Who isn’t busy these days? Almost everyone is feeling the pressure of an over-stuffed, demanding to-do list.
The way you use time expresses what you see as valuable and important.
You make time for your true priorities. You’re too busy for other things; didn’t have time to exercise; or rushing and “forgot” to make a healthy lunch.
Your schedule doesn’t lie. What you make time for — what you allow time for — signifies what you truly value.
- Does your use of time match what you want to be important?
- Does your life-speed and pacing say that you’re living in accordance with your deeper principles?
- And does the way you use time say what you truly want to say about your business?
- For instance:
- Do you rush through clients or take your time with them?
- Do you feel like you’re always “behind” and trying to “catch up”?
- Do client sessions last the right length of time? Are you punctual?
- Do you focus? Do you give clients your full, undivided attention during their sessions, or are you sneaking out text messages and emails in between tasks.
- Do you listen well, without interrupting, being completely present?
- Do you schedule time for yourself to repair and recover — for example, to work out, get a good night’s sleep, hang out with loved ones, or just do nothing?
- For instance:
What are you saying to the world about your professional practice; about your professional values, etc.; with your use of time?
Is that what you want to say?
Your schedule doesn’t lie.
How about you book some time with yourself to work on your own professional development.
Step 1: Make a time diary
Grab a piece of paper, a notebook, or open a spreadsheet. And make sure you have a clock or watch nearby at all times.
In 15 or 30-minute increments, track how you spent your time. For example:
- Woke up
- Shower, get dressed
- Leave for work
- At work
- Coffee break
Step 2: Observe and analyze
When and how did you use time effectively?
Review a couple days, hour by hour.
- How are you spending your time? Look at the time spent on all tasks.
- When are you most and least effective in your time use? For instance, note when you felt rushed, when you felt “on time”, and when you felt “ahead”.
- How often you were perfectly punctual for appointments… or when you had to scramble to get there on time… or when you were a little bit late… or when you were completely, unequivocally, spoiled-A-list celebrity late?
- Does your time use reflect your professional values and priorities? Does it communicate what you want to communicate? For example, do you take the time you need to guide clients properly? Are you on time for sessions and organizing them carefully, with a clear beginning, middle, and end? Do you have an agenda that respects your time and your client’s time?
- How might others — such as clients or professional colleagues — view your time use? What might they think your time use says about you?
- How might you change your time practices to reflect your top professional priorities? To say what you want to say?
What might you need to change or adjust? How could you do more of what you love in business, or need to do in order to improve your business?
When it comes to health & fitness, what does your schedule say about your nutrition, exercise, and overall health priorities?
What does your schedule say about your identity? What could your schedule say about your new identity as a fit and healthy person?
What would a fit and healthy person — a “nutrition athlete”, if you will — do?
- Create an action plan.
- Take action!
Wrapping it up
Have an agenda, and communicate that.
Clearly identify start and end times for meetings, and have consequences.
Use body language and verbal cues to indicate “milestones” and closing points.
To switch gears or refocus, you can:
- Use movement (such as shifting to a new position or physical location, breaking eye contact, and/or starting a new physical activity such as sitting down or standing up)
- Use a nonverbal gesture such as checking the clock, then saying something like “We’ve got 15 minutes left, so let’s move to…” or “OK, that was 15 minutes, so let’s move on to…” Be explicit if necessary, e.g. “Let me shift gears here and talk about something else…” or “I’m sorry, Billy, I’m going to have to let you go; I have to get on a phone call.”
Have a “bookend ritual”.
At the beginning of your professional day, take 5 minutes to assess incoming demands and establish an agenda of key priorities for yourself.
Keep it as simple as possible. Stick to 1-3 key priorities, e.g.
- Prepare for new clients;
- see clients;
- make 2 client phone calls;
- work on relationships with other professionals;
- take 1 hour to organize workspace.
Then stick to that agenda, no matter what other pressures try to pull you off-track.
At the end of each professional day, take 5 minutes for a post-game highlight ritual.
- How the day went;
- What was effective;
- What wasn’t effective;
- Look ahead to your morning agenda-setting tomorrow;
- Do a quick “brain dump” of all the stuff on your mind, and book time tomorrow to deal with it.
The more you do this formal “bookend ritual”, the more you’ll find yourself effectively structuring and using your time.
Remember: Awareness is the first step towards change.
(courtesy of Precision Nutrition)