Imagine a large jar filled to the brim with golf balls. Is it full? What if marbles were slowly poured in as the jar was shaken until no more could be added? Now is it full? How about sand being trickled into the jar as it’s vigorously jiggled? When the sand reaches the brim is the jar finally as full as it could possibly be?

Now dump all that out and start over with first adding the sand, then the marbles, and finally trying to stuff in all the remaining golf balls. You won’t get every one in.

If we start with the big things — our top or strategic priorities — and then fit our daily tasks around them, we’ll make much greater progress on what really matters. This is much more effective than allowing the sands of minutiae to fill in enough of our limited time that we can’t fit in our most important work.

We all start with exactly the same amount of time. Why is it that the best leaders and top teams get so much more done than their counterparts? Poor leaders are often the ones complaining loudest about their lack of time. The title of a study of 500 leaders in Harvard Business Review warned, “Beware the Busy Manager.”

Highly effective leaders and teams use their time much more effectively. They’re more strategic with this vital resource that — unlike money — can’t be borrowed or banked for future use. When we spend a day we lose a day.

Time is running out. Another year is winding down. As Father Time gets ready to turn things over to his fresh, young replacement, it’s a great time to take stock with a look back and prepare for the New Year by setting our priorities — choosing the big balls we want to ensure we’ve put first into our limited space.

We have an assessment to help you and/or your team. Our quiz on Strategic Use of Time Assessment is built around what we’ve found to be the 7 deadliest time traps for leaders:

  1. Highly Reactive and Crazy Busy
  2. The Acceleration Trap
  3. Low Culture/Capacity Development
  4. Poor Monkey Management
  5. No Time for Coaching Skill Development
  6. Working in Versus on Your Team
  7. Falling Down the Meeting Sinkhole

You can use our Strategic Use of Time Assessment to look at your personal use of time. It’s evolved from our leadership team retreats and workshops to help leadership teams assess their strategic use of time. So, if you’d like to have your leadership teams complete the assessment and tally up the responses, let us know and we can arrange this complimentary time check for you. You can review the results as a team to discuss how you can better leverage your time to ensure your key priorities all fit into the time you have available next year. We’ll send you a list of resources to help you deal with any time traps you and/or your team may have fallen into.

So was that imaginary jar completely full after adding first the golf balls, then the marbles, and finally the sand? Not quite. You could pour a beer or two over everything and fill the jar to the very top.

This proves that no matter how busy you are, you can always find time for a beer.