I'm an eternal optimist in every possible sense, which unfortunately extends into my time management habits. I always think things are going to take less time than they do, and I always think things are going to go smoother than they do. In the end, everything always works out, but lately I have felt as though I'm being shot out of a cannon each day, flailing my arms and trying to tag my targets as I whiz by them, only to crash and burn at midnight when I'm out of gas and wondering when am I ever going to be caught up?
For me, part of the problem is that I am actually very fast and incredibly efficient. However, I still overestimate just how fast I am. I plan my days down to the second, leaving no room for the unexpected. You probably won't be surprised to know that the unexpected occurs nearly daily. You probably won't be, and yet I still am, every day, confounded that I somehow ran out of time again.
If you are the manager of your time, and you find yourself running out, perhaps it's time to put yourself on a performance improvement plan! That's exactly what I've done for myself. After having a week of work and a schedule so busy, I was only averaging four hours of sleep a night, while being under the weather, I knew I had to make a drastic change. On that same day, one of my friends had posted to Facebook the achingly accurate Joyce Sunada quote, "if you don't make time for your wellness you will be forced to make time for your illness." I had read that before, but this time it really landed.
I knew I was my own problem. No one was asking me to run myself into the ground for my work. No one was expecting me to give up sleep and meals and health just to finish my next project. Sure, I'm in the home stretch of completing the first draft of my book, while launching a few new exciting business ventures, so it's a very demanding time, but the only deadlines I'm facing now are self-imposed, so why hadn't I just asked myself for an extension? ;)
I decided to give myself a challenge: I am not allowed to rush for an entire week. I have to plan far more time for my endeavors than I normally do, as well as budget for the unexpected. I also need to plan to take the normal amount of time needed, and not the rushed amount of time I can work within. Rushing has become my default, and I need to break that terrible habit. While I do not have chronic health issues, I have ongoing acute issues that keep arising because I so often sacrifice my health and wellness for my work. These acute health issues exacerbate the issue, because when I'm sick, I'm forced to work slower or even take time off if I'm very sick, which causes me to fall behind and run myself right back into the ground as soon as I'm well enough to.
That sounds like a pretty unhealthy cycle. As someone who values wellness and balance, this area of my life has been the last frontier of my work, and I couldn't ignore it any longer. On Friday night, prior to leaving for a business trip the next morning, I packed my bag ahead of time. Normally, I would leave such a trivial item for the morning, rushing around and over-packing while also forgetting things I may need. I set my alarm clock for earlier than I normally would so that I would have plenty of time to get ready in the morning, also not rushing. I also planned to leave for the airport earlier than I normally do, building in time for the unexpected. What a novel idea.
One of my problems has been that life has typically rewarded my bad behaviors in these areas. No matter how close I cut things, everything always works out. However, it has always worked out at my own expense and detriment, and for what purpose? That remains unclear.
I'm now on day three of my "no rushing" experiment, and I have to tell you, life is pretty sweet at this pace. I feel calm and in control. I have said no to requests that didn't fit within my schedule, and the sky remained in place. I withstood the urge to try to see a ton of people during my brief window of time on my trip, leaving room for work I had to do as well as rest. No one cared. No hearts were broken. No tears were shed. I was just simply able to live and breathe.
I took time at the beginning of the week to plan out my schedule for the week, and actually look ahead to see what was on the agenda each day this coming week. I normally have no idea what I'm doing or where I'm supposed to go until my calendar tells me...which makes it impossible to plan ahead or even strategize around my time. I have also enlisted some of my team members to hold me accountable to this plan, as well as committing to run any new endeavors I take on by them first, before agreeing to them. I have already stopped immediately responding with a "yes" to everything I'm asked.
I should clarify that I don't say yes to everything because I'm unable to say no. I say no very easily when I want to, which was another life project I worked on in years past, as that wasn't always the case. However, I just have so many interests and generally like doing nearly everything, my inclination is to say yes to every opportunity or invite that comes my way, because I truly want to do it...at least in theory. Now, I'm putting a hold on my yeses. I realize they get me in the most trouble of all.
We cannot manage ourselves if we cannot manage our time. For so many of us, our time management issues, and our stress from the business of life is entirely self-curated. Unfortunately, we have no one else to blame but ourselves, but the upside is that we can fully fix the issue on our own if we are brave enough to call our own actions into question and start reinforcing positive behaviors that will lead to a life of peace, productivity, balance, and wellness. That is the life I want to live, so now I'm inviting all of you to hold me accountable as well.
I will post an update on my progress at the end of week one, but I have to say, I am absolutely loving this change in my life, and I can't wait to continue doing it always. Changing bad behaviors for good is as simple as creating new habits, so I intend to practice this discipline until it becomes my new default.
Have any tips of time management or balance that have worked for you? I'd love to read about it in the comments!