Dave Barry, American writer/humorist, once said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’” If your calendar resembles mine, it is meeting heavy. And here I am suggesting, imploring, that you set up another meeting, this one with yourself!
Many years ago, I attended a seminar focused on improving the quality and quantity of my work. A key recommendation was to set aside time to spend with me…alone. I try to practice this, and it has been one of the most important decisions I have ever made. Meeting with myself provides a broader view of how to change how and what I do. It’s one way to recharge and to maintain (and manage) my sanity! I am not at my best in the midst of chaos. If that’s true for you, I think you’ll find that an appointment with yourself will pay huge dividends.
How often should this appointment be scheduled? The recommendation was to establish a once-a-week standing appointment…same day…same time…30-60 minutes. Start by eliminating distractions like phone calls and emails and focus on things that go beyond solving the immediate crises of the day.
Eliminating distractions isn’t enough to fix the problem. SmartBrief on Leadership conducts nonscientific polls reaching over 240,000 business leaders. In a recent poll more than 77% of respondents reported being overwhelmed “sometimes” or more frequently by the quantity of their work. Your brain must be retrained to concentrate more effectively to have greater power over distractions. To help take control of your distractions, adopt these strategies for your meeting with yourself:
- Identify your most productive time of the day, the time when you can be most effective. Place this time block on your calendar as “busy.”
- Close your door and let everyone know you are in a limited-attendance, highly-important not-to-be-disturbed meeting. (OK…maybe if there’s a real emergency…)
- Do not take calls or read or answer emails.
- Stick with your appointment until the end (don’t walk out on yourself).
How should you focus this “me” appointment?
- Align your time to your goals and the organization’s strategic plan. Identify priorities.
- Focus on results you want to see in your work. Gather data and examine where you’ve made progress, where you’ve made mistakes and what needs attention. Focus on frequent mistakes rather than on one-of-a-kind mistakes.
- Scrutinize how you spend your time, energy and key work resources. Eliminate the worst ways you use these resources and then determine how to best spend them. Small changes in how you use your time and energy will show huge results over time.
- Tackle your inbox. Your inbox consists of piles that have accumulated since your last appointment with yourself– the notes you have written to yourself, articles you have set aside for later reading, mail you have failed to get to, and other items that have not been discarded or filed. Put them in their proper places or figure out how to handle them.
- Plan for professional development…for yourself. As an educator, presenter, and consultant, I am constantly pursuing knowledge and experience. My go to sources are Leadership Greater Hartford programs and events, other in-person learning experiences, webinars, blogs, forums, and more. In the career counseling I do, I encourage others to spend time improving their own skill set.
- Look at your week ahead. Review and time activate your revised to-do list. Plan and strategize on how you will undertake these items as well as appointments and projects.
What results should you expect? Once the habit becomes entrenched, your dreaded to-do list should shrink. The growing pile of reading materials will dwindle. Strategic goals will be met sooner. Your quality of work will improve with more quality planning time. Others will see you more relaxed and more deliberate in your actions.
Sports broadcaster Steve Mariucci once said, “I never wear a watch, because I always know it’s now — and now is when you should do it.” Schedule some “me” time now and you and those around you will be glad you did.
Marty Rotblatt is a nonprofit consultant with Nonprofits Work, a presenter for Leadership Greater Hartford and graduate of its Executive Orientation Program.