It seems like everyone is “crazy busy” these days. What are we all so busy doing?
It used to be much easier when people could just go to work, come home, and they had a clear separation between work and self. But with technology, globalization, and shifted availability expectation, it seems like there’s no end to the time we need to put into work.
In today’s post, I want to shine some light on our concept of time and availability. And from many of my recent coaching sessions, I have some great tips on how you can make your life and time your own again. You will still be able to do everything that needs to get done, and also have time for you. Crazy, right?
(Click here to listen to this post or the play button below)
Who do you work for?
I work with many busy professionals and business owners who constantly struggle with juggling all their activities and we often talk about time management. I say it’s like juggling ping pong balls underwater.
If you are like this, you know that feeling of simply not having enough time to get to everything:
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Personal Development
- And the list goes on.
Each day you have to deal with a constant flurry of activity and work to make sense of it all. You need to decide which ones are priorities, which ones to drop, and who to avoid altogether.
A big question I get is around how I can do so many different projects and keep track and on schedule. It’s because I’m in charge of my days.
The big question is, “Who do you work for?”
Regardless of whether you are an employee or a business owner, if you let your tasks control you, then you work for those tasks. Most of us are just slaves to being busy.
Especially if you are a business owner, why did you start your business in the first place? Was it for more freedom or to have more work that controlled you?
And when you work for a company, or if you have employees, what are the employees truly doing each day if their calendars are controlling them?
There is a big difference between activity and productivity
What do you really want in your life? To be “crazy busy” or to do good work, solve problems, and live a rewarding life with people you care about? What are you really working towards if the things that are important suffer in the process?
What’s happening to your brain when you are busy?
I just finished reading a great book called The Winner’s Brain where they studied how successful people’s brains worked that lead them to success. The cool part about the past ten years or so, is that neuroscience and technology have come together so we can actually study our minds more in depth. It’s one subject that I can’t get enough of.
In the book, there are two topics that I want to share here – the concepts of mindfulness and focus.
Mindfulness is essentially looking at your circumstances in a present-centered, uncritical, and non-reactive way.
As the book explains, winners who are mindful are more self-aware. Having confidence in your strengths is clearly a good thing, but winner’s brain self-awareness means getting a handle on your weaknesses too.
So you need to be mindful of the fact that your tasks are controlling you – but in a non-critical way. Just observe.
You have heard me talk about multitasking before as well and how you may be losing 40% of your productivity by trying to do too much.
One survey has found that the average office worker switches tasks every three minutes, and once interrupted, takes nearly half an hour to go back to the original task.
Think about that! How often are you jumping from activity to activity? Earlier this year I put up a challenge to you to try and focus on one thing to help you get more done. Have you applied that?
Just like any part of our body, we can train our brain. You may have heard of neuroplasticity, and even that website Lumosity, right? Cool. Imagine that when you are multitasking that you are training your brain incorrectly. Your brain can’t actually multitask, and you can really never teach it to.
I relate it to my computer. I am now in the habit of restarting my computer quite frequently so I don’t have a bunch of documents, spreadsheets, and internet tabs open. I only work on exactly what I need for the specific project.
Because our lives are so filled with these distractions, there is a completely new field of research that has evolved called “interruption science.” It is geared towards helping us become more productive.
Back to neuroplasticity for a moment. Your brain can be trained. So train it to focus!
Spend time focusing your energy on specific tasks, reduce the distractions, and you will actually change the physical make up of your brain itself. It takes work and being uncomfortable. But it’s worth it.
Take care of YOU first
“But I don’t want people to think I am ignoring them!”
This is the number one reason people struggle with their time. They let others claim it as theirs. You may feel like you should answer every client email right away, reply to those texts, answer every call, or agree to every meeting.
The truth is that by doing these things you aren’t actually helping anyone. You are only contributing to the problem.
It’s just like being on an airplane and why you should put on your own mask first before helping others. If you aren’t able to survive, how can you help them?
Too often I see really smart and caring people overpromise, and then under-deliver. Simply because they didn’t want to say no to requests.
This is usually the most difficult switch that you will make mentally. That it is okay to NOT be available. In fact, it is seen as admirable!
In the world of “who can be the busiest,” people see strength in someone who has complete control over their time and activities.
I often tell clients about my free time, my relationships, and my love for golfing. And that I have lots of time to enjoy my life – all while helping them solve their problems. You see, everyone wants more freedom, so lead by example.
In Eckhart Tolle’s, The Power of Now I just love the idea of being fully committed to whatever you choose to do. Whether it is doing work, recreation, or even being lazy – go into it fully. Too often, we feel shame and guilt about how we should actually be doing something else instead.Free yourself from your calendar first and help others do the same. Tweet that!
5 Steps to Time Management Success
That should give you a pretty good reason why you need to adjust your mindset about time. Time management for busy people has been a hot topic for me lately, which was really why I created this post. Again, this is not about getting less accomplished. In fact, you will be able to do more in less time. Follow these steps to create the freedom in your days, weeks, and months.
Step 1) Claim your calendar.
This is a huge mental shift.
Your calendar is yours to command. You decide what goes in it and when. You want to make time to read, journal, workout, or meditate? Put it in your calendar. Make those times non-negotiable and don’t apologize for taking care of you first. Nobody else will schedule your own mental and physical health for you.
Also, schedule time in your calendar for planning or mundane work. You know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Take that to heart and make your calendar work FOR you.
And for appointments and tasks, you decide what you will and won’t take on. Make a plan.
When people know you are not a slave to your business, they will respect that.
Step 2) Be transparent with timelines and availability
Let people know what realistic timelines are for you to get things done. If they want things done sooner, help them understand how your schedule works. Be straight-forward with your availability and work through the schedule together to solve it.
Understand that others struggle with time management too, so their requests on your time might not even be realistic in the first place.
Your role here is to help them see what you can and can’t do in a given time period and show them how you propose on getting things done. And, at the same time, being open to discussion about their needs.
For example, I am always there to help clients, friends, and family. But sometimes I need to tell them, “I am busy over the next two days, can I take a look at that then? That way I will have a bit of time to dedicate to it.” 99% of the time, people say that’s no problem. If for some reason they need it done immediately, I will help them. It is all about creating some boundaries while still being available.
I also ran into a situation the other day with someone who is not normally busy and expects instant replies to emails. So when I didn’t get back to him right away, he felt like I was not making him a priority. Rather than trying to tell him he was being silly, I just agreed to email him back and let him know when I would take a look at whatever it was he sent me. Simply acknowledging I received his email. That works just fine.You don’t need to be a jerk about saying no to requests, just open up a discussion.
When you say no, all you need to do is offer options. “I can’t meet these next two weeks, but should be able to do something after that.”
Step 3) Tell others your expectations on their time
This is often overlooked. You may do all this work on your own time, and then when you need something, you hear crickets chirping on the other end. With any relationship, you should set the parameters of how best to communicate with each other. Last week, I talked about listening, so are you really doing it?
When you are discussing plans, help them understand how you work, seek to understand how they work, and then let them know how much of their time you may need, and when you would like a reply. This way, you set expectations early and avoid those uncomfortable miscommunications.
You also get to lead by example and help others control their time more effectively. Win win!
And respect their time as much as you want them to respect yours.
Step 4) If things change in your schedule, let them know ASAP
Nothing drives me crazier than those last minute cancellations or constant adjustments of my time. Also, I can’t stand when people are late.
It all boils down to respect.
Let’s think a bit spiritually here for a second. When you claim your calendar and you open it up to someone else, that is you giving them something that is valuable to you. Time is precious. And it is finite.
When they don’t respect your time, they are abusing this value. And it feels terrible, right?
So remember that for others. Respect your exchange of time and value.
If your plans, timelines, and availability change, give them a heads up as soon as you know. Help them reorganize as easily as possible.
Nothing is worse than someone letting you know last minute that things have changed or something won’t get done. Usually because they were scared to let you know, so they avoided it.
I read a great article a few weeks ago on how today’s society is so flaky. Check it out here.
So try and be organized with your schedule as much as possible, but realize stuff can happen. It’s normal. Just give people a heads up.
Step 5) Do one thing at a time
I hammer this point as much as possible because of how important it is. I challenge you to do one thing at a time this week. Shut of distractions and get something done.
Especially when meeting with someone. Did you plan accordingly so that the world won’t collapse while you talk to them for 30-60 minutes? Oh, good.
Then leave your phone off.
When someone says, “Hold on a sec, I gotta grab this.” I die a little inside.
If there is something urgent that may happen while you are with someone else or in a meeting, show respect to the other people and let them know. “My wife may have her baby any time, so if my phone rings, I may have to take it. Will that be okay with you?” or “I am expecting a potentially big client to call shortly. Is it okay if I step out for two minutes when they call?”
People will always be accommodating to your time as long as you show that you respect theirs.
Bonus Tip: Calendar Favors (Reciprocity and Concessions)
Okay, be warned that you need to handle this tip carefully based on your style and relationships.
Tell people what you like to do with your free time. For me, it’s golf. When they make a request of your time that is more than you would like, such as accelerate a schedule, or meet on a different day, let them know that you are happy to help.
But you will have to cancel that fun activity.
As a favor to them.
This post got longer than I had planned, otherwise I would share some really cool psychology stuff on reciprocity, but this tip is very powerful.
“You know what? Normally I golf at that time on Thursday afternoon, but I know how important this project is to you and that that’s the only time that works for your team to meet. I will cancel golf that day for the next four weeks so we can get this first part done. But then you owe me one. Deal?”
That works well for me and it lets them know I have a good balance and sense of humor. And it is honest. I do really like golfing on Thursdays.
There is power in giving a concession to someone else. They naturally want to return that favor. Make your schedule all about time and value and help others do the same.
Booyah! That was a fun post! Now go out and claim your calendar. Be a time management leader and have more fun with what you do each day. If you want some help, grab my $9 ebook – The 90 Day Sprint Guide to help you plan the next few months out.
If you want help getting more done with less, contact me. And I am very close to launching a webinar training series that I have been using with my one-on-one clients that has skyrocketed their success. So much cool stuff! Now, I am off to go golfing. I just hired a golf coach too!