Sometimes it just feels like you are just being tossed about during your day or week. Maybe you feel like you are crawling to the proverbial shore at the end of the day as your ship (plan) was wrecked and sunk again.
It’s not difficult to fall into a cycle of despair and even hopelessness as circumstances around you influence your life and well-being. To help you re-establish or reinforce your control over the day, here are some reminders of the things that you do have control over both in your personal and professional life.
What you consume
When people think of the word “consume” they may naturally think of something like eating or food. While it’s true that you have control over what you consume from a nutritional perspective, broaden that thought to other things that you consume on a regular basis. Your regular consumption includes
Interactions with your friends, family, and co-workers
Reflect on the past week. What has been a negative influence or perhaps overly influential on your thoughts and actions? Perhaps the weight of the news is dragging you down or there has been drama at the workplace that has taken up a lot of your headspace. Here are some tips to take back control of the things that you consume:
Find different news outlets to get your information from. Counselors will often suggest outlets outside of your country if you get too worked up by the news. They are more neutral and have no agenda to drive you toward one conclusion or another.
Take social media breaks and see how it impacts your outlook on yourself and your day.
Put limits on the amount of entertainment you consume to allow space for other productive things.
Check your knowledge outlets for alignments with your goals and ambitions.
Some tips to control your mental and physical fitness:
Studies share that you need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigours exercise a week and strength training for all major muscle groups two times a week. Forget that! Do what you can. You can control going out for a 10-minute stroll. Don’t let studies that highlight how you may be coming up short hold you back. Take control of those small moments to give yourself the break and conditioning you need.
Read a book or engage in some mentally stimulating activity. At my current stage, it’s mostly working on art with a little bit of reading. Neither one, do I spend a large block of time on except perhaps the weekend. Take control of small segments here as well. What does that look like for you?
Find reading or fitness apps to help get you started and stay motivated. You can find an endless amount of fitness apps out there. I use Caliber for strength training; it’s free and includes plans and videos based on what you have available at your house. I use Apple Fitness for my aerobic, core, and additional strength work.
Find things that you have an interest in and carve out time to take of both your mind and body.
Your work ethic
No matter what others do, or don’t do, no one has control over your work ethic except for you. For better or worse, the choices you make in how you do your work are yours alone. Need resources to help drive a strong work ethic? Check out:
Your work ethics are your calling card. More than anything, it’s how people know and think of you.
How you approach and deal with people
How do you show up for people that you interact with? Even in those tough circumstances that may rock our day, we still ultimately own and have the power over how we interact with others and come across in conversations. How well do you control your approach with others? Are you a reflection of your day; nice on a good day and distraught during the bad days?
Be mindful to be consistent in how you interact with others. Most times it should be effortless; it’s your authentic self where you (hopefully) want to add value to others. At other times, you’ll need to make the choice to be super intentional to keep steady in all the negative noise of the day. Don’t let your day influence who you are. Let yourself influence how your day is going to be.
If you look more online at the types of things that you can control, you’ll find a myriad of opinions out there ranging from a list of 100 down to an article saying that you can only control one thing. Evaluate your day. What do you have influence over that you perhaps don’t give yourself enough credit or power over right now? Get a solid grasp on those things you can control as you get ready to let go of the things that you can’t control.
One of the most common opportunities for newly promoted leaders is the skill of delegation. It comes in part from being the expert in the areas of their previous role and still retaining those responsibilities and partly from passion areas that the person just loves to do. We teach that holding on to both of these types of tasks restrains your effectiveness in a new role and it’s not until you can successfully delegate those tasks away, that you can realize your full potential.
Whether you are a new leader or not, good delegation skills take your time management skills to the next level.
Assess your routine and schedule
Think back to our exercise in Prioritizing your time (Show 380), what are those things that you found yourself spending time on that are low or important in priority? Those two categories will likely be full of activities and tasks that can be delegated out in your work life.
Assess your schedule and do some self-reflection as it compares to your current role. Are you doing things that you did in a previous role?
In your personal life, think about the things that you routinely spend time on thought out the year. Corilate that time with a monetary value. What is your time worth during your personal time? It’s ok, and perhaps likely, that the dollar amount changes depending on what it is. Now put a value on the things that you really need or want to do. If the want and need are valued higher, you may benefit from delegating (or paying) someone to do it.
“Find things for other people to do,” seems easy enough, but we sometimes put blinders on or overestimate our own commitment to items that are taking time better used elsewhere
Compliment delegation to others’ development
By now you should have a list of things in your work routine that you can delegate away. Leverage those items as development opportunities for those on your team. Who could best learn and grow by taking on the task or responsibility?
Delegation is a great way for someone to get a glimpse of what your day-to-day world entails as well as help provide them with a low-risk look into the world that you live in. It’s a great way for the person to get a feel for your role to help them understand if they may aspire to become you one day.
Follow-up on your delegated items
Delegation certainly has its perks for the leader as well. You’ll find yourself having some room in your schedule (and your mind) to do things that are important that you’ve been putting off. Your success in delegation will also help you to be a more future-focused leader instead of being caught up in the swirl of the day.
The benefits are great, but leaders sometimes put delegated tasks in the “set it and forget it” category. Delegation without a follow-up plan is a recipe for disaster for you and the person taking on the new task.
Before the task is delegated: Ensure that there is alignment on expectations and agreement from both parties around the specific ask of the person you are delegating the item to. They need to have support, empowerment, and any resources necessary to be successful.
Set a check-in cadence to see how things are going and to get feedback on any ways that you can adjust to support the person better. Keep the cadence tight at first and then build in some space as time, trust and results build.
Delegate it all away?
It’s been said before to delegate it all away. While it’s great to delegate projects, tasks, and responsibilities to others, it’s important to your people for them to see you still a part of the work. Delegation is a powerful tool, but if your people feel like they are simply just doing your job while you collect a paycheck, engagement will surely fall quickly and people will begin to leave.
As you have your team meetings and huddles, be sure to share the things that you are working on and have accomplished since the meeting. This will help in two ways: It will help them feel more informed of the larger picture and it will show them that you are just as involved in the overall success of the strategy as they are.
Strike the right balance between delegation and tasks that you need to lead yourself.
Layer in all the aspects of time management; Prioritize your time, set up your system, eliminate time stealers, and delegate for success to take control of your time management skills. It can truly be a life-changing habit and helps you stay focused, accelerate your performance and enjoy life more along the way.
Positive intent. I love that phrase and use it quite often in communication and coaching. It sums up so many shortfalls in a real way. A person had all the positive intent in the world, but maybe how they went about getting to a solution wasn’t quite right. You’ll often find positive intent in your personal life. Maybe, it’s the positive intent to take better care of yourself or get a better hold of your time.
Time stealers love to eat with positive intent. They are the little distractions in your day and week that add up to a total derailment of what you intended to do and work on at that time.
Identify where time stealers come from
Time stealers can from anywhere and can range from those very small distractions that pile up, or something that starts off small but ends up eating up large blocks of time. Some common areas for time stealers include:
Your mobile device: For all the great things that our mobile devices have introduced into our lives, it is also the most common place to be a time stealer! Notifications, social media apps, texts, games….the list can go on and on. There are many ways to handle your device from muting your device for blocks of time, to physically moving it out of reach. Assess the impact that your device is having on pulling you away from what needs to be done throughout the day and take steps to dampen its influence and temptation.
Work informal communication channels: Pick your poison: teams, slack, discord, or other similar programs. These can turn into major time stealers, especially in group or team chats. When one of these gets out of hand in while you’ve got things to do, mute the chat or notification until you can come back to it.
Open-ended hobbies and projects: I love a good video game, but many are set up in a “one more thing” format to entice you to keep playing longer than you perhaps had intended. It’s easy for 30 min to turn into a couple of hours or more. Open-ended hobbies are the same way; they offer a healthy escape from the stress of the day, but they can also pull too much time away from things that you need to be doing throughout your day. Put these in your time management system to help you stay accountable here.
Other time stealers
Doing work outside your role/other people’s jobs
Emails; both unnecessary ones and a feeling to immediately reply
Leverage your system to purposely use discretionary time
Your time management system can do a lot here in terms of helping you stay accountable and on track with what needs to be done today and this week.
My daily view keeps track of my scheduled meetings and activities, but I also write things down that need to get done that day…at some point. When I’m out of a meeting or have a block of time, I start working on that list until it’s complete. In fact, this session is written exactly that way! I need to get it done today, but not at a specific time
The types of items that fall on this section of your to-do list are often important or urgent in nature and are typically maintenance focused. Some examples from this week’s list for me include Call dr office, update travel profile at work, enter in my vacation days, practicing music, calling someone back, etc. None of that is life-changing but all things that need to get done.
Are you capturing those items in your time management system? What things do you need to write down or capture to make sure that time stealers aren’t taking the opportunity to get these things done?
Making good choices with discretionary time.
Be intentional in this time as well or it will fill with junk. It’s ok to put fun or “vege out” moments in there. Just protect yourself from distractions where you can lose large amounts of time that can eat into other planned productive times.
Make sure to include margin time for planning. It’s typically best at the beginning or end of the week.
Dealing with procrastination
If you deal with procrastination, you will want to be more thorough in calendar planning and the use of the erase board/daily planner. This will help you overcome the habit of waiting until the last moment.
Homework: Goal setting
Choose a long-term goal (6 months to over a year out) Set a date and work backward to build out a plan in the time management system to meet the goal. Focus on daily behaviors and timely checkups to stay on track to meet the goal.
Self-reflection to determine the impact of time management
· How did you do in implementing the habits of time management?
· Have you seen a decrease in stress and a better ability to do things (personally and professionally)?
· Have you improved on meeting deadlines?
· On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel you are with your time management skills?
· What do you feel like you need to work on to raise that number?
Keep to the positive habits around time management, and make changes to your time management system if it’s not working for you. As you combine those efforts with eliminating time stealers, you’ll really start making progress toward a very productive and less stress-filled day. Next time, we’ll talk about leveraging the power of delegation to take your time management skills to the next level.
Lee Cockerell retired EVP of Disney World, walks around with a pocket calendar and day planner in his pocket and has been for years. You could find him in corporate meetings jotting down notes and then later in the day out in the parks referencing what was up next and cataloging reminders on items to follow up on. His work ethic has obviously paid off for him and his habit is a shining example of old-school systems continuing to meet the need in a technology-focused world.
When I took our very own Mike Floyd through our time management class, he was the exact opposite of Lee; fully focused on leveraging the latest apps and technology out there to help him conquer his time. Guess what? He did it too.
As for me, I use a bit of both, leveraging technology for my calendar and on-the-go notes, while using old-school methods to track my daily to-dos and longer-term goals for the year.
No matter your preference, one of the most important aspects of time management, is a good system in place that works for you.
Decide your path: Paper or electronic (or both)
As you think about your system you need to decide what vehicle you are using to help you get into the right habits.
Paper/physical: Day planners and calendars and calendar books are your resources here. You can find many versions of these online, at office supply stores, and even at your local bookstore and art stores. Some are open-ended, meaning you fill in the months and days, while others have that information already filled in in increments of 6 – 18 months. They also vary on the amount of extra paper and notes sections that are included.
The good thing about paper & physical products is that they are highly likely to fit your need, no matter how specific it is.
Electronic: The other route to consider is electronic. This leverages a combination of apps and online calendars. Do a search for online note-taking and calendars and you’ll pull up a number of options on the main platforms that people use.
The plus side of electronic options is can always be with you and takes up no additional space. They also often transfer your data across devices and can easily set up reminders and alarms that accompany your tasks.
Regardless of your choice of physical or electronic, you’ll want to leverage a calendar to keep track of things. I keep track of my work, personal, church, and volunteer life on my calendar. Items that have a deadline are listed by time and items that just need to be done that day at some point are at the top of the day.
Tips for a successful calendar:
Add dates as soon as you become aware of tasks and events. This helps you not worry about remembering to add it at a later date.
Put everything on the calendar. Family, church, work, and personal. If you are using an electronic calendar and are worried about others seeing your full life, you can manage access.
Sync your calendar to your phone and get notifications if going that route.
You can also customize the calendar with colors. Different events can be different colors to make them stand out. Ex. Red for family, blue for work, and green for other activities. (This is an optional piece, but helps quickly see what you’ve got going on)
If you need more help staying accountable, put more detail in there. It’s best to start with more detail and work off of that to a good balance, than starting very generic and vague.
This approach is exactly the same one that is used in the weekly/monthly section of a day planner.
Think of your calendar as your vital (and sometimes urgent) items.
The dry-erase board/notes function
In addition to your calendar system, you’ll also want something to keep your lists and to-dos for the day and even big-picture goals for the year. I use a combination of a dry-erase board and a notepad. My dry-erase board tracks big-ticket items as well as my few goals for the year. It keeps those things front of mind for me on a daily basis so I don’t lose sight of them.
I use a notepad to track my to-dos for the day and week. Think of this as your Urgent and Important list. The day portion of the day planner works in this same concept as the notepad.
If you use the dry-erase board in an office environment, be sure to include your leadership team to actively use the board as well.
They will learn to pick things off the board to take a load off of you.
They will identify things that need to be added to the board
It will give them a larger sense of ownership in execution.
The board is flexible to add things for specific people as needed.
The dry-erase board/notes function
What kind of things would you add to your board?
What are some things that you need to put on your calendar that you are not?
How can you leverage your calendar to build in new habits that you’ve been meaning to get started?
Homework before the next segment
Work on picking out your time management system.
Begin adding dates, to-dos, and commitments to your calendar for the next 6-12 months.
Begin using daily to-do lists using the method of your choosing.
Now that you’ve got a good understanding of what you need to prioritize, and de-prioritize, leverage your new time management system to boost your success and get things done. Next time, we’ll discuss time stealers and other considerations.
One of the challenges of time management is that many people don’t think of time in terms of a commodity that consistently depletes.
A great illustration that drives this point home, was a conversation between two people around the concept. The interviewer asked a man in his forties if his parents were still alive.
Interviewer: How often do you see them?
Man: About twice a year, we live far away, but try to see them when we can.
Interviewer: How old would you say your parents are?
Man: Mid 70’s probably.
Interviewer: So if you look at the average life span, let’s say they have 5 years left. 5 years may seem like a long time, but if you only see them twice a year, that means you only have 10 more in-person interactions with them before they are gone. How does that impact how you think of that time with them?
The man went on to say how it would make him prioritize his time in order to see them more.
The point of the story is not to guilt you into changing how often you visit your parents (although you may want to give them a call more often), it’s to help you see that in order to maximize your time and how you spend it, you might need to think of time in different terms than you normally do.
Think of time management as a habit and skill that you develop
What you are about to do is start a habit in your life and it will likely require that you give other habits up. Stick with it and remember that phrase”progress over perfection.” Think of something at work or in life that was difficult for you to pick up, but now comes easy for you. Time management may be an adjustment, but it will become much easier as you do it.
Prioritizing your time
When you think about the activities and things that you accomplish on a daily, tasks will nearly fall into 3 Types of priorities
Urgent would be an item that is directed as such from corporate, your employees, customers, or yourself as an immediate action or an item that seriously impacts the team or guests and require immediate action.
Vital would be an item that has to be executed for the success of your business.
Important would be items that need to be completed in a timely manner and can often (and should) be delegated to your team.
There are also low-priority items. All of these items should be delegated out to your team and not done yourself.
It’s very important to plan these times to your calendar and set aside time for planning itself. Some people would see this as losing their freedom to be flexible. They are partially correct. It does take away your freedom…. freedom to waste time. You can schedule time off or free time as well.
Self-Reflection question: What do immediately think of when you think of urgent and vital items? Do those tasks change in priority based on circumstances?
Time Management Activity: Gain control of your email
Your email inbox is a reflection of your time management and your ability to stay organized (which is also tied to time management.) If you have hundreds of emails in your inbox then you likely have an opportunity to better manage your resources here.
I also consider my inbox as a to-do list. If I have more than 10 emails after a 48 hr period, then my email management is moving up my priority list. That means I have to go through and clean out the clutter (archive or delete) before I read what really needs to be read.
Things to consider:
-Organizing your email if you are concerned you will lose something. Create folders and archive important messaging into there. I have folders for projects/reviews/the show/races etc.
-Delete or archive any other unneeded emails and begin leveraging the search function to find previous emails as needed.
-Make sure you respond timely to an email from your leader and clients. It shows that you have control of your resources and are dependable.
-Unsubscribe from lists and promotions that you are no longer interested in to drop the level of noise in your inbox.
How many emails are in your inboxes right now? How many are unread? Think of your inbox as your house. Sometimes it gets messy, but it always feels good and is less stressful when it’s clean. We’ve gotten that same kind of feedback consistently over the years that we have taught Time Management to others. They didn’t appreciate how much their email was subtly increasing their stress levels.
Homework before the next segment
Work on getting your personal and professional email inboxes organized, sorted, and filed before our next segment.
Reflect on how you prioritize your time. Take notes of what is urgent, vital, important, and not important.
Today is the beginning of creating (or reinforcing) great time management behaviors that will impact your life in ways you likely haven’t fully realized yet. Next time, we’ll talk through systems that you can use to get a hold of and ahead on time planning.
If you want to know a simple move to come across to others as more likable, engaging, and enjoyable to be around, you need to understand one fact; most people love to talk about themselves. That’s not a negative about the other person, most people find personal value in sharing with others.
I’ve leveraged this knowledge several times in the past by going all in on asking a lot of great questions during my first few interactions with the person. It helps build rapport, fast-tracks relationships, and helps accelerate your career. Today we’ll look at how great questions can serve your relationship-building skills and help you discover problems before they escalate to become larger issues.
Ask great questions by listening
You’ll always want to start off with questions that get the person to open up and begin sharing information with you. Some good starting points include:
Open-ended questions around a shared purpose. This could be around the reason for the meeting or gathering. (What has been your favorite session at the conference so far? What are your thoughts on the CEO’s announcement last week? How do you think the recruiting season is going?)
Inquisitive in thier personal endevors. Questions that center on a person’s interests, hobbies, or passions are great starts to open a number of doors to further the conversation. (What gives you energy, What are you working on outside of the job that gets you excited?)
Listen to their reply for opportunities to dig further in or highlight a topic. (You said _______, tell me more about that.) This will continue a line of discussion until you have exhausted your questions or the topic naturally wraps itself up.
The secret to a great facilitator is their ability to navigate a conversation by listening to what is said and then asking follow-up questions. It may almost seem effortless as they guide the group through self-discovery or the right path forward. That should be your goal as well. Listen for the right points to send the conversation deeper while doing it in a way that seems natural. It shouldn’t feel forced, inauthentic, or clumsy.
Simplify your questions
There are going to be times when you have all sorts of thought-provoking questions in your head or you may really excited to hear more or receive additional details. As a result, you may bundle your questions without even realizing this.
I was recently at a conference where a local well-known entrepreneur gave the morning keynote address and had a Q&A at the end. There was no shortage of questions from the audience! One attendee asked something along the lines of, ” What made you want to do this, what continues to inspire you and what are your goals for the future?” Those are all great questions, but the speaker had to pause and took a moment to process the bundled questions, ultimately missing one of the questions altogether.
When you find your mind trying to bundle a bunch of questions, sort through them and pick up the most important 1 or 2. Ask one, and then the other as a follow-up if it’s still appropriate. You’ll keep your person engaged and get higher-quality answers as a result.
Shoot for the deep but be satisfied with the surface
Mining the depths of a person’s thoughts, motivations and insights can be invaluable to getting a better understanding of the person and the topic at hand. Remember that not all conversations will go into the inner crevices of your mind and soul. Think of those deep conversations as cave diving. The surface-level conversations that you have are the safety gear and support systems so that you can safely travel down below.
In conversations with some of my closest friends, we’ve discussed some very deep and personal topics. We’ll also talk about video games or running beforehand or afterward. Don’t be disappointed if a conversation doesn’t go as deep as you had hoped. Surface-level conversations carry value as well and provide a sense of trust and safety to go deeper into another conversation.
Don’t be afraid to ask a question
Be brave and ask those questions that may make you look naive. It is better to approach it on the front end and learn valuable information as opposed to playing along and being left in the dark in directions or walking away with the wrong information.
If the idea of putting yourself out there makes you nervous, address that as well to help you get through the conversation. I’ll often say something along the lines of, “Forgive my ignorance here, but can you tell me what _______ means?” or “This may be a naive question, but can you help me understand _____?”
Typically the other party is going to affirm that your question is in fact not dumb, and will be happy to help give more clarity. There is also a chance that someone else has the same question, but is too afraid to ask themselves.
Keep those questions coming! Great, thought-provoking questions, help you and those around you grow in knowledge and trust.