I get it. You are busy and can’t even imagine adding one more thing to your list of to do’s this week. Some of this may be due to your poor time management, over committing to people and projects you should have said “no” to, or a plethora of other reasons which contributed to your current schedule overload. I’ve even seen people who panic when their schedule has openings in it. What’s worse, is they feel the need to fill these time gaps at all costs. Sound familiar?
Most will agree that time is one of our most precious assets. We also don’t have any guarantee of how much time we have, so I’m amazed by have cavalier and yes, irresponsible some people can be with the use of their time. Sure, some people’s time is dictated by circumstances beyond their control, but the fact is we have more control over our schedule than we might like to admit. Consider someone you know who seems completely in control of their schedule, isn’t in an anxious state about it, and appears to be one of the most productive people you have met on the planet. Yes, these people do exist, and no, they are not as I like to refer to as “unicorns”. You just might not be familiar with them.
Some of the most impressive leaders and sports coaches I have seen that are in control of their schedules appear to accomplish more than most people they might be compared to. Do they have some special ability or superpower which enables them to do this? Not really. So, what is it about them that distinguishes them from other people who barely seem to be able to accomplish one thing per day? I’ll call it “intentional planning”. They are highly aware of how and why they are investing in their daily calendar, and this contributes to their ability to seemingly accomplish anything.
One example of “intentionally planning” your schedule might include appreciating your various energy levels via the day. Depending on whether you are a morning or evening person, I have seen some leaders and coaches color code their schedules based on what their energy level for that time of day will be. For instance, most people are not at their peak level of productivity between the hours of 2-5 pm, but we know that these are also hours which we need to work with. Or not? If you must work and be productive during this time block, consider what you can do to maximize your output. Perhaps you schedule time to focus on doing strategic or highly focused work during this time, and not be involved in meetings. Unless the meetings are well organized, there is an agenda, have a purpose and the expected outcome is well understood upfront. If you are accepting meetings without this type of structure, this is where you can be guaranteed to not be constructively investing in your precious time management.
There are certainly activities that may not be “agenda appropriate”, but when they are, and an agenda is not constructed, saying “no” to this type of meeting or activity will garner you new time back on your schedule. Perhaps time that you can now “make” to accomplish or do something more desirable or productive.
Making time for other people is one of the categories I factor into my schedule on a weekly basis. Not only because I believe it is important to do so, but also because some of this time is oriented towards helping another individual, or a group of people. You might call this mentoring or volunteer time, and I do have to limit the amount of time I can invest. However, being intentional about this offers me the opportunity to consider doing this and being what some have told me “generous time giving”. With this said, I’m a big proponent of giving back to others, as I have had plenty of people who have contributed to helping me to get to where I am professionally.
We all know that there are certain times when we will need to make time for others, but can’t seem to figure out how to accomplish this. Some people might also be thinking, I don’t even have enough time for myself. Guess what? Whose challenge is this? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, and I’ve lost patience with people who don’t take ownership for their own schedule and routinely say this. If you are one of these people, or know someone who appears to have this conundrum, below are some ideas for you or them to consider helping with this challenge.
- Yes, I’ll grant you there are times in our lives when we will have more time to apply to others, and that we may feel deprived of not having any “me time”, but I guarantee if you look and work hard enough, you can find at least 30-60 minutes per day to accomplish this.
- Have you considered mastering the art of creating agendas for either the meetings you are attending or scheduling? I literally took a two-day course on how to do this, and it was truly life changing, and I was able to gain more time back on my schedule as a result.
- Although this may seem counter-intuitive, when we take time to help others, it will give us more energy and motivation. Energy and motivation we can then re-invest in ourselves.
- Be honest. How would you rate your time management skills? In my experience, I would give most people a C, and this would be a generous grade. What can you do to enhance your time management skills? Yes, starting today.
- If you took the time to intentionally plan out your schedule for an entire month, and to do so in meticulous fashion, allowing for some flexibility, and including “time for others”, as well as yourself, how would that make you feel? Could you give this a try?
- Not being morbid, but what if you knew how much time you had on this planet was down to the last day you would be here. Would you invest in your time differently? Yes, I intentionally chose the word invest, as you should consider your time as a precious investment.
The next time you tell someone you wish you had more time, or that you don’t have any time, I’m hopeful the tips above will provide you with an opportunity to re-think and remove or reduce saying this soon.
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