaking and workshops around the world, I’ve observed that every company has a culture of time, that is created by the leaders of the organization-whether consciously or not. When it’s unconsciously, the result is often that executives, senior execs, and the C-Suite end up being the biggest obstacle to their employee’s productivity — and don’t even realize it.

The reason for this is that time management does not happen in isolation. It happens in a community. How one person spend their time directly impacts the people all around them. That is especially true for a company’s leaders — -their work habits set the pace and tone for the entire company. Most execs I coach don’t even realize that when they send an email at 11pm or from their kid’s ballgame on Saturday afternoon, they’re sending a second message: everyone should be checking their email late at night and over the weekend.

We are working in a 24–7 global economy. If the company doesn’t help put edges around the workday, most of us can’t help but work without boundaries. When we feel overwhelmed, our knee-jerk impulse is to work longer hours, never turn off, try to do it all. As a result we start to burn out, working more slowly and getting less good work done without even realizing it. And women, parents and Millennials, whom companies are actively trying to promote for leadership roles, are unwilling to work in that 24–7 work culture. That causes us all to lose talent that can really add value to our companies.

People shouldn’t have to choose between work or their personal lives. If people are efficient and effective at work, they should and could have plenty of time for their personal lives… and in fact, by having both, individuals, companies and society will thrive.

To create a competitive company that attracts and retains top talent, and brings out peak performance in your most valuable and expensive resource: your human capital… you need to consciously shape the culture of time in your company. Everyone has a basic human need to make a contribution and feel appreciated for it. If your people aren’t doing well, it isn’t about a lack of motivation — something is working against them. It may be a lack of training, but the real problem inevitably rests with their environment.

How do you think this will change the world?

How many people do you know who frequently say, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”? The reality is that there are enough hours, we’re just not using them productively by figuring out proper time management for ourselves, our teams and our corporate culture by delegating responsibilities, improving the finite work period and freeing time for the much needed self-care and personal time needed to avoid work fatigue and to prevent employees from feeling that they must choose between their personal and professional lives.

There is also a huge drive to promote more women and millennials into leadership roles — but companies are struggling to achieve those objectives, because these are employees who do not want to give up their family lives and personal time to succeed at work. Time Leadership puts systems in place that acknowledge we are all whole people — who can thrive at work, and thrive in our personal lives. In fact, if we are able to do both well — companies, families and society all win.

Working smarter starts with the corporate culture — allowing for time to think during the work day and predictable time off. For example, unless it’s essential, by eliminating travel on Sundays and Friday evenings, as well as discouraging emails after hours or on weekends, employees would have ample time for their other 7/8 to be fulfilled without impacting their professional responsibilities by not needing to cram everything into a short period of time, by being able to unilaterally focus on desired tasks and by not having emails go out during personal time that notoriously come back from others with added items for the “to do” list. Furthermore, by empowering everyone to develop others on the team through delegation and to work collectively on shared objectives, the office environment will bolster and everyone will be active participants in its success.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

My company and I had been delivering productivity workshops and coaching to companies all over the world for years. Attendees at all levels of the organization and across all industries and functions within the companies, consistently said it was the best, most practical day in a classroom, or in a coaching session they had ever experienced. The strategies were relevant, practical, and would absolutely free them to make their greatest contribution at work, and still have time for a fulfilling personal life.

But we also kept hearing how hard it was to implement — to carve out time to think and be proactive during the workday-because their company culture expected instant responses to emails, IM’s, Slack, etc. And that emails were flying around at night and on the weekends, and if they didn’t check, or pipe in, they’d miss an opportunity to be seen and recognized.

So, I realized, that to change the culture of time at a company, you need to approach it BOTH Top Down and Bottom Up — and thus the concept of Time Leadership was born.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

More speaking engagements to senior executives all over the world so that they discover the concept, spend time reflecting on its application, and realize that by creating a productive and balanced work environment, they won’t lose a thing — they will gain their talent’s peak performance, and longevity.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

The first four key lessons are ones that I identified for my book Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life (S.H.E.D. — separate, heave, embrace, drive) on how to let go of the obsolete as a catalyst for positive growth and change, all of which are applicable to so many aspects of our lives:

1. Separate the treasures to identify and unearth the gems that energize you and have true value for your life

2. Heave the trash. Once you have identified the people, places and things worth saving, completely relinquish that which represents the past by letting go of everything that is no longer relevant to create a large opening of time and energy.

3. Embrace your identity. Recognize that you are who you are and to identify the ways to ensure time for self-care by having ample time to sleep, eat well, celebrate your love of family and friends, and have fun

4. Drive yourself forward by delegating responsibilities to others at work and at home that will empower them and also take the weight of the world off your shoulders

The final one is from my most recent book, Time to Parent, where I examined the importance of equally dividing time between oneself and parenting responsibilities:

5. It’s okay to make time for yourself. If you think of your time as a pie chart with equal attention paid to yourself and your parenting role, as well as the components for each half being equally important, you’ll assign greater attention toward each and not feel like you should be focusing elsewhere.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

Develop an entrepreneurial mindset — which does not mean you have to own your own business. It means that even if you work for a company, you are a service based business and the service is YOU. You need to understand your “client’s” (i.e. the company’s) goals and bring your unique talents and skills to bring those goals to fruition. And take ownership of your time and your focus. Empower yourself to empower others. Learn to be a Time Leader at any level of your organization.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

Technology that would enable people to truly track where their time is going across the full balance of their lives, their varying responsibilities at work, and their degree of presence and focus. -so that they could rebuild their powers of concentration and presence to everything they do — at work, and at home. When we are fully present, time stretches, and we get so much more value out of shorter blocks of time.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
 
 
For me, the greatest thing about being on earth is that each person is a unique individual with his/her own combination of talents, skills and interests that combine to make a unique contribution. Organizing and time management are the oil in the machine of life that enable people to fulfill their true potential. It’s been my mission since the beginning of my company, to tame the chaos in people’s lives so that they are free to make their unique contribution. Also, that life is not a dress rehearsal — one should be fully engaged in life…and to always be curious and learn from each person you meet.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Systems are lifesavers. By establishing systems of organization and time management, your level of success and mindset for achieving success increase exponentially.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Come join me on this mission to help more people worldwide tame the chaos so they can make their unique contribution. There’s a whole lot of talent and brilliant ideas out there — we need to unlock them with the critical life skills of time management and organization. The world will be a richer, better place.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG: @juliemorgenstern

Facebook: @JulieMorgensternEnterprises

Twitter: @JulieMorgenstrn

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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