2020 is headed right for us. There’s no time like the present to plan for the future. But time’s a funny thing, isn’t it – it’s the one thing you can’t buy and usually the one thing you need more of.
As leaders, people are constantly requesting our time and attention. It doesn’t matter the size of the company or whether it is for profit or not. Whether you are the CEO of a business or the CEO of your family, your team members, spouse, kids and community want, need — and deserve — your time. The question is, how can you find time for everything?
In most cases, you can’t! There are very few givens in life, but one thing is certain – there are just 24 hours in a day. As personal and professional demands increase, the only thing we can control is our ability to make the most of our time, doing what makes us happy.
Over my career, I have identified a couple of tricks to getting the most out of these 24 hours and therefore your life.
1. Have a plan
Clayton Christensen wrote a great book called How Will You Measure Your Life? It suggests that you should think about how you define success. While this will be different for all of us, you should have an opinion of what you think success looks like for you. Think broadly: consider family, community and work. Deliberately set goals. This can create a focal point to your daily activities and decision-making. Just like a business strategy, your personal strategy can change over time, but let’s at least point ourselves in a direction to get started.
2. Create habits
Given the technology we have at our disposal, we can literally be on call 24 hours a day. Another way to put that: You can be disrupted 24 hours a day. In order to manage the disruption, put some structure to your day. Very important note: Put structure to the day, not your technology. Technology should just facilitate the structure you put in place.
Make decisions and create habits. When do you plan to look at email? When do you plan to take and return calls? How many meetings will you schedule and attend? What days will you coach your kid’s team or practice in the yard? When will you take your child to school, cook them breakfast, talk to your significant other, or volunteer in the community?
Don’t say you don’t have time — make time! Whenever I find myself saying “not today,” I think of the 1974 song “Cats in the Cradle.” Pull it up on YouTube or look at the lyrics online — that should be enough to motivate you to create habits that support your goals. Habits are like the allocation of resources in a budget; they should be aligned to support your strategy or plan.
3. Learn to say no
It’s ok. That person you just said no to will eventually get over it. Honestly, we are not as important as we think! Saying no is about two things: sustainability and managing expectations.
If you do not find a way to say no, you will eventually burn out. Pleasing everyone is just not possible or sustainable. Trust me, deep down inside, I am a pleaser. I fight it every day! It is hard to know when to say no if you do not have a plan. The plan should drive decisions on what you spend time on versus the tradeoffs you make. It should give the pleaser in us some comfort in knowing that to be successful with our goals, some “nos” are necessary and, quite frankly, part of the plan.
“No” is really not a bad word, as long as you deliver it correctly and without tone. It is all about managing expectations. Sometimes “no” really means “not now” as opposed to “never.” For example:
- “Can we have a catch before work?” - “No, but we can go to practice early on Saturday and warm-up together.”
- “Boss, can I grab a minute?” - “Is it urgent? No? Ok, then not now, I am preparing for this client meeting. I will schedule some time with you before Friday.”
Learning to say no has been one of the most difficult things for me in my career. But once I started a family, I quickly realized that if I cannot say no to things, it is really hard to commit to yes!
4. Make time to reflect
Life is hard, but it should also be fun. Success should bring a smile to your face. Sometimes life throws us setbacks, such as the loss of job, or loss of a loved one, but we need to find ways to put it all into perspective — a way to step back and see the forest through the trees. For me dedicating time once a week to reflect helps.
The secret to reflection is finding a spot away from the grind. Do not be anchored to your desk or your office. Go to a café, a park or any place that is not home or work. Use that time to think about your plan and look at your calendar. Are your days actually supporting your plan? Be honest. If your time doesn’t support your plan, adjust.
My reflection time is not fancy. I find a spot and make time to just think. For me, that spot is Starbucks. Whether at home or on the road, I can find a Starbucks.
Life awaits – and with your plan in place, you’ll have time to live it
I believe if you make the most of your time, you can make the most of your life. Have a plan and a purpose, so that the next time you hear “my boy had grown up just like me,” you’ll smile!
And in the spirit of this post, the Front and Centered team will be taking some time, as we celebrate another great year and spend the holidays with our loved ones. We will return with a new post on January 9. We want to thank all of our followers for the love and support you’ve shown this blog community. We are looking forward to a great 2020. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year!