One of the most frequent frustrations I hear is, “there is just not enough time in a day to get all this done.” I have been guilty of saying this myself. By studying how busy high-achievers get so much done, I discovered this principle: Take control of your own calendar. Your calendar represents how you choose to divide up the segments of your day. You can neither create more time to add to it nor can you subtract time to deduct. You must master your calendar. Here are some disciplines to put into practice.
Start With Your Personal Time
This is important. Schedule personal and family time as you would your professional appointments and schedule it first. Remember, if you don’t take control of your time, someone else will. Make sure you include time for rest, spouse, kids, and yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be much good for others in your life. And we all know how easy it is to claim that family comes first. But if that’s true to you, schedule family time in your planner as you would professional and work time.
The most important discipline to practice for gaining control over your calendar is your Weekly Preview. In your weekly preview, you will look back to the previous week to review things that worked well and things that didn’t. You will also see your victories and learn to celebrate them. You will examine items you didn’t finish and evaluate their places in the upcoming week.
Schedule your Weekly Preview. Make an appointment with yourself every week and allocate about thirty minutes to complete your preview. If you are just starting this discipline, you might take up to an hour the first two or three weeks. As you learn the discipline, you will be able to trim the time to twenty or thirty minutes. Stop now and make your appointment with yourself for your weekly preview. Make it a recurring appointment. I do mine on Sundays as I plan my coming week. Others complete their weekly previews on Fridays, the last thing before ending the week. You will need to find the best time to preview your upcoming week.
Consult Your Ideal Week
If you have not set up your Ideal Week, don’t worry about this step right now. You can come back to this one later. But if you have your ideal week, refer to it as you begin looking forward. Go ahead and write these important times in your planner. Schedule them now before the time gets away.
Then, take a look at your monthly calendar page and your digital calendar, if you use one, to transfer previously made appointments to your daily pages in the upcoming week. Make sure to create boundaries between appointments. By this I mean to leave time between appointments to give yourself time to review and preview, to clear your mind, and to focus your attention where it needs to be. Back-to-back appointments can be very frustrating.
Learn To Say No
I have a lot of responsibility in a number of areas at my work. People I work with have often commented about how much I seem to achieve and how much I can get done. In fact, I have the same amount of time each day that they have. The difference between getting things done and getting the right things done is creating organizational boundaries. My daily pages and calendar are my perfect response for creating boundaries and they give me the freedom to say, “no” when interruptions come.
By having all my appointments and work blocked off in my calendar, I have gained the freedom to show my planner to the interrupter. I can say without hesitation or guilt, “I would like to address your issue, but, as you see, I cannot right now. When can we schedule an appointment to take care of this matter?”
One last discipline I recommend is surrounding yourself with other organized people. Find one or more people who are highly organized and build an accountability relationship with them. This could be in your workroom, coffee shop, or virtually. By surrounding yourself with organized people, you learn by observing and asking questions about difficult situations.
When you do your weekly preview and calendar, why not do it along with someone else? Schedule your weekly preview with someone in your workgroup or someone who values organization as much as you do. Just the presence of someone else doing similar things will improve your commitment to your calendar.
What other disciplines are important to you in getting the right things done and establishing boundaries at work? I would love to read your responses.