Do you ever have those days at work where you look at your calendar and groan? Wondering how you’re going to get something critically important done when you’re booked up with typical To Do’s and scheduled meetings which frankly, are in the way of that? In working with my executive coaching clients, I have found this to be quite common! Some clients end up feeling enslaved to their calendars even when they’re Division Presidents! Unfortunately for all, this can lead to their being stressed and conflicted, and then not fully present in the moment.
If you happen to be someone in a leadership role and find yourself feeling this way at times, you are not alone! Over the years what I’ve found that works is this: the more you can leave some ‘wiggle room’ and flexibility, particularly with a little private “thought time” allocated in your schedule, the better off you’ll be. As a leader, in any given day you never quite know what surprises will end up in your office or on your desk that you simply must attend to! A crisis with a customer, a sudden resignation, a new organization structure just announced or even something personal like a death in the family. Having a calendar that is totally booked means you’ll feel stressed. Having some wiggle room or flexibility built in will allow you to respond versus react and handle your day with more poise and ease. You ought to be the captain of your ship, not the slave to your calendar!
Whether I’m doing private coaching with an executive or facilitating leadership workshops, I typically counsel clients to ask themselves, on a daily basis (sometimes hour by hour):
“What’s the best use of my time right now?”
If you try this, often you’ll find your answer is not the thing you’re being pressed to do because it’s on your calendar! We all know this and how it feels. You’re pressed into covering a meeting because your boss is out of town, and it conflicts with your daughter’s graduation. Or conversely, you made a commitment with a friend, but something at work is really requiring your attention.
While we can’t always make a change immediately in our calendar, or how we manage our time, we can start by being aware of the value of our time, paying more attention to what we commit to and what we can (vs. can’t) control on our desk or calendar. For many executives, this means providing new guidelines to their admins or team members about scheduling and availability. It ultimately means: don’t book yourself so tightly! Think twice before you commit! Be willing to renegotiate a commitment if you find you must.
Another great exercise is to consider the dollar per hour value of your time based on your salary or wages. Then consider the various ways you use your time during the day. Not all activities have the same dollar value to the organization, really. What are your highest Return On Investment activities? What are the low ones? If we aren’t watchful, it’s easy to get distracted and end up whittling away some of our valuable time with low ROI activities – like sitting in a meeting you really don’t need to be in.
Make a point to ask yourself that million-dollar question above, which I’ve BOLDED because it is so important. If you start practicing that on a regular basis, you’ll likely find clearer thought, direction and ease – all of which a leader truly desires and requires.
In upcoming posts I’ll be sharing more guidelines around time management, including articles on “Avoiding False Deadlines” and “The 5-min Glance at Something”.
©2018 Marie Moran