that being busy is the key to looking like a success story these days. It seems strange that we’ve come to worship that person who is constantly rushing from one meeting to the next, who eats a quick lunch at their desk (was it a sandwich or sushi? Who knows?! They didn’t really taste it!), while simultaneously dialling into a conference call and checking emails as they ‘listen in’.
This isn’t success. This is poor, poor, poor time management.
So how do we achieve ‘rich’ time management? It’s such a wide subject that I’ll just be focusing on three aspects of it here.
I coach my clients to set aside a small amount of time once a week to plan ahead. This is where they prioritise and schedule their tasks. They look at the week ahead and make a call as to how much energy, attention and actual time they will have on their hands. Being aware of this means that they can evaluate what will realistically get done over the week and where what needs to be done will fit.
This puts them in the driver’s seat. They become proactive, not reactive. Instead of reacting to every ball thrown their way, they keep the big picture in mind.
For a start, grab a copy of my Organising Overwhelm worksheet. Here you can write out all the tasks that require your attention, and genuinely see what’s urgent and important.
Keep in mind though that some tasks that come with a clear deadline, may be cheekily not very important. They may be ‘yelling’ at you the loudest but when you look closer, are they actually adding the most value? If you’ve identified some of these, apply the 4 Ds to them – delete, diminish, delay or delegate.
Looking at your week, where do your priorities actually fit? This is making your plan, plotting out where things will happen. Take into consideration your energy and what will be coming before and after the spot you’ve identified before committing. I know for me, if I had a meeting in the morning that I sensed was going to be rather stressful and then immediately afterwards attempted to dive into some writing, it just wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to switch my brain off.
And ask yourself, how long will this task take? And honestly, it’s better to overestimate than underestimate, otherwise your schedule won’t have much of a chance.
I was speaking to someone the other day about this, and she said to me, “You’d hate the way I work, I tend to be someone that if I don’t do the quality, I really struggle moving on. And so I sit there and I’ll see that my dedicated hour is over. And I’m now moving into two hours and then three hours. And I was meant to be doing other things at this time! So I re-prioritise. I think no, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to focus on this and get it done.”
I may have surprised her by saying: “I actually think that’s okay. I think it’s just that your time mapping needs to change to suit your natural tendency. Stop underestimating and start overestimating so that you can go for the actual time needed on a task without feeling guilty.”
She was relieved! Essentially what she was doing was being very wishful in what she hoped to achieve rather than being realistic.
Sounds like an oxymoron but you need to commit to your plan in a serious way while also keeping in mind that if something unexpectedly comes up– and it’s legitimately urgent, then you’ll need to be flexible and change your approach.
Remaining flexible and being able to shift things is part and parcel of good time management. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it means that you’re reevaluating what’s next and rejigging your time map to suit. Things don’t get forgotten or abandoned, they get delayed, delegated, or diminished.
I know, I know, there’s so much to do! But they manage to triage in Hospital Emergency Rooms so it is possible! The term triage comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sort, shift or select. This is exactly what needs to happen when our plans need to change. For anyone who’s gone to Emergency at Hospital, you know that it can be frustrating to wait a long time for care and see people going ahead of you who arrived afterwards. But when someone goes past you with their leg hanging by a thread, you recognise that as a fair call by the staff. They should go first! And it’s the same with the tasks on your list.
Used with consistency, these three tips will centre you, ground you and ensure that you’re not running around like a headless chook. Instead you’ll be getting down to business and focusing on what’s important as well as being able to flexibly adjust to whatever comes your way.
So if you’re ready to start doing things a little differently, let me know, I’m here to help.