Tool #2: Get a Grip on Your Schedule
This is an edited excerpt from Ease: Strategies to Manage Overwhelm in Times of “Crazy Busy” by Eileen Chadnick. Reprinted with permission of author. All rights reserved. Ease is available from most major online book retailers. See more at www.Easerx.com
Estimated reading time: about 2 minutes
Is every day a “season of rush” for you? There’s no question there are times in our year (or week or month) that can be more hectic than others. But for some people, the season of rush is every day. We live and work in a society that values productivity, and we do, do, do. But the frenzy of rushing can be tamed somewhat by being more conscious in how you schedule yourself. This isn’t necessarily a natural habit for some people.
The Story at a Glance
A client I will call Maureen arrived to a phone-based coaching session extremely distracted. She had nearly forgotten about the scheduled appointment and wasn’t prepared with an update or a focus for the call. I could hear the aura of rush when she arrived. After settling in a bit, she shared that she had just had a prior meeting with a prospective client and was disappointed with the outcome. She confessed that she had pretty much winged her new business meeting because she hadn’t had time to adequately focus herself or do ample preparation before the meeting. Her schedule had been jam-packed with one meeting after another, and before she knew it, that important scheduled meeting had arrived. While she had hoped to have a few moments prior to the meeting to focus, she’d gotten stuck in traffic and had nearly been late.
Maureen is bright and capable, but her ad hoc approach to scheduling was frazzling her and derailing her success. Her stress was likely putting her brain in flight, or fright, inhibiting her ability to focus and be present (mindful) in her meeting. In our coaching call, I asked her several questions to explore how she generally scheduled herself and the impact some of her habits were having on her productivity, focus, and overall success. That conversation elicited some insights for Maureen. She recognized that she could make some small changes in her scheduling habits that would make big differences.
Get a grip on your schedule, and check your habits. There are small changes you can make to ensure you have more control in your day and can be more productive, mindful, and focused in your activities and time.
Although we don’t have complete control over our schedules (there are meetings scheduled on our behalf, obligations to fulfill, etc.), there is a lot we can do if we set the intention. Here are a few questions to help you assess your scheduling habits, along with some ideas to make this tool work for you.
Assess Your “Rushability” Quotient
- To what extent do you find yourself rushing to your meetings and appointments (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest)?
- Does your rush factor contribute to or sabotage your productivity, focus, and success? A little bit of pressure can sometimes work for us, as our brain likes a bit of stress, but too much can derail us. What is your sweet spot when it comes to scheduling your time?
- How much time do you leave in between meetings and appointments to shift gears, to get to your destination, and to allow for contingency if the meeting goes longer than expected? Can you squeeze a bit more margin between your scheduled meetings? How much margin would make a positive difference to you and be realistic for you to attain?
- How do you schedule time to think, plan, and reflect? What about simply getting your work done? Do any of these activities get scheduled, or do you try to squeeze them in after all the other meetings are done? How is that working for you?
- Where can you pay yourself first and schedule your time into the agenda? What difference would this make to your productivity, well-being, and overall success?
- How many others have access to your schedule? If your time is for the taking, how can you protect some time for priority work to ensure it’s not snatched away?
- What is your relationship with white space in your agenda? Do you get any? Do you make sure you have some? Do you panic and fill it up?
Make It Work for You
Here are four scheduling tips to help you better manage your time.
- Build in more responsible margins of time. Allow yourself time to get to meetings; account for common barriers (e.g., traffic); and focus and shift gears.
- Pay yourself first, and schedule yourself into your agenda. Schedule time for essential tasks, such as planning, thinking, and working, and make sure your schedule is not only for official meetings with others. Also, use your schedule to commit time for essentials that are important to you outside of your work, such as exercise, family, and other meaningful pursuits.
- If you have an executive assistant, work with her or him to protect your time before people schedule themselves into it. If others have access to your calendar, make sure you have already booked your key activities (even if they are not meetings) into your schedule to avoid a free-for-all on your time. If a meeting request is important enough, you can adjust accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid of white space. Think twice before you fill it all up. You might need it as the day wears on. It will never be wasted.
You will get a grip on your schedule and feel more in control of your time.
- You will minimize the constant rush factor and reduce your stress.
- You will be more prepared for your meetings.
- You will be more mindful, focused, and productive in the moment.
- You will have a greater sense of ownership of your time.
About the Author: Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is Author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of ‘Crazy Busy’. She is a certified executive and leadership coach; a communications pro (20+ years of experience) and principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto. Eileen draws from the science of positivity, leadership, neuroscience, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work as a coach, consultant, trusted advisor, and facilitator.