After a couple of chaotic weeks, bouncing from one deliverable to the next – I sat back and thought to myself, “Where did all the white space go?”
Cry for Help and a Cliché
Are you one of those workaholic’s that is constantly fending off the constant borage of meetings, both meaningful and fruitless? How do you find time to get your actual job responsibilities accomplished? When do you take bio-breaks or even check emails?
It is a cliché these days, but we fundamentally lack essential white space on our calendars to get even the most basic of tasks completed—which inevitably takes more and more time away from non-work-related activities. As a seasoned workaholic, I sometimes drive home from work blurry-eyed only realize I hadn’t used the restroom all day or sometimes even have the urge to plop down on the elevator floor on my way out of the office—admittedly these are the days that should be labeled #cryforhelp
Taking Back the Space
I have read many articles, talked to trusted advisors and observed many experienced colleagues in action—and while company cultures vary and job responsibilities change, there are a few go-to tactics that I consistently utilize to take back my calendar.
Here are a few key tactics to try, so get your pen and paper out and be prepared to cut the proverbial cord with your Outlook, Google, or old school notebook calendar:
• No Meeting Meetings – I have mastered the art of scheduling what I refer to as “no meeting” meetings on my calendar each morning.
These scheduled blocks of time often look like standard 1- to 2-hour meetings to anyone investigating my availability in Outlook. However, these are blocks of time I set aside for specific tasks, from checking emails to completing my own deliverables.
• Don’t be a Pushover – being a “yes man” can make you feel like your organization’s knight in shining armor in the moment, but could ultimately suck you in like quick sand, quickly suffocating you and depriving you of free time. Again, another cliché, but you must learn to say “no”.
As a standard since my days in public accounting, I decline all meetings that do not contain a purpose or context into the “why” of the conversation. The intention is to compel colleagues to define the rationale behind the meeting, because all too often we are sucked into meetings that may be more an FYI, as opposed to actionable tasks—and in that case, it is best to utilize the power of an email.
• Breaks by Design—one of the greatest pieces of advice I received in the way of time management came during my time at Amazon. This concept of taking 1-hour meetings and condensing them into 45 minutes and 30-minute meetings into 25 minutes—why? The answer: out of consideration your colleague’s Maslow needs, because who needs bio, email and sanity breaks in between a day littered with meetings?
Allowing yourself and your colleagues that 5 to 15 minute span of time to regroup between meetings allows for better prepared team members further downstream in the day. Why not give it a try and lead by example? Sure you’ll get a few awkward stares or even some raised eyebrows, but sometimes being a little peculiar is a good thing…it may just be the type of constructive disruption your organization needs.
We all have different learning styles and personalities, so if these do not resonate with you, here are a few additional resources:
• Book—7 Habits of Highly Effective People – link to the book on Amazon (here)
• Article— 6 Things the most productive people do every day – Article Link Here
At the end of the day, figuratively and literally, we all have to acknowledge and be sensitive to the fact that the most limited commodity in a work day is time.