When you have a demanding job or are in business for yourself often times the sheer volume of work and problems to solve and things to learn feels relentless. If you are caught up on this hamster-wheel of doing, want time to slow down and feel as if at the end of the day you have actually achieved something then this might be of use to you.
In my earliest years as a senior manager, I found I was frequently pulled from meeting to meeting or had constant demands from the team asking for guidance or assistance and yet I also needed to participate in organisation-wide management meetings, complete business planning, deliver reports and complete reviews in a timely manner.
On top of that I was expected to keep up to date and current with the latest in management practice and new ways of doing things that would improve my leadership and team performance. Away days with the management team were to be dreaded because when I returned, the work was waiting but now it was piled up.
Things I wanted to do such as spend time with my team or interact and build strong relationships with colleagues took a back seat more often that I wanted it to. Any time for planning and thinking was left to the weekend or evenings which had a negative impact on my family and relationship because I just wasn’t available for them.
I had two lovely children both of whom were special needs who not only wanted their mother to really be there for them but also needed me to be their biggest advocate – an activity I squeezed in between all the other demands leaving me feeling guilty I just wasn’t doing enough. I often felt overwhelmed; as if I was running a marathon that had no finish line. My anxiety levels shot up and I was sure that any one of those balls that were in the air would come crashing down and it would all fall apart.
I knew something had to change and that was me. I started to learn about time management and tried a few techniques. All of which were useful but difficult to keep up the practice. As soon as something happened I went back to my old habits of doing more. This didn’t really change the underlying problem. I turned to personal development and read everything I could. It wasn’t until I took on my coach and mentor who introduced me to the idea of “be, not do” that things began to change. I realised I was “doing” senior management not “being” a senior manager.
Way 1: “be, not do”
Being is about focus to the exclusion of all other demands and expectations. Being is not difficult – what is difficult is to become good at it. It’s about being present. Whatever it is that you are doing now focus on that with your thoughts and your mind. Become aware of how you a sitting and what the air around you feels like and simply focus to the exclusion of all other concerns. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and put aside thoughts that have nothing to do with what is happening now.
Way 2: Time boxing
At the end of the day or the beginning if that works better for you, pause and list out all those things that you are juggling. Identify the urgent, the important and the stuff that creates noise. Select the two most important and schedule time (2-3 hours) in the day to focus on getting these done. Set aside three times of around 30 mins that you can allocate to those urgent tasks… And as for the stuff that creates noise… Either give them to someone else to do or just leave them to one side…. Oftentimes, these things disappear because they just aren’t that important. They will definitely reappear if they are.
Finally at the other end of your work sprint take some time to review that list. Tick off all that you have done and really congratulate yourself on what you have achieved – then screw up and throw that list away. You can make a new one for the next work sprint. Often times, we forget to praise ourselves for what we have done and instead only see the mountain of work ahead. Practising this technique over time will help you to focus and get results.
If you are really into time boxing one of the things I recommend reading is the Pomodoro Technique.
Way 3: Using a calendar
This really goes hand in hand with time boxing. My philosophy is if it isn’t in the calendar it isn’t real and it’s not happening. The beauty of a calendar is that once it’s in there you don’t need to clutter up your brain trying to remember it. I include relaxation (me) time, family activities and relationship time. These help me keep my focus on life as well as work. I personally favour cloud based calendars and Google calendar is my absolutely favourite because it syncs across all my devices. And I am a geek – I love my devices! But if you are into paper then a paper diary works just as well.
If you are harbouring some vision or ideas for a sea-change in your life and are stuck or have no idea what to do to make it come to life, then talk to me I might be able to help.