Look after your time and yourself

We live in a world with increased pressures on our lives. There are demands on our time at every turn. I have felt this for probably the last 10 years (hint: child one was born 10 years ago). It is easy to be overwhelmed by everything but over the 10 years I have learnt with help and guidance from others how to manage myself better so that I run my life and not have my life run me! As we return from a pandemic into a new way of working and living I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. 

A big demand on time is undoubtedly my job. I hold a senior position in a professional services firm, it’s rare that things aren’t going to be busy. A key way to keep on top of that is to be productive. Sounds like silly common sense but it is very easy to get caught up in meetings, notifications and thinking about what you have to get done. The best way I get to do this is simple: I have a handful of slots in the week where I don’t do meetings. Periods of time blocked out to allow me to focus on what I need to do – focused productive time. This is not coaching or talking to teams but more reviewing documents, strategising or simply spending time on my own development. A slot is usually Friday afternoon allowing me to end the week in a controlled way. So think about how you can create undisturbed productive time pockets. 

The management of the diary becomes a key tool. This is not just for work but also managing the day to day of our family life. I am very open in my diary – plenty of “football training” and “swimming” for the boys but also “walking” for me to make sure I step away from the screen. Breaking the day up into blocks allows me to focus my mind on the matter at hand. Notifications can be muted. If something is urgent people know how to reach me. Being disciplined in how my time is managed (while expressing an element of flexibility). What I expect from my team is to respect some of my choices while at the same time agreeing to their own flexible working. We all have expectations upon ourselves and therefore working collectively helps everyone out. 

Following on from the above there is also a thought around using time more productively and incorporating ways of working that helps. I have become a big walker in lockdown. A great way to clear my head. Get away from the screen. It is however never easy to factor this into the day so I have started doing walking meetings. Either IRL or over the phone. Two birds and one stone. Connecting with people is key in many jobs – it doesn’t mean IRL but many forms – grabbing a virtual or IRL tea/coffee whether to discuss work BUT more importantly share how each of you are. 

And lastly I’ve found silence can sometimes be just what was needed. My mind is full of ideas, issues, solutions and randomness. Not focusing on work or family just letting my mind wander. I do this on walks – just sitting on a wall and staring across the countryside or in the garden. This has been helped by using the Headspace App. Thankfully we got through work (though I did have it before). It’s a great way to learn how to focus the mind more. 

So concluding I would simply say reflect on how you spend your time. Think about what matters to you, your teams and your employers and you CAN make a difference to how your time is utilised.

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