It continues to surprise me that, within our sophisticated, “We know everything world,” that there are still people not practicing the freedom techniques provided by good Time Management. I continue to walk into offices and meet lovely people who are the stressed victims of “other people's URGENT”
Here are 3½ ways to take back some control over YOUR work time.
1. Protect your GOLDEN HOUR
Are you a morning person? Or do you function best at midnight? A lot of executives have two bio-rhythmic highs per day. One may occur during working hours and other outside. The first thing to do is to create a record of your energy cycles.
When you finish reading this life changing post, take a piece of paper and mark out the hours of your working day. Set your alarm to ring every hour and, on that hour, measure your energy levels on a scale of 1 to 10. It should only take one day to identify when your peak state of resourcefulness is happening. If you are unsure either repeat the exercise or telephone your doctor…
When you have decided which hour of the day represents your peak energy, the next task is to pick the most important and effective mini project you could undertake that will positively influence the key results you are expected to deliver as part of your job.
It should be noted that this project will not be urgent but it certainly will be important. Can you think of one? What non-urgent and probably strategically significant work could you undertake that will take you a leap forward in making your working life easier and reaching an intelligent outcome?
Next – build a wall around your golden hour. Warren Buffett notes that successful people say, “NO!” frequently and effectively. Now it's your turn. Practice saying no to all requests and interruptions around your scheduled golden hour. Initially you will get pushed back, challenging banter and, possibly, punishment. Please remember during this transitional phase that your poor colleagues don't understand the golden hour and will soon be jealous of your results.
That's almost it. You've earmarked your optimally resourceful time of day, you have selected work that will make a real difference and you have protected yourself from the ROBBERS of your time. All that remains is to put yourself in a peak state of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional readiness and laser beam the important task in front of you whilst enjoying the buzz of your new found effectiveness.
2. The power of NOT
Whether in a matrix structure or not, we all have competing priorities, a swelling sea of urgent work and a blinding array of deadlines racing towards us. One simple and effective way to get the drama out of your head and into a process or at least a piece of paper is to decide which of the many urgents and/or importants you are NOT going to start today. It is this deliberate choice – sectioning off a secondary task until tomorrow that clears a mental and physical space for doing an excellent job on your primary task today. If you don't believe me, just have a go!
3. Schedule White Space
Many offices that I visit to deliver soft skills training to talk about the unpredictability of their schedules. “We never know when a customer will call”, “The next emergency just crops up”, “When my boss calls I have to respond immediately” Etc.
Yes, there are jobs and corporate cultures where action and urgency are built-in. An important point to remember is there are two urgencies – YOUR’s and OTHER PEOPLE’s. The more work you do that is urgent for other people the less you will be able to achieve yourself. The more you do that is your own urgent the less of your urgent will be left undone at the end of the day. (There are other ways to escape the rat race of urgency – call me for details – 07813 760 711)
One way to acknowledge that you have now moved from other people's agenda to controlling your own is to schedule white space in your diary and acknowledge that you are not, currently, in control of all of your time.
What is this look like?
Take your spreadsheet diary or paper one and set it to view two weeks. And then fill it. Put in the hard deadlines, the set meetings and the inevitable. Block off the golden hour time and… Put in the white space that represents client drama, bossy boss commands and demands and other people's urgent.
When you now look your diary it will be an honest and realistic representation of your current time / life balance.
3½. Don’t talk to me – Here is a bonus idea – Once a month have a no interruption afternoon – No one in the office is allowed to speak to anyone else – You will be surprised at how much you achieve without resorting to hiding in the boardroom or knowing that you will have to write that important piece in the evening when you are less distracted. Go on. Give it a go.
I hope this has been useful for you and that you do begin to free yourself to be beautifully resourced and powerful for your Golden hours, to protect that golden hour like a soldier and to start spotting other people's urgent and reacting accordingly,
Matthew Hill is a leadership and soft skills trainer working with busy and stressed executives helping to free them up to achieve more outcome with less drama.