Living the Dash: How One CEO Decides How to Spend Her Time

Mona Amodeo Care for people, Culture, Leadership

Mona largerEditor’s Note:  At the Center, we support and celebrate executives who are leading values-driven organizations. We also like to hear from these executives, as we believe their stories and experiences can help shape the global conversation around responsible business.

Through our Executive Panel web series we ask the same question to different executives, and let them share – in their own words – their most useful strategies, frameworks, and lessons-learned. This month’s question is, How do you spend your time?

Our panelist is Dr. Mona A. Amodeo, founder and president of idgroup, a Pensacola, Florida, whole-systems branding firm.  

The title of Linda Ellis’s popular poem The Dash tells the story of a eulogy delivered at the funeral of a friend. The eulogy reflects on the dash between the two dates on the tombstone —what a person’s life represented during his time on earth.  The poem calls the reader to consider the question how do we spend our dash.

This poem came to mind when I was asked to write about the time management demands that I face as a small business owner. This year marks the 25th anniversary of idgroup. So a good bit of my dash has been spent birthing and growing this company, while raising a daughter, advancing my education, being a wife and doing my best to contribute to my community.

“My life is more akin to dancing on the edge of chaos.”

Reflecting on it all, I can say that balance is not something I can write about with any credibility. I often say my life is more akin to dancing on the edge of chaos. I don’t have any magic bullets or formulas to share with you about managing the complexities of life. I have learned however, there is an art to knowing the difference between what is important and what is urgent.

There is wisdom in the Eisenhower Decision Principle, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” This life principle was popularized in Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and continues to be explored by many other personal development and organizational development professionals.

Eisenhower decision matrix

The Eisenhower planning matrix provides guidance for us to fit life’s demands into one of the categories: Important and Urgent, Important but not Urgent, Not Important but Urgent, and Not Important and Not Urgent. So there you go. I did find the magic bullet. Right? Oh, if life could only be managed in a simple 2 x 2.

It may not be simple, but the matrix does provide an answer of sorts. Choices, decisions, priorities, and yes, letting some things go. Time, as my grandmother once told me, is not a renewable resource.

Activities associated with Quadrant 2 are my greatest challenge. It requires me to choose what’s important in the long run over the immediate demands of employees, or the clients or friends or…..

While I have learned that managing life’s complexity is an art—an art of intentionally determining what is really important to defining my Dash—I’m still working on it.

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For more from Dr. Amodeo, see the short video, Moving Sustainability from Doing to Being.