So here’s the thing.
You know that panicked sensation you get when you feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do, and it seems as though you’ll never have enough time to achieve them?
Well,that can only mean one thing. You are trying to do too much.
Now before you indignantly say that you have a massive list of unbreakable commitments,and things dependent on you that only you can solve – I get it. I really do.
I woke up this morning and I could already feel the tension rising. When I tried to work out why, I realised that it was simply because of the pressure I felt from contemplating everything I HAVE to do today, this week, this month…how can I possibly fit it all in?
Then comes the spiral of guilt, comparison and stress:
- Why haven’t I done that yet? Why can’t I do more?
- Person/business X has achieved this already – why haven’t I? I need to do more.
- OMG I am so behind the eight-ball – I need to do more.
And so, this is something I am working on – in fact this is my biggest priority.
I wrote a post last week about my goal for this year being to be become ‘time rich’. By that I mean the opposite of being time poor –
While I can’t change the hours or minutes available to me, I sure as hell can change what I do with them.
This is a process. It’s a mixture of:
- Getting super clear on what your priorities are – and I mean your real priorities, not everything you currently feel weighing on top of you;
- Setting boundaries around your time – this actually needs some thought so that the boundaries you set don’t add to the pressure, but are realistic enough to keep you on track;
- Being honest about what the really important things are – differentiating and prioritising the ‘transformational’ over the ‘transactional’; and
- Getting ready to ‘uncommit’ – if it’s not HELL YEAH then don’t do it.
As I said, this is a process – you can’t do all of this in one fell swoop, or otherwise you are right back at the start of trying to do too much!
So let’s break it down:
Get super clear on your priorities.
The only way to do this is to be 100 per cent clear on your vision – what you are aiming for, what success looks like, and where you want to go.
I lock in my vision at three different points in time (where I want to be in ten years; where I want to be in three years; where I want to be in one year), and then begin to reverse-engineer the one year vision into 90 day increments – the context against which I set my short-term goals. These are the goals that I can then review, measure and track on a monthly basis.
This may seem like a lot of work, but a failure to do this is the very reason why so many people struggle to clearly define their priorities and then make the time to achieve them. Going through this process, you will find that your priorities– and where you should be spending your time and effort - become blindingly clear.
Not convinced? Think of the opposite – if you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to achieve, how can you know what your priorities should be?
As Stephen Covey said, ‘If you have any more than three priorities, then you don’t have any’. Couldn’t agree more.
Set boundaries around how you spend your time
There are a few ways to do this and as with everything I recommend, I don’t want or expect you to be a robot! The intention is that you take these ideas, tools and recommendations and adapt them to work for you. So here is my approach:
1. Block it out. I start with the ‘no go’ zones where work can’t encroach. Trust me, I get it – this is H.A.R.D when you are running your own show, and I had to force myself to do this and then actually stick to it. Sure there are times when you need to be flexible, but remember that you need your ‘norm’ to come back to. Be realistic here – choose a cut off time at night where you have no more screen time or decide that you aren’t working on a Sunday. From a practical perspective, start by blocking out these times in your diary. If you don’t think you will stick to it – share this with your (no doubt frustrated) friends, family or partner who probably never see you, and get them to hold you accountable to your cut off times. Before long, you will get into the habit.
2. Batch your time. Come up with the high level ‘buckets’ of activities that represent the things you do, and where you need to spend your time. Group them together and allocate a percentage of your available working hours to each bucket - this will really depend on your business and the role that you play. Then, group like activities together so that you can get into a groove and become more effective and efficient.
The way you batch your time will have a great deal to do with how you like to work – so there is no ‘right’ answer here. For me, I find it hard to drop in and out of writing or strategising, so it’s far more efficient for me to allocate blocks of time to these activities. Similarly,when I am seeing clients I am in a very different zone, so consecutive client appointments work best for me. I also like to do my thinking and writing early when I am fresh, and as I draw energy from others I find the afternoons are great for me to interact with clients. Take these personal preferences into account when you do this.
3. Make a schedule – and stick to it. Put everything in your diary, and I mean everything. I am talking exercise, down time, date night, creative thinking, client meetings – the works. Allow yourself time for thinking and also schedule in free time – this is where you build in flexibility. Once a week –on a Sunday is when I do it – plan out the week ahead, review what you have on,and respect the time you have carved out for certain activities. It is all too easy to schedule in a meeting or ignore what’s in your diary – but this is whymost people stumble when it comes to effectively managing their time. Yes you need to be flexible, but the things already in your diary are important too –otherwise why are they in there?
4. Be brutal with your ‘to do’ list. Every day or week, generate a ‘to-do’ list that is divided into two categories – transformational and transactional. The transformational things are what will bring you closer to your vision, your goals and ultimately, have the potential to be life changing. In contrast, the transactional tasks tend to be administrative, reactive or something that ‘needs to be done’ but won’t get you closer to your big vision.
Purposely begin spending all your time on the transformational things that, while probably being more complex and time consuming, will yield the results you seek. Whilst it’s tempting to go for the ‘quick wins’ first (simple, quick,transactional things), this is the trap that sees you ‘never have time’ for the stuff you really should be doing. So assess everything on your list against your stated priorities, and start to outsource (or stop) everything that doesn’t measure up.
A final tip here is to think about what you value your time to be worth. Then think about the cost of your doing transactional tasks versus outsourcing/delegating them to someone else – I can guarantee that whatever you might pay will be less than that of your time.
So there it is. There is a lot here,but once you work through these exercises you will start to feel way more in control of your time and where you choose to spend it.
Need help? I’ve got your back!
If you need help:
· Creating your 3 dimensional vision;
· Setting goals that work;
· Differentiation the transformational from the transactional;
· Getting your priorities down; or
· Working out how to allocate your time effectively –
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