Regardless of your role, one thing people struggle with is managing their time so you can end each day feeling productive, rather than frustrated when looking at a long list of to-do’s that were left incomplete. Here’s the secret to getting everything done each day-without the stress.
You can be the most talented salesperson on the planet. You could be a world class manager and coach. Regardless of how talented you are, either you own your day or your day owns you. And if you’re the type of person who feels a bit out of control when it comes to time management due to the things you feel you can’t plan for that eat up your precious time, here’s how you develop a healthy, daily routine that will enable you to end your day feeling satisfied and productive, rather than stressed and overwhelmed.
There’s essentially three reasons why we find it so challenging to adhere to our schedule or complete our to-do list:
- Not being realistic with our timeline and as a result, have too many activities scheduled into our day.
- Not engaging in right activities that support our goals or objectives.
- Not planning for the unplanned. Also known as, “Externalities.”
These externalities or things that we don’t necessarily plan for often go unnoticed and fly under our radar screen when attempting to map out our week. They have tendency to eat up our days.
These externalities can also take on the form of time on the phone, traffic, a project or proposal that you’re now responsible for which has a rapidly approaching deadline, a conversation with a customer or co-worker, meetings, a timely problem you need to handle, a request from a co worker, boss or direct report that needs to be handled immediately, emails that take on a life of their own, and so on.
Many of these things come along and blindside us because they’re outside of our direct line of vision. Then we wonder why we’re often unable to finish everything that’s on our plate for the day.
Now, since we don’t have a crystal ball to inform us about the imminent things that would unknowingly consume part of our day, imagine if you were actually able to plan for these things; these same tasks that often go left unplanned.
Distractions Are Events That You are Not Planning For. Plan For Them.
One of my clients was a bit resistant to this idea. She shared with me that, once a new client hires her company and procures her services, the unplanned begins happening immediately. Irate customers calling in and people wanting things addressed and handled immediately.
This client happens to be in the emergency restoration business. So, the only time she does get a call is when people have experienced a major or minor disaster in their building or in their home, such as a fire or a flood. As you can imagine, it’s probably hard to plan exactly when she would be receiving these calls.
When the calls came in, you can imagine how the customers would sound. Harried, upset, fearful, angry or uncertain of what could happen or would be happening. And every time my client received a call like this, she would react surprised, as if it was the first time she’s ever experienced it! “I can’t believe this is happening again,” would be a typical reaction.
When I asked her how long this has been going on, she said for fifteen years, ever since she started her business.
This would be similar to a doctor who works in the ER and is continually shocked at the number and degree of emergencies that come through the door. As such, this doctor reacts accordingly by saying, “What, another emergency?”
The solution for this client was apparent. Instead of resisting the truth she began to embrace the truth, and the truth was this is her business! She is in the business of providing not only solutions to her customer’s restoration nightmares but providing support, guidance and reassurance that it will all work out okay.
Instead of being continually shocked at how her customers’ react when calling her, by embracing this as part of her business and accepting the truth, she was able to more effectively plan for it. She began to make the shift from being highly reactive to responsive and service oriented by anticipating these situations rather than being shocked when they occur.
Embrace Consistent Inconsistency – A Paradoxical Equation
If you feel that there’s no predictability or consistency throughout your days, consider this paradox. The fact that your days are unpredictable actually creates a certain degree of predictability. Here’s an exercise worth doing to exemplify this point if you want to take back your day. Think about how many hours you work each day. Let’s say it’s ten hours a day. Now, what most people do is schedule or anticipate that they have ten hours each day to complete tasks, meetings, projects or activities that they intend on getting done by day’s end.
Now, consider on average, how much time you invest in the activities or tasks you didn’t plan for, such as the examples of externalities that I mentioned earlier. Let’s say that equates to three hours each day.
Do The Math
Now, if you work a ten hour day and find that three of those hours are consumed with externalities, or things you couldn’t anticipate planning for, then how many hours do you actually have that you can count on having available each day? That’s right; seven! The challenge is, if you ignore this fact because you “have to get everything done” you have a choice to make. You can either embrace this truth and be honest with the amount of time you really have each day and actually build these three hours of externalities into your day or you can ignore this, continue to schedule ten hours of tasks each day and then be frustrated and disappointed every day when you don’t get everything done.
Many managers admit that the simple act of scheduling everything in their calendars, including blocks of time for unplanned interruptions and inevitable impromptu or situational coaching moments, ends up being the single most important change of behavior they make. This change allows them to take ownership of their day and finally be able to to invest the proper time needed to develop and support their teams.
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