This month blog was a bit interesting to write. You see, historically, I have grown up in the process improvement and efficiency world. With 20 years of experience leading major corporations and now consulting for a wide range of businesses, efficiency and time management generally seem to be second hand nature for me. Applying this to my coaching practice, I routinely am coaching clients on key aspects of time management. So, when it came to the topic of one of our executive roundtables this past month having a guest speaker on time management, I wasn’t sure I personally had a lot to gain from the content. Hum…anyone want to guess where this one’s headed?
A bit more of the story you might find interesting is the week of this meeting, I completely overbooked my schedule. The 3rd week of the month is a week where I typically facilitate or am apart of 3-4 roundtable meetings. Without getting into all the details, let me just say that that would normally be enough to fill my week taking into consideration the other routine tasks of running a business and living life. However, in June, I got in the mindset of saying “yes” to other clients and value added engagements. I love all my clients; however, there are plenty of windows of opportunity throughout the month to assist them outside of the 3rd week. So, imagine my mindset, on a Thursday afternoon sitting through a presentation on time management which I didn’t personally have time! Do you think I might have learned a bit about myself that afternoon? As often is the case and I more readily admit these days, I got humbled quickly through the process.
One of the first topics discussed was getting in the routine of blocking out time for 2-3 major tasks per day and insuring you have plenty of “white space” in your calendar. For some, you may be laughing at this one already. For many, they are thinking in terms of task lists which have 10, 20, 50, or even 100s of items and they have a goal to tackle as many as possible in a day. So, for one having a task list of 100, how preposterous does it sound to only target 2-3 tasks per day with “white space” in your calendar. Obviously, there’s a bit to get into around this particular topic which we don’t have time for today. I would advise that I am well aware of this principle, generally follow it, and defiantly violated it the 3rd week of June. So, great reminder for me!
Now, let’s talk a bit about those emails. With electronic devices, we now live in a culture of real-time response. I’ve personally always prided myself on getting back to people as quickly as possible. Now that’s efficiency…right? Wrong!!! Do you realize how many times our thought processes are interrupted on a daily basis and how long it takes to refocus? I would tell you that just in the few minutes I’ve been typing today, I finally had to turn my cell phone, iPad, and email “off” because of what I call the “squirrel effect”. (“Squirrell effect” – get it? Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…it will come to you.) Some experts say you should only check your emails a couple times a day. I won’t go to that extreme, however, the principle and I encourage you to get conscious of how distracting and inefficient emails, phone calls, and text messages can be. Don’t be afraid to block time in your calendar and simply turn them off. If the world is coming to an end, someone will find a way to tell you, I promise.
Sticking with email, how many are in your Inbox? 10, 25, 50, 100+? If you’ve got much more than 10-20, you’re once again getting distracted. While you may not be conscious of it, you’re skimming these emails every time you look at your Inbox and it’s occupying subconscious energy. A principle that I was reminded of in this session was Inbox sorting. My personal preference is to quickly categorize the email such that my mind is only focused on the category at hand. Again, it’s the principle were after here and there are various systems out there to assist.
A few other highlights which we either discussed in our session that day or I generally might encourage folks to consider are as follows:
3-5 Most Important – At the end of the day, decide what the 3-5 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Write them down, and when you wake in the morning, your feet hit the floor, go do them without getting diverted. If they were priorities yesterday, they likely are the priorities for today and you’ll feel a since of achievement once they’re completed.
Calendar Blocking – Get in a habit of using your calendar to plan your day to include blocking out “white space”, planning time, “me” time, and other times to simply recharge and get those 3-5 items done. This is especially for those of you who allow others access to your calendar. There’s much that could be discussed on the element of “delegation” and “are you truly needed” for meetings related to this principle that we’ll save for another day.
Relationships – Speaking from one who has historically been one, don’t be a task master and forget relationships. Likely the best use of your time as a leader is to intentionally invest in relationships and allow time in your schedule for what I might call Devine appointments.
So, in the interest of efficiency, I’m nearing my 1000 word limit for blogs. To think I used to only have 200-300 words. A final principle that I want to leave you with today is the principle I started off with which you may or may not have caught. It’s the principle that we always can learn something new and need to bring humility to every environment that we’re apart
Thanks for continuing to be a part of our community and have a FANTASTIC day!