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  • kenpasternak


Last week I shared a story that included Walter Wriston, former CEO of Citicorp. Here’s another.

During the 1980’s personal computers were just beginning to make an impact on how we managed data, produced reports, and scheduled our lives, but people were struggling with how to prioritize their time and energies.

To help, there was a flood of books and seminars about “Time Management.” These workshops recommended using a ‘one-stop’ resource to organize your life. It took the form of an “organizer” which contained everything about your life and was carried everywhere, much like our mobile phones today.

They were ubiquitous and the trend even inspired a 1990 comedy film, ‘Taking Care of Business’ (titled ‘Filofax’ in some countries) about an uptight advertising executive who has his entire life in a Filofax organizer which mistakenly ends up in the hands of a friendly convict who poses as him.

I became acutely aware of using my time efficiently a few years earlier because of something that happened when I was working in New York City.

As a young banker during the mid-1970’s I was hungry to learn. I had graduated Yale with a degree in engineering and applied science, followed by a year studying in Paris, so I was very grateful that Citibank hired me into its Management Development Program. I had a steep learning curve having to absorb accounting, corporate finance, economics, risk management and the skills needed to manage corporate banking relationships like selling and negotiating.

On many Sundays, I walked downtown to Citi headquarters at 399 Park Avenue to study and tackle my ‘to do’ list. Colleagues would sometimes pop in, but on one sunny afternoon, I was the only person in my department on the tenth floor.

At a certain point, I heard footsteps approaching. I looked up and passing in front of my desk was our CEO, Walter Wriston, a man of huge stature in the banking and finance industry.

I proudly said to him, “Hi Walt. You can see that I am here, working hard for the shareholders.”

He replied in a soft voice, without accusation, “If you learned to manage your time better, you would not have to come into the office on a beautiful Sunday afternoon!”

I was not quick or bold enough to ask what he was doing in the office on Sunday. Then again, while I was very busy, I was not leading an organization of 80,000 people operating in over 100 countries.

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