This week I received an email from one of the parents on my oldest daughter’s middle school PTO asking me to consider joining the board for the next school year. She gave plenty of reasons why it would be a great idea: I’m passionate about my daughter’s education (true), I’m very organized and creative (true and true), I have a GREAT working relationship with the principal (also true) and she REALLY believes I would be great at it (yeah, also probably true…but). While compliments are nice, they are also the “suck you in” tactics folks use when they have no clue or don’t care how full your calendar already is. Like seriously, I will put myself in timeout if I add one more thing to my plate.
How many of you are dealing with well-intentioned folks who see how awesomely magnificent you are and want you to share all that awesomeness and help them with something? They will give you plenty of reasons why you should….Oh, it will only take a few hours a month. All of our meetings are by conference call. There’s a rotating schedule so you won’t have to do it all by yourself. I’ll be here to help you. Listen, while all of that sounds really great, the truth is, you should only commit to doing something based on your schedule and allotted mental bandwidth to take on something else. Will they be disappointed? Yes. Will they possibly give you a little bit a side eye the next time they see you? Maybe.
You, my dear, are the ruler and protector of your precious time. Don’t let sweet words and promises take you off course from managing your 168 and using those hours for what really matters and makes you happy.
P.S. How many of you tried the mind mapping exercise I shared with you last week?
If only I had a few more hours in the day.
How many times have you said that to yourself? Don’t be shy. Raise your hand.
In this fast-paced life that we live, we are bombarded daily by responsibilities, deadlines, obligations and conflicting priorities and there are days when we feel we just can’t get our heads over water. Truth is, all the paper planners or digital reminders in the world won’t keep you on track if you don’t develop the skills necessary to manage your day. If you aren’t sure which skills you need to develop, answer the following questions with either Always, Often, Rarely or Never:
- Do you feel you don’t have time to add any new projects to your schedule?
- Do you have trouble locating the things you need in a timely manner?
- Do you hesitate to throw something away just in case you may need it later?
- Do you have problems saying “no” when asked to take on a new project or volunteer?
- Do interruptions keep you derailed for ten minutes or more after the interruption is over?
- Do you find yourself playing catch up after neglecting a task or project?
- Do you struggle with the urge to immediately respond to emails and instant messages or getting people off the phone?
If you answered Always or Often to questions:
1 and 7 – You struggle with scheduling. Over-scheduling is just as bad as procrastination. When you are super-scheduled you can become paralyzed when you are faced with a change in plan or routine or even new projects.
2 and 3 – You have organizational challenges. Whether you are drowning in piles of paper or electronic files for everything, it’s time to figure out what to toss and what to keep.
4, 5 and 7 – You have too many interruptions. I’m guessing that you have trouble saying “no” (Which by the way is a full sentence) to family, co-workers, your phone, emails and all types of instant messages and you often find yourself falling behind on your tasks. Here’s a hint, saying “no” will not keep you from advancing at work or make you a bad mom, wife, daughter, friend or sister.
Here are some strategies to deal with the everyday things that rob you of your time:
- Meetings – Have an agenda and stick to it. Start and finish on time. Have a stand up meeting.
- Phone calls – Schedule them. Know the objective of the call before you dial the number. Let the caller know how much time you have.
- “No” vs “Yes” – Request time to make a decision. Avoid making excuses.
- Interruptions – Tell people when you are available and when you are not. Look at a clock. Say you have to get back to work.
- Paperwork and Email – Throw away what you do not need. Handle emails and paper mail once.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to check my schedule to see what’s next.
Source: Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Inc.
A few days ago I updated my planner with my daughters activities for the 2015-2016 school year. Girls Scouts for both, dancing school for the performer and art class for the uber creative. Then I added all the days their school will be closed (30+ days…Are you kidding me?). And then I added all the out-of-town conferences I need to attend (I’m sooooo thankful for my husband and mom). Am I done? Heck no. I still have at least 50 other things to add. Back in the glory days when I was single, I would order my refill pages for cute little organizer to prepare for the following year. I had a few dates to fill in, mainly birthdays and travel plans. It was so cute. It fit in my purse. Fast forward 17 years later…married with two kids, one neurotic little dog and multiple responsibilities outside of work and home and I have graduated to custom-made 19-month calendar that and goes to December 2016 (for now). My planner now resembles a 5-subject notebook and it requires a tote bag. There are color-coded tabs and color-coded entries on both my monthly and weekly pages. I know some of you are saying that I’m “Team Too Much” and I should just use the calendar on my phone. I’m ignoring you and assuming you only have you and a plant to worry about. For the record, I have hybrid system (paper and electronic…thank you Google) and that’s color coded too.
Listen, when you get to the point when you feel like your plate is on the verge of overflowing it is time to stop, reassess, and organize. I’m a little OCD about planning so that when the unexpected happens (and it will), I’m not thrown completely off course. I plan so that I can communicate with my family and keep them informed. I plan because…well because if you don’t plan you are like a leaf during a windy fall day…all over the place with absolutely NO direction. While my life does not always go according to plan, I would much rather have a road map than be on my journey with a lost GPS signal.
Stop. Reassess. Organize.
P.S. I created my custom notebook and planner using M by Staples™ Arc Customizable Notebook System. If you haven’t been able to find a planner that works for you, I highly recommend this system to create your own.
I’ve gone to several seminars over the course of my professional career that centered around the general theme of time management. You know all of the tried and true cliched ways to “manage your time”…create a daily plan, give each task a time limit, use an organizer, learn to say “no” and block out distractions. I am inclined to think that whoever come up with these tips must be a hermit.
You can’t control time, if you could I’m pretty sure there are some of you that would add a few more hours to the day. There is no way to manage time, you can only manage the choices that you make that effect how the 24 hours you are given each day is used effectively or miserably wasted.
I’ve carried a Franklin Covey planner for the past 15 years. I’m known for purchasing the next year’s calendar in August (or as soon as it becomes available) and I feel completely lost without it. However, it doesn’t help me manage my “time”. It helps me manage the unrealistic expectations I place upon myself that I can be all things to all people all the time. If I want time for what I feel is important (such as writing this blog or my book) then I have to make choices that will allow me to make time to write.
“Creating a daily plan” doesn’t mean two hills of beans when you come home from work and everyone in your family, including the dog needs your attention.
“Give each task a time limit” is a joke when you are working on a project for your boss that needed to get done yesterday but you didn’t get it until five minutes ago.
“Learn to say, no”….okay, I have to agree with this one. As a matter of fact, it’s rule number one for me. Saying “no” doesn’t make you less of a person, parent, employee, organization member or friend. Saying “no” shows that regardless of what is on your calendar, you are making a choice to manage your life in a way that’s best for you at that moment.
You can’t control time but you can control your choices. In order to have more “time”, make better choices.