Time is the rare gift that keeps on giving. We become wiser, more productive, and can positively impact others with time. On the other hand, mistreated time can quickly become our enemy. It seems to speed up and run through our fingers like quick sand keeping us stuck going nowhere fast.
Ok. That's a dramatic interpretation but this was how I felt when I first started working in D.C. I tried to do it all and be it all. I jumped at every opportunity, responded to every. single. email, entertained all the drive-by morning chatters, and still expected to do my job of creating high-quality global programs. Before I knew it, I crashed at the end of a work day having no clue what I had accomplished. I was busy going nowhere fast.
I eventually got out of the spinning wheel by adopting a healthier relationship with time that balanced my need to create, manage, relax and help others. Here’s how:
Prioritize Your Creative Bucket
Leaders are creators. Whether that is creating something new, paving a new way for employees (or your family), or creating work that inspires others, in the end, all leaders create. Those that utilize this bucket understand the time invested here gets them 80% closer to their long-term goal. Unfortunately, our culture emphasizes managing that many leaders fall prey to that bucket (detailed below) and underutilize this important one. My goal was to start a business. But, I also wanted to be consistent in the gym, maintain my spiritual health, maintain my home, be a present wife, sister, friend, and bring my A-game to my demanding career. How did I balance this? I started by identifying my end goal of starting a business then I worked backwards to identify the time I needed to invest in it weekly and daily to meet my goal. This led me to dedicate 50 mins during the work week and 4 hours on the weekend to getting there. That invested time created Mel Sharell Paper & Company, and The Pinnacle Planner. If you have a vision for where you see yourself at the end of the year, or even in 5 years, this bucket will get your closer to it.
Tip: Revisit your Goal-Setting pages and Yearly Game Plan in The Pinnacle Planner to make any adjustments. Be sure to include realistic deadlines for what you want to complete.
Prepare for Your Manager Time
Standard business culture runs on manager time. This means running to meetings, shuttling kids to soccer practice, responding to emergencies and everything else that keeps things afloat. This bucket keeps things running but it does little to propel anything forward. It is the proverbial rat race. If you feel like a chicken with your head cut off somedays, start by giving required tasks no more than 30 minutes to one hour of your time. This requires discipline and courage at first but people will learn to respect your boundaries soon enough. Next, take inventory of your tasks to see what can be automated or delegated to someone else. I knew I couldn't effectively create if my head was always down "in the weeds." To manage the distractions of notifications, I created email rules and sent auto-responders, I entrusted a trusted and capable person to complete a certain task. More importantly, I relinquished a bit of control. This bucket can take over our lives if we’re not careful. The goal is to minimize the man hours spent in this bucket through automation or outsourcing in order to give more time to creative thinking or mental rest.
Tip: The Pinnacle Planner was created to empower leaders which is why the weekly spread has an open format without the hourly increments. However, it can still be used to ensure you make your meetings by simply writing in the task and the time it needs to be completed. This approach keeps you in charge of your schedule without you being at the mercy of your planner. 😆
Protect Your Buffer Time
No one person can be everything to everyone all the time. There were moments when I could not hear my own thoughts from the whirlwind of manager time. One night I cried to my husband about being so overwhelmed. He lovingly responded, “you’re not resting. You’re jumping from one thing to the next.” After giving him a side-eye, I realized that he was right. Those non-urgent emails, instant messages, or texts from colleagues, friends, and family? I responded. That drive-by office chatter that wanted to have a conversation at 7:45am while I was unpacking? I engaged. All of those moments eventually sucked my time and energy. I learned that if I did not respect my time then no one else would. I bravely established firm boundaries around the time I needed to mentally prepare for the day as well as the time I needed in-between tasks to be at my best. That drive-by morning chatter was met with a polite response to come back in a few minutes. My instant messenger notification was put on Busy to signal that I was working. If could help it, I spaced out meeting times to give me time to transition. I also supported my need to decompress from work before transitioning into my household duties by putting my phone on Do Not Disturb during certain hours, muting social notifications, and eliminating certain apps from my phone. The purpose of this bucket is to protect your energy from life’s demands. If you find yourself feeling mentally exhausted, take personal inventory of what drains you most. Eliminate them, if possible, or create time for you to mentally prepare to take them on. This buffer time can range from 5 to 15 mins. It all depends on your personal needs and lifestyle. Everyone will be all the better for it.
Tip: Start with the open space in the Pinnacle Planner weekly spread to decide how much of your time you can give to each bucket. Highlight that block and simply write "Creator Time," "Manager Time," or "Buffer Time." You’ll be amazed at the things you achieve and the time you get back to do what matters to you most.
Time management is life management. Highly-productive people get the most out of their hours than most by prioritizing creative time to get them 80% closer to their dream goal. This ensures full presence to help others while keeping things running during Manager time. But all of this is protected with Buffer time to mentally recalibrate in order to bring the best to the table. You can achieve this same balance by paying attention to your triggers and finding your sweet spot with these three buckets.