People ask me regularly how I handle my calendar, with all the travel, writing, speaking and projects that must be done. I always answer that I am not an “expert” by any stretch of the imagination. I do, however, embrace a handful of practices that allow me to get a lot of things done, and that still allow me to also get some rest and relaxation.
First and foremost, I believe we must recognize that a “balanced life”—as most people understand it—is a myth. I don’t know of anyone who perfectly balances equal time each week for family, work, leisure, exercise, etc. It’s just not realistic. Instead, I believe life happens with an “ebb and flow” where there are seasons of great investment of time and energy, then there are seasons of rest and withdrawal. Fast pace, slow pace.
Below are six simple practices I do that keep me achieving the highest priorities I’ve established, and that enable me to “boss my calendar.”
1. Identify one objective that energizes you each day and do it.
First of all, you have to know your biggest objectives each week, then discover which of those goals involve tasks that energize you. For me this week, it was writing a certain article I was excited about. Then—I use that task as incentive. Each day I worked on it a little, which energized me the rest of the day.
2. Place similar activities in time blocks.
I have done this for over 25 years. I usually meet with people for meal times each day. In between, I try to keep a block of time in the morning for administration, a block of time later for planning time and a block of time later for people. This allows me to get into a frame of mind—alone or social—where I can build momentum toward a goal. If I mix meetings with admin time, I feel like my momentum dies and I slow down.
3. Schedule in advance your biggest “rocks.”
This one is predictable but important. Once you know your top priorities—your big rocks that you must put in the jar first—schedule them before any other task consumes the time. For instance, I already scheduled my weekly writing days for the rest of the year. If a trip consumes one of those days, I switch out another day. If I don’t do this, only the activities that scream for my attention, get my attention. The issue is not prioritizing my schedule but rather scheduling my priorities.
4. Invite a colleague to help you say no and stay on track.
People do better when they are watched. I am no different. So, Andrea, my executive assistant, helps me not only watch my calendar but she keeps me on track. She helps schedule projects and meetings, and is able to say “no” to those that don’t belong. (I have a difficult time saying “no” to people). She reminds me of goals, holds me accountable and tells me if we need to get back on track with a particular objective.
5. Create systems to help you accomplish ongoing tasks.
Each of us have repeatable tasks on a daily basis. These tasks should be part of a system that you automatically revert to, so they don’t require extra mental energy or time. For instance, some emails can be handled with an “auto-pilot” reply. It doesn’t mean you don’t care, it simply achieves the goal, and allows you to deal with new items.
6. Plan for margins in the calendar for priorities you must pursue.
This one is challenging for me, but I try to do it regularly. Each week and month, I know new things are going to come up that capture my imagination. They are serendipitous but fit right into our mission and should be pursued. So, I try to plan for margins in my calendar that allow for interruptions or spontaneous ideas that should be captured. I’ve found if I handle my time well, I have margins to respond to these opportunities that pop up and deserve attention.
I hope these are helpful. How about you?
What do you do that helps you boss your calendar? Would you be willing to jot them down in comments below?
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