Prioritize

You Can’t Buy Time, But You Can Borrow It!

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I have followed a 2 part Calendar Review process for many years now. In a recent blog I shared the first part of this process: my Calendar Gut-Checklist. The Calendar Gut-Checklist is a great way to review and reflect on how I spend my time.

Part 2 of the process is Calendar Re-Visioning. Here is the process I follow when I re-vision my calendar:

Calendar Revisioning

1.      I take the insights gained when I Gut-Checked my calendar, and brainstorm changes I could make to better align my calendar with my Desired Outcomes.

2.      The changes I can implement easily I make immediately.

3.      I look ahead for 6 weeks and determine the other changes I could implement with some planning. I outline the steps I need to take to implement these changes and begin the process of making these larger changes.

4.      I commit to reviewing my progress in 30 days.

 

Why do I look ahead? Because when my calendar is overloaded it takes a while to bring it back into alignment. When I work with executives who are bringing alignment back into their calendars I set the expectation that, with 6 months of intentional effort, they can be delivered to a life and workflow they love. It takes time and consistent effort, but it can be done. Progress is even faster when I work with the entire team to bring the team into Time Alignment. (Check out my upcoming article for more on the Team Time Alignment Process.)

 

To help you get started with your Calendar Revisioning process, here are some key questions you can ask as you brainstorm how to revise your own calendar. With these questions you will have better alignment between your Desired Outcomes and your calendar.

 

 Get Analytical: Calendar Brainstorming Questions

·        Calendar:

o   Do you have adequate time to effectively execute your scope of work?

o   What changes can you make to spend your time more effectively?

o   Do you have time protected in your calendar for focused work each week?

 

·        Priorities:

o   What are your top 3 priorities right now? Does your calendar reflect this?

o   Based on your priorities, what do you need to start doing and stop doing?

 

·        Commitments:

o   Do you have more commitments than your calendar will allow?

o   Which commitments do you need to end in order to effectively execute your top priorities?

**Note: If you are double scheduled you have more commitments than you can handle.

You can never be in two places at once.**

The goal is to do more of the “right” things.

With this goal in mind, here are some Calendar Hacks to get you going.

Get Going: Calendar Hacks

·        When are you most focused? Look ahead in your calendar for a 2-3 hour block of focused time each week. This will be the time slot you assign your complex tasks and projects to in the future.

·        Make a recurring appointment twice daily for processing email and checking phone messages.

·        Make a decision about when you will check and return your text messages.

·        At the end of the week look ahead to the coming week and assign your upcoming tasks a time. 

Everything gets done at a particular moment in time. I hope these tips and tricks help you develop the habit of regularly refining and redesigning your calendar so that your time is well spent, and your life and work are satisfying.

What step will you take today to ensure your time is well spent?

THE ONE STEP STRATEGIC PLAN

I have a leader who has come to me wanting a different outcome for his business. He is looking to have a transformational year. I asked for the date and time he meets with his team. He did not have an answer. He does not like meetings. He has gone so far as to delegate the weekly team meeting to an associate. He does not even attend. There are no monthly or annual meetings. There are only team meetings regarding projects. There is not one meeting that is focused on the business itself.

Until this changes, he will not realize the success he is looking for, and until he is willing to commit to that meeting, I suspect he will continue to be frustrated by getting the same results. Change is hard, but it is worth it: new habits deliver new results.

Most clients who come to us looking for support with their strategy need help with one thing: organizing the process. Strategic planning today requires that a leader overcome an internal obstacle: their own resistance.  

Here is my one step plan that will deliver any organization, business segment, or team to greater success in 2017:

Plan to meet.

I know. Meetings are not what you wanted to hear me call for right out of the gate. But it is essential.

Great leaders schedule their planning time a year in advance and prioritize and protect that time.

Here is what to schedule:

Meet annually for 2-3 days of vision-casting and strategic thinking.

Meet quarterly for a half or full day of strategic problem solving.  Begin by celebrating successes! This ensures outcome accountability and maintains momentum.

Senior leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 in which they lead their direct reports, and another in which they participate with their peers.

Meet monthly, for 90 minutes or a half day depending on leadership level. An important shift takes place here: a move from strategy to tactics.

This monthly meeting is a tactical problem-solving and obstacle-removing meeting. It is a time to gather all key decision makers in the room to cut through red tape quickly. Everyone who needs to be consulted is present, and decisions can be made quickly. This is a decision-making, permission-giving meeting that clears obstacles. Attempt to schedule these on the same day and move from front-lines to senior leaders, so that issues that need to reach the highest level decision maker can be resolved the same day.

Leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 they lead and one they present issues that need to be escalated to the next level of decision maker.

Meet weekly for status updates and next steps. Thinking a week out allows for communication and collaboration across segments to identify obstacles and resolve them. 30 to 60 minutes.

Meet daily for a stand-up huddle (yes, literally stand up!) with you team. Allow a minute per person. These meetings address issues that need to be addressed in the next 24 hours.

When you plan these meetings, put them on the calendar, and communicate the schedule and purpose of these meetings an important shift begins to take place on your team: people know what kind of thinking belongs in each meeting.

Daily and weekly meetings are for tactical execution. Monthly meetings are for tactical problem solving, strategic alignment and accountability.

Quarterly and annual meetings are for strategic thinking, and shape organizational focus, momentum and engagement.

This year, sit down with your calendar and map out your year. It isn’t sexy, but it works.

How you spend your time is the most critical element of your success. Planning to be strategic, relevant and successful means putting the dates and times you need to think, collaborate, plan, and communicate on the calendar before you begin. That way you know in advance you are planning for success.

If you find yourself frustrated with the status quo and wanting a different year in 2017 than you had last year, do something different.

Unsure where to begin?

Retain a skilled outside facilitator who can lead an offsite to begin to shape your organizational thinking rhythm. A good facilitator should be able to create a 2 day process that both maps out the thinking rhythm for the year and facilitates the strategic thinking process of the team.

In 2017: Plan to meet. Then be smart about what you do when you are together. It is that simple. 

3 TIPS FOR GETTING AHEAD INSTEAD OF FALLING BEHIND

His schedule was booked with appointments from 8-5.  It was printed in black and white on the table between us.

He told me, “I have no time.”

The fact of the matter was that he had lots of time:  the same 168 hours a week all of us have.  It was how the time was being spent that created problems.

“If you schedule appointments all day, when do you get the work done?” I asked. “When do you work on the projects these people are asking for you to accomplish?”

Therein lies the problem for most of us.  We privilege in our calendars the activities we most enjoy.  We undertake the aspect of our work that most enlivens us.

But what happens to the aspects of our work we dislike?

What do we do when we have something to accomplish that we don’t believe others will value?

In other words, does everything get on the calendar?

There is an antidote to over-scheduling.  I call it actual-scheduling.

In actual-scheduling, we calendar not only the people but also the tasks that go with them.

If you are over-scheduled and want to start actual-scheduling, here are three tips for getting ahead instead of falling behind:

1.      Assign your tasks a time.

Once the task arrives in your inbox, or the project has been assigned to you in the meeting, schedule that task or project a time.  Nothing is accomplished without an allotted time.

An amazing thing happens when you plan your tasks:  your mind stops worrying about when something is going to get done because we know.  We scheduled it.

2.      Honor your calendar.

Once you have assigned your tasks a time, treat these appointments the same way you would treat an appointment with a colleague or a client.  Accomplish what needs to be done in the time allotted.

3.      Get ahead of schedule.

If your schedule is booked solid with appointments, like my client’s was when we met, look for the white space in the calendar (it might not be until next month or next quarter, but find the white space!) and block out time to think, plan and catch up.  It took a while for your schedule to get as full as it is and it will take some time to realign your schedule so that your calendar accurately reflects the scope of work you have to accomplish. 

TIME TO THINK

Time is the great equalizer.

We all only get 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week.  Whether you are leading a country, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or leading a global business, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, we all are allotted the same number of hours in a day:  24.

During those 24 hours a day and 7 days a week comes the highs and lows, successes and failures, experiences and missed opportunities that make up a life:  your life.

How we use our time matters.

Yet, most of my clients struggle with how to make their time count.

              “Where do I need to spend my time to have the greatest impact?”

              “I had a 90 hour week last week.  I can’t keep doing that.  I am exhausted.”

              “There is more work than I can manage.  I can’t get it all done.”

              “I want to spend more 1 on 1 time with my leaders, but I don’t have time.”

Sound familiar?

I know it does. Even though this is something I teach and practice, I still find myself saying out loud, “I could really use an extra three hours today.”  And it is true.  I could.

 The reality is this:

Our time will be spent.

The task before us is to choose how we spend our time.

The challenge we face is to choose wisely.

Here are two simple practices I use when my calendar heats up and I want more hours in a day:

1.      Pause.

2.      Prioritize.

When we get going quickly, we erase the most important asset we have: time to think.

Needing more time is a symptom of the Disease of Unmade Choices.  I am not going to get three more hours in a day, and neither are you.  We have to choose what we do with the time we have.  And the best lives and leadership emerges when we choose wisely.

When you find yourself wishing there was more time in the day, here are five quick steps to choosing wisely:

1.      Stop.

2.      Write down what you need to get done.

3.      Prioritize your list by Role and Goal.

4.      Put your top priorities into your schedule for the day/week.

5.      Acknowledge what cannot get done and take it off your list, either for now or forever.

Choosing how to spend our time is a powerful tool.  By choosing, we learn what we are and are not going to do, which enables us to the move forward, more quickly and accurately, to accomplish what is most important.  This is how we end up living a life in which our time was well spent.