How to get your time back.
Overcoming the entropy of busy-ness.
Left to our own devices, our calendars will devolve into the chaos of busy-ness and over-scheduling, with the most important work and the things that matter most getting squeezed out.
This is the natural course of modern work.
Our teams have meetings. Other teams have meetings that we (or they) feel like we should be involved in. People need our attention. And before we know it, our calendars are back to back, leaving us with too much to do and not enough time, energy, and attention to do it all.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. What follows is the how.
Define what’s most important, and prioritize it on your calendar.
There’s a saying I use often - Don’t tell me your goals, show me your calendar.
Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what we deem to be important if that importance isn’t reflected in the time and attention we give it.
If it’s important, then schedule it.
In sales, making calls and sending emails are ironically the things that are easily squeezed out by the busy-ness of a day. In health, most of us would deem working out to be important, yet it’s often the first thing to go when we have too much to do.
The reason why resolutions fail and why our productivity feels like a roller coaster are one and the same.
If it’s important, schedule it.
Protect the time you have scheduled.
Most people agree with the point above. We all understand that what’s important should be prioritized on our calendars. And frankly, most of us are good at that part. But where I see this go out the window on a daily basis?
We don’t protect our time.
It’s “just a workout” so we let that time be overtaken by something more pressing. A meeting, a phone call, a project. In short, we take the things that we say are non-negotiable and quickly negotiate them out of our schedules.
Don’t do it.
People look for consistency out of you. And if you let something you’ve scheduled get booked over once or twice, that time will forever be a suggestion, not a directive.
The analogy I use often is a meeting with your boss (or a client if you don’t have a boss). You would never schedule something over the time that you have booked with your boss. If something is important enough to schedule, then protect it as much as you would protect a meeting with your boss.
Schedule (and protect) time for heads down work.
Maybe it’s 30 minutes per day. Maybe it’s a few hours every Friday. Whatever it is, give yourself the space to dig out of the hole that is inevitably dug as the work piles up.
Keep a list of the tasks that fall in this heads down bucket. As you go through your week and your attention is pulled this way and that way, put it on the list and be clear with people that you have time carved out to give it attention.
And it’s worth saying a second (third?) time…protect this block as much as you’d protect a meeting with your boss.
Take walking meetings.
Not every meeting requires a Zoom link or a conference room. If it’s appropriate for the meeting, take it on a walk. And better yet, encourage the other person to take it on a walk as well. If it’s an in-person meeting, go on a walk together.
Our tanks need to be refilled, and when our calendars are back to back, we have to be intentional about how to refill them. Walking meetings are the perfect excuse to keep the business moving while getting yourself moving in the process.
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✌️ and ❤️,