From time to time some of the things we do in life are a bit unclear to us. We do not always know exactly when something is supposed to start or end. Take raising children, for example. We are clear that it begins when they are born. However, after you become a parent, you are a parent for the rest of your life! That child will need guidance every day. And then, even after they are grown, your wise counsel will still be occasionally needed. In other words, giving guidance to children is something that has a starting point, but has no clearly defined ending time.
I, personally, have come to see the power and value of setting a clear time frame to any situation when dealing with children. If a child wants some kind of reward, it is a good idea to say, “Okay, the time frame for earning this reward begins at noon on Saturday and ends at noon the following Saturday.” In other words, by making it clear that you have a starting time and an ending time, a framework can then be added to the project that will give clarity, direction, and purpose.
This is also true in the business world. I was having dinner with a good friend of mine recently when he began to thank me for telling him about the value of putting a time frame on his business deals. That was years ago, and actually I had forgotten that I had even mentioned it to him until we were having dinner that night. He said that it was one of the most valuable truths he had ever learned. It gave clarity and purpose to every business decision he made because there was a specific starting time and a definite ending time to each one. He indicated that prior to that time there may have been some clarity at the beginning of a deal, but there had never been much clarity as to its end. All of that changed, he said, when he learned to put a time frame on every deal in which he was involved.
That is what I am trying to say in this Tip. The more clarity you can bring to a situation by having a specific starting time and a specific ending time, the better off you will be, regardless of whether that is in raising children or in your business dealings.
Years ago, I was a school principal. In that situation there was always a set starting time and ending time. Every year we started school in late August and ended in late May. If we implemented something during the school year that did not work well, we simply changed the policy for the following year. We could re-write the handbook, or change any policies, or adapt any rules to our specific set of circumstances as necessary. And, it worked well because we all knew that there was a definite time frame involved. We also knew that each school year was different from the one before. I don’t recall anyone ever saying, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it!” You see, that kind of thinking is a direct result of not being clear on the starting and ending point of the situation.
Many of you know that I also have some past history in church work. That is a different ballgame altogether! And, in that setting, I did often hear people say, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it!” I did not understand where that mindset was originating from until I realized that the difference between the school situation and the church setting was exactly that – there was a specific time frame to the school year, but not to the church year. So, I quickly learned to frame each church project with a definite start and finish time.
I recently read an article that pointed out just how strong this concept can be. An employee approached a particular employer with certain demands that he wanted in his contract. He wanted to make more money and to be rewarded for his efforts. After listening patiently, the employer explained that while the employee wanted certain guarantees, there was no one making any guarantees to him as the employer. That concept was totally lost on the demanding employee. Finally, the employer had an idea. He would meet all of the requested concessions on one condition; that the employee write a letter of resignation and post-date it one year from the date of their conversation. He explained that if the employee’s goals were met in that period of time, he would be rewarded proportionately because the employer would then be in a position to meet the demands. However, if the goals were not met, then the letter of resignation would serve to exempt the employer from paying unemployment benefits when the employee left. In that way, they would both be protected and guaranteed a reasonable outcome.
When I read that article, I thought that was a rather strong position for both parties to take. However, regardless of what you or I think about that scenario, the bottom line is that a time frame was put on the situation in order for there to be clarity for everyone concerned. See what I mean? This issue of a time frame sets the tone and the pace for the entire structure to have clarity.
This week, and in the future, consider whether there is clarity concerning the start and finish times of each endeavor. The more clarity you have concerning the time frame within which you are working, the better off you are going to be, whether that is in raising children, in business, creating contracts or in any endeavor in life. Putting a time frame on various circumstances brings clarity and closure to nearly every situation!
Tip: Put a time frame on it!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm