Date: December 20, 2022

The following is adapted from Becoming a Leader of Impact.

Have you ever uttered the words, “I wish I could get a handle on my time management?”

If so, let me ask you another, more pointed question: “How much time do you spend each day watching TV or browsing social media?” If the answer is “too much,” fret not.

Many people, even accomplished leaders, struggle to spend their time wisely. This is partly because we don’t see time as the precious, finite commodity that it is. We waste it, but after doing this exercise that illustrates just how valuable your time is, you might begin to think twice. 

I call it the lifeline exercise, and it can help change your perspective on time, hopefully for good. 

The Lifeline Exercise

For years, I’ve been volunteering with LeaderImpact, an organization that supports and challenges leaders to think about their lives holistically in order to make an impact. During the first session of every leadership training course, we ask participants to plot their life on a line. 

  • What age are you now?

  • How many years do you have left?

  • How are you going to use that time left?

Think about the answers to these questions and plot them on your lifeline. It’s a refining exercise that helps you realize two things: life is short and you don’t know when it’s going to be over; and time flies by without regard to what you’ve done with your life. 

The whole topic of eternity and what’s after death is a whole other topic, but thinking about the finite amount of time each of us has left in life tends to light a fire under people’s feet. 

How Should You Spend Your Time?

Once you’ve plotted out the time you have left, your next questions should be:

  • How should I spend that limited time?

  • What can I do as a leader to leave behind the biggest impact?

Some people will tell you that impact in leadership is about the grand actions: building that commercial empire or changing how an industry operates. And those are big and beautiful impacts. But on a more micro scale, at its very essence, impact operates within a perfectly simple subset: relationships.

When I work on strategy with clients at my marketing agency, I always start with helping them understand their organization’s purpose. My favorite question to help them think about this is: “If your company disappeared tomorrow, what would be missing? Who would care the most?”

The answer to that question usually comes back to relationships.

Spend Your Time Nurturing Relationships

Your impact on the world starts with the relationships closest to you. The people who will take the time to attend your funeral will be those who have or had a relationship with you. The closer the relationship, the closer they will be to your casket when you die. Sobering, I know. But true. 

Typically, it’s immediate family, then extended family, and then close friends, and it trickles out to the back row, where loose acquaintances or colleagues from the past might be. Sadly, we are sometimes better and more intentional at impacting the “back rows” than the “front rows.” 

We worry about what our acquaintances think of us when we should be spending our time nurturing our closest relationships. They’re the people who will be most affected by the impact you can leave, and it’s with them where you have the power to make the most difference every single day. 

Spend Your Time Thoughtfully

The lifeline exercise, hopefully, makes you put down the remote, pause, and consider how you spend your time. Too often, we’re committed to the wrong things. We’re busy. We’re focused in the wrong areas. We just let time fly by and then justify our actions and behaviors. 

But you can change that. 

When you think about filling the rest of your lifeline with meaningful impacts, don’t think about making a difference for the masses. Think about your closest relationships first: your family, friends, mentors, and mentees. The people who look up to you and work beside you every day. Spend your time putting those relationships first, and your impact will leave a legacy. 

For more advice on making a significant impact on the world, you can find Becoming a Leader of Impact on Amazon.

Braden Douglas is the founder of CREW Marketing Partners, one of the fastest growing marketing and creative agencies in Canada. Founded in 2007, CREW has won numerous awards for their service and brand leadership. Braden started his career in brand management at Frito Lay and Procter & Gamble, but throughout his life, his passion has been helping leaders make a significant impact in the world. He currently volunteers with LeaderImpact as a member of the Global Advisory Board, where he plays a key role mentoring leaders, speaking, and developing content. Canadian born Braden now lives in Texas, USA with his wife and two kids.


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