Raise your hand if you’ve asked yourself at least once, “Where did the time go?” Hands up? Thought so. Part of the challenge is that you’re afraid that if you’re not running as hard as you can on your hamster wheel, all the other hamsters, I mean humans, will start to look at you funny. Isn’t it time to look at them in the eye and show them your magical skill of using your 24/7 to the fullest?
“To the fullest?” you’re thinking (or maybe it’s laughing). “I can’t cram in one more thing!” I promise you, you can BE a leader, parent, friend, partner, PTA President and more but you can’t DO it all at the same time. As Ani DiFranco would say, “You are 32 flavors and then some.”
Take a cue from Ani and imagine an ice-cream sundae with every flavor under the sun in the same dish; all of your favorites are in the mix and some of your not-so-favorties too. Grab your virtual spoon and prepare to dig in, you have 24 hours to eat! Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a bite of each flavor but chances are you’ll eat mostly from the top and the deliciousness at the bottom will become a melted mess that gets little of your attention. Honestly, your stomach is only so big and even though you think you can squeeze it all in, your pants will eventually beg to differ.
Not so different from your life, huh? Cramming only goes so far before you’re mind and your sanity feel like they’re going to burst.
How can you stop cramming and enjoy more flavors in your life? Start here:
1. Be Present Where You Are
Time passes whether we want it to or not but when your body is in the room, and your mind is somewhere else, you’re missing out two-fold – you’re not fully in either place! Mindfulness is more than a buzzword, in practice, it will help you have deeper relationships with the people who matter. Time may fly but it won’t slip by when you’re deeply engaged with the people and ideas in the room with you.
2. Block Off Your Calendar
Imagine: Your colleague wants to meet with you, looks at your calendar, and books 30 minutes in an open slot. Seems reasonable, right? The challenge is if every free minute becomes packed with back to back meetings when will you get to focus on your work, take a breath or think strategically? Block regular sacred time on your schedule for you to engage on what matters most and not only fight fires, attend conference calls or do the conference room shuffle.
3. Stop Double Booking
As an executive, it was rare that I wasn’t double booked. Double booked meant I was popping in an out and inevitably, being half present, meant double the meetings – more time was needed to fill me in on what I missed when I stepped out. Make it a rule to avoid double booking at all costs. Let people know you want to give them your full time and attention.
4. Let Go of the Guilt
Do you always choose work over your child’s sports game, going to the doctor or getting your car to the shop? Life, like time, moves on. The longer you let things go, the more fixated and guilty you become about all that you’re not doing! Stop feeling guilty that you have a life and instead be a role model for choosing to honor your relationships, health and personal commitments.
5. Use Agendas
Whether it’s a 1×1, a team meeting or a school committee, agendas keep things on target and moving. It doesn’t mean that burning topics can’t be addressed, it does mean that getting sidetracked is much less likely to happen. Confirm up front the intention for the meeting, the goals you want to accomplish and leave room for some new additions or swapping out of topics if possible. Agendas, when used as a guide, aren’t rigid but a smart approach to ensure you’re covering what matters most.
6. Close the Windows
I often have 10 tabs open on my screen at any given time including email, Twitter and Facebook. When I really need to focus and get things done, it means closing the windows. No checking email every five minutes and triaging every email or tweet as they come in the queue. Simply closing the windows will stop you from noticing as the number count of incoming messages as it increases and will enable you to stay focused on the task at hand.
7. Give Multi-tasking the Boot
It feels good to rock and roll and get as many things crossed off the list as possible each day but multi-tasking isn’t the way to do it. Despite what you think, it’s impossible to read, type, listen, ask questions and eat lunch all at the same time. Working sequentially will enable you to get things done faster and with more impact. Give it a try!
If you have the attitude that nobody can do things as well as you, you have a problem. Enough with the argument that it will take more time to teach someone else how to do it. Unless you want to be the only one that can do anything, start teaching and start delegating. Not only will delegation free up your time but also will enable others to stretch their skills and knowledge in the process; win-win!
9. Take Vacation
Get out of there! Take a break! No matter how it feels, the world will not stop spinning without your presence. Vacation will give you a chance to take a breath and reconnect with YOU. When was the last time your agenda was to wake up, eat, read a book and chill out? If you forget how to relax, it’s time to learn again. The time you invest in yourself to ensure you’re energized, excited and at your best is equally important to the time you invest in your team.
10. Live your values.
Every day after school my kids know that there’s no TV or playtime until they do their homework. I have a friend that makes his monthly 1×1 meetings sacred no matter how busy he gets. Priorities, values and commitments help us decide where to spend our time. Know your non-negotiables and stick to them. When you live your values, you’re better able to say NO to last-minute requests that don’t align and YES to the things that will make the biggest difference.
What did I miss? What will you add to the list?
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