1. Your purpose and life goals come first.
Not to be morbid but let's go back to your deathbed. As you look back at your life; what relationships, accomplishments, and activities are most important to you? Those are your life goals. When I start working with a new client I ask them to reflect on their lives and assess where they are. I invite you to use this wheel to look at your own life and identify what's important to you.
2. Decide who you want to be, how you want to feel and how you want to treat people
After purpose and priorities, what’s most important is who you want to be while living your life. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What adjectives do you want people to use when they describe you? How do you want to feel every day? What are the top feelings that inspire, motivate and make you happy?
Before your day begins or your next task decide how you want to feel. Set the intent to feel that way, see yourself feeling that way and what you would do to make that happen. Maybe you want to have fun, curiosity, or courage. It’s up to you. Before you keep reading this article, how do you want to feel? Close your eyes and feel that feeling. Continue on.
3. Challenge your beliefs about time
The RAS is the reason you think of buying a new car and then start seeing that same car everywhere. It’s the reason someone tells you not to think about elephants and you start thinking about elephants. The RAS takes your beliefs about time and will either find all the time in the world or all the reasons you don’t have time. Why not put your RAS to work for you?
Besides our personal beliefs about time, we are strongly influenced by cultural beliefs. Here are some common examples: Work is from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Family time happens at the dining room table. A good mom attends every recital, soccer practice and school event. Date night with my partner is on Friday or Saturday night. Do any of these sound familiar? What would you add to the list? These can be helpful beliefs; however, they can limit how we think we can use our time.
For example, let's look at the belief, "I should be home in time to put my kids to bed at night.” I think it’s a loving sentiment to be at home to put your kids to bed every night, but what if this goal is adding stress to your life. With any belief, I’d test to see if it’s true. In the case of being at home every night, be curious if that’s the time your kids enjoy spending with you. What if having quality time at breakfast each morning was more important to your kids? What if you changed your work schedule and worked late 2 to 3 nights a week and then had more time for your kid's events the other nights of the week? By having a growth mindset and a creative view of time you may come up with unique solutions that work better for your family and you. Perhaps set a date with your family and explore everyone’s beliefs about time. Together you may come up with different possibilities and ways to spend your time together.
4. Manage the task
- Define each task with a clear bite-sized action step. i.e. Instead of "Start the project”, the task becomes “For 10 minutes brainstorm the initial milestones for the project"
- Provide as much context as you can. ie. Instead of “Schedule the Doctor’s appointment”, the task becomes “Call 415-678-9678 to schedule a Doctor’s appointment.” The goal is to eliminate searching for information and make it easy to start a task. Often it can take time to gather the information you need to start a task. Find ways in your task definition and systems to keep that information together to make it lessen the startup time of actually getting your work done.
- Define done. It’s best when it’s clear what done is for a task. For every task be specific about what qualifies it as being done. For our example start the project, there is no clarity of what done and good enough is. In your eagerness to start the project you could start working on a project plan, create a project charter, create the project team, schedule the kickoff meeting and oh schedule the caterer for the meeting, and ask your executive assistants help with the meeting, and what was I supposed to be doing? You get the point. Remove the guilt of never getting enough done, by knowing what’s enough.
- Be realistic about how much time it will take to complete a task. We tend to think something will take less time than it does. For routine tasks try tracking time to know how much time something really takes.
5. Manage your energy
For the majority of us, our energy is at its peak in the morning and we will want to focus on big decisions and strategic thinking. When the afternoon comes and our energy fades it’s easier to do things that require less focus like checking email, running errands, and other routine tasks. This can also be a great time for a creative process like writing, brainstorming and drawing. If you want to learn more about timing I recommend the book the Power of When by Michael Breus.
For women, another way we can take advantage of our energy is to map our menstrual cycle. With the change in hormones we experience each day, we have different strengths and weaknesses from week to week. Knowing these changes allows us to schedule our tasks based on the energy we have. If you want to learn more about how our cycle impacts our energy and creative superpowers each week I recommend the book 4 Seasons in 4 Weeks by Suzanne Mathis McQueen.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll share my favorite habits and tactics to manage your time to get the right things done at the right time, like learning how to say no to others and yes to yourself.
About the Author
Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.