In the last post Effective Leadership Skills – Personal Planning, we talked about the importance of personal planning for a leader. I hope you found the post useful and picked up at least one thing to incorporate into your personal planning routine. No doubt everyone has heard the analogy about sort the big rocks first not the sand. However, if you are true to yourself, do you do it? Many people, despite the best of intentions and knowing this methodology well, struggle to actually do it. Why? I suspect that it’s because they don’t plan that way. I’m always amazed at how so many people let life and other people take them wherever they want to take them.
Ok, so maybe a little melodramatic, but one thing we all have in common, no matter who we are, how much money we have, how successful, or how high up the corporate ladder we are, is time. We all have the same amount of time in any given day! Time is finite. So, we should treat it accordingly. Do you protect your time like it is “my precious!” ? If you don’t have complete control over your schedule, then take it back today! Every minute you spend on something is a minute of your life you will never get back! That’s the way you need to look at it. This is one thing a leader needs to be very selfish about. After all, it is your life! You should spend time on the things that are important to you or are necessary for the role you play. Otherwise, you need to seriously question each item in your schedule.
“Every minute you spend on something is a minute of your life you will never get back!”
Here’s a few things to consider for managing your schedule and calendar:
1. Proactively schedule YOUR priorities first.
Ok, seems obvious…. but do you? When you do your personal planning make sure you are planning time in your calendar to spend on those things that are most important to you. These are the big rocks. These are the things that will either permit you to be successful or fulfilled in what you do at work and in life in general. Many people wonder why the week has gone by and they haven’t accomplished those things that they wanted to achieve that week, but yet, few if any were allocated specific time in their calendar. Even if it is time for you to spend by yourself working on a project, a strategic plan, following-up, taking your daughter to a recital, put it in your calendar and schedule! I schedule several hours a week months in advance for my top priorities. I schedule them as placeholders and as I get closer to the actual date and I have a better idea of what my priority is at that time, I revise it to reflect that priority. This way, I also have time for my priorities without someone else booking over it. Well at least, most of the time.
“When something is scheduled, it is 92% likely to happen!”
2. Schedule time for reflection & planning.
It’s also important to schedule time to stop, think, reflect and plan. For this you need to be strategic as to when you schedule this time by doing so when you are most productive in this space. There is no point scheduling planning time on a day or time in which you need to be tactical or will not be able to focus. Or at a time of day when you know your brain resists focus on such subjects. The point is to schedule it to increase the odds that it will happen. It is very important for leaders to reflect, think, and plan, but it won’t happen on it’s own. You need to schedule time for it.
3. Block time for necessities.
We all have stuff that just needs to get done. After you schedule your most important priorities, schedule blocks of time throughout the day or week for you to get the necessities done as well. These might be signing documents, catching up on emails, following up, returning phone calls, etc. Although these are not top priorities, they are necessary. If you don’t get them done, certain of your responsibilities will slip through the cracks and may come back to bite you, typically requiring even more of your time than if you attended to them initially in the first place. Or alternatively, you end of up doing these things after hours impacting your personal time and family priorities.
4. Maintain control over your schedule.
Don’t let other people get control of your calendar. If you do, you are basically giving over control of your life. Be selfish and maintain control of your calendar at all times as if it were your life… oh wait, it is! This doesn’t mean that you become unavailable to your team or neglect your responsibilities, but it does mean that you do not have to attend every meeting you are invited to, or cancel time that is a priority to you just because someone sends you a meeting invitation. Nine times out of ten, you can request a re-schedule if you really need to attend at all, or can send a delegate.
If you have an assistant that manages your calendar for you, make sure you establish very clear guidelines with them as to how you want to administer your time and calendar. Communicate frequently as to your priorities and how you expect them to schedule YOUR time. Review your calendar with them to ensure everything is as you want it. I’ve always found when you do this, they will help you tremendously!
“Sort the big rocks first, fit in the stones, and sift the sand!”
5. Schedule 20 and 50 minute meetings.
It took me way too long to figure this one out! After many years of putting a call on hold and asking someone to “please cover me, brb” so that I could run to the restroom, or missing a quick but needed “approved” email response, I figured out that meetings are like goldfish. They grow to the size of the fishbowl, meaning if you schedule 60 minutes, the meeting will take 60 minutes. What is so special about 60 minute meetings other than it being the default in scheduling software? So I implemented 2 meeting durations – 20 and 50 minutes. The subject matter determines the duration. The secret though is that most people schedule meetings to start on the hour or half hour. This then gives you 10 minutes before your next meeting to visit the restroom, get a coffee, check for urgent emails/requests, etc. What a difference this has made in my day!
6. Use colours as information keys.
Establish a colour coding system within your calendar to help you key in on different aspects of your day. This allows you to quickly glance at your calendar and you can focus in on the most important items, or spend more time to gather other key pieces of information. For example here are my colour codes:
Dark Red – Very important
Red – Attendance required
Yellow – Tentative, delegate attending or attend if possible
Orange – Indication that myself or a member of my team is out of the office, travel time.
Green – Information
Blue – Personal time for the necessities
This facilitates a lot of information that you can very quickly focus in on depending on what information you are looking for. From the example above, I can very quickly see (orange) that two members of my team are out of the office on this day. I am going to be visiting and working (green) out of a different and specific building, and that I’m going to have a very busy day of meetings (Red). However, I also have some personal time (Blue) to catch up on a few things throughout the day. I can also see that there is a tentative (yellow) meeting I could attend if the main priority meeting were to be cancelled and that there are some other meetings scheduled that day but are just there as information only.
Please let me know if you found this post helpful by clicking “Like”, otherwise I have no idea if I’m on the right track here! Leave a comment to add your experience on this topic or to ask a question.
Next post, we’ll talk about the dreaded and time consuming…. email!