Have you ever identified an “important thing” you want to spend time on, but it somehow just stays on your “to do” list week after week? Maybe the “important thing” is a project, investing more time with your team, or reflecting on your business from a strategic perspective. Whatever it is, if you’re like most of us, some things end up on the “eternal to do list.”
I’ve certainly been guilty of this – seeing that supposedly important item festering on my “to do” list at the end of the week, untouched, creating an opportunity for frustration and personal disappointment.
So what’s going on?
It’s very common for us to label this sort of challenge as a “time management” challenge – because doing so allows us to buy into the elusive hope that time can be managed. But you may have may noticed that it can’t. Time keeps ticking along in spite of our best efforts to “manage” it.
So if we can’t manage time, what can we manage? Fortunately, the answer is…ourselves. In many roles, we have the capacity to look at how we spend our time and be more conscious, empowered, and in control of how we spend it.
There are many things that we can do to support us in making that shift. Rather than attempting to list them all, I’ll share the one particular approach that’s had the greatest impact on my coaching clients (and myself!) over the years, when it comes to productivity. And that is…
Book appointments with yourself
If your first reaction is “Have you seen my calendar and how many meetings I have to go to?” you’re not alone. It can seem difficult if not impossible at first. But if you follow these steps, you’ll find making the shift from time management to self-management a little easier…
1. GET REALLY CLEAR ON WHAT BOOKING TIME WITH YOURSELF WILL BRING YOU
Identify the thing that will make the biggest difference to you if you were to focus on it more. What will the impact be once you get it done? Allow yourself to feel what it would be like if you were investing the time necessary to make progress with it.
2. BOOK THE TIME
Planning to work on this priority between meetings hasn’t been working. This is why actually booking time in your calendar is what’s needed. If you can’t find the time, a question to ask yourself is “What am I making more important than this?” You might start with an hour and build up to one or two 90-minute sessions a week.
3. PROTECT THE TIME
“Fires” will happen and it will be tempting to sacrifice the time you’ve booked to address them. This is where the real opportunity for self-management comes in. Before reacting and wiping out the booked time, take a few moments to reflect back on why you booked it in the first place – and what’s really important to you and your success. (As a bonus, you may find that completing your projects in a timely manner actually results in less disruptions and fewer fires!)
And if it’s the CEO who’s wanting to see you at that time, rather than eliminating the booked time from your schedule, look at what else can be moved so you can reschedule it.
4. NOTICE IF SOMETHING ELSE IS AT PLAY
If you notice you’re resisting booking the time, or you don’t seem to be getting to work once the time is booked, there’s likely something else going on. Beating yourself up is a common but demoralizing and ultimately, ineffective approach. Rather, it’s a time for reflection and curiosity.
Notice what the concern is that you have about moving forward. Are you worried you might not do it right, and that might lead to failure? Do you feel like it will be uncomfortable to work on because it’s unfamiliar territory? Does working on this area make you feel de-energized? A “yes” to any of these questions would make it perfectly understandable why you aren’t moving ahead. A common part of coaching is challenging the assumptions and limiting beliefs that questions such as those above, highlight. Embracing more empowering beliefs with self-compassion can be the pathway to gaining the courage to step forward in a new direction.
5. ACKNOWLEDGE YOURSELF
If you move forward in any small way toward your goal, take the time to acknowledge yourself. It’s not easy to change habits, and the more energy we put into championing ourselves, the more inspired we are to continue to move forward!