Is your schedule already full? I don’t think so…
A couple months ago, I started studying in a 7-month leadership program.
I thought long and hard about taking it on – after all, my schedule was already pretty crammed, so how could I possibly make room for such a big commitment?
It involved a minimum of 2 nights per week from 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM. I would be committed. Already, that creates some logistics, for example, how and when would I eat on those days? And wait! Most of the classes are on Friday nights when everyone else is out having a good time!
The next issue was that it also includes 4 full-on intensive weekends from 9 in the morning to around 11 PM at night. If that’s what I’m often doing on the weekends, when do I make time for fun, family time, and relaxation?
Then add to the equation the mountain of homework – videos to watch, audio to listen to, content to commit to memory, tests to pass. That is A LOT of work when added to my schedule as a speaker and a coach, running a venue, managing a team of 4, not to mention I was already feeling really stressed at the beginning as we had just launched the new season for my TV show. The list goes on and on…
I was feeling really under pressure at the beginning, even overwhelmed… anyone recognise that feeling?
But an interesting thing happened.
I knew something would need to be changed. When I approached the question of time management, I realised that what had to change was not my management of time. What had to change was the level of my commitment. To everything.
Consider that most of the time when you put things in your diary or your to-do list, there is a lack of commitment.
We schedule a meeting for 10am but chances are it might be 5 minutes past…
We say things like “I’ll call you back sometime this afternoon.” Why not say I’ll call you back at 2 PM and stick to it?
Well, at some unconscious level, we just don’t want to commit. We don’t want to be pinned down or be straight-jacketed by having to be somewhere at a certain time.
That way of thinking is even more common amongst solopreneurs and small business owners. After all, isn’t the reason I went into business for myself, so that I didn’t have to be bossed around and run to a strict schedule? That’s fair enough if you don’t want to be successful. But believe me when I say that most of the things that cause stress and procrastination, stem from a basic lack of commitment.
Even the way we manage our to-do lists wastes time and energy…
We write a list of things on the off chance that we may do ‘a few’ of them – some indeterminate number. And by being non-commital, we get to beat ourselves up that we didn’t reach some exact number of things, but it’s really an invisible target that we never actually set for ourselves.
The problem with this is that we never get to be satisfied. We have clearly not scoped out what success looks like, so that we can celebrate at the end of the day.
So much of our time ends up slipping through the cracks. There are a thousand ways it gets squandered, but here are the top 5:
So here is my no-nonsense methodology for creating more time:
1. For every task, either it’s in or it’s out, no in-between.
2. If something needs to be done, it needs to be scheduled.
3. Have a clear plan for exactly what you should be doing each and every day. Make the plan at the end of the day so you are clear what to do without having to think about it. The next day, just get to work on it. Watch out for your temptation to renegotiate it as you face the tasks you’d rather not do!
4. Be realistic about how long tasks take – if you don’t know, set the stopwatch on your phone and time the activity so you know for the future. I think of all the complaining I used the do about loading the dishwasher? Turns out the task takes only 9 minutes! One of the reasons we put things off is a fear of the unknown. When people tell me they don’t want to do a task, I ask them how long it will take – and they literally have no clue. No wonder they don’t want to do the task!
5. For this committed way of working to succeed, you also need breathing space – you can’t put in the commitments without being equally committed to having time off. Plan ‘unstructured time’ as rigorously as you commit to other tasks.
6. For your time management to be great, you have to have maximum energy. Schedule preparation and eating of meals as though your life depended on it. Oh wait, your life does depend on it ;-)
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