Running a launch session for a new management development programme last week, the question "How am I supposed to find time to fit this in on top of everything else?" was raised. It's not unusual. We are all busy, so being expected to complete pre and post-course work AS WELL AS attend workshops can feel overwhelming.
It isn't easy. I'm not going to pretend otherwise. But it is possible.
Making time to do those 'important but not necessarily urgent' things such as personal development, business planning, team building etc. requires you to do three things:
- Plan. You need to set aside time in your day/week/month. Choose a time when you are least likely to get dragged into other things (so Monday morning isn't likely to be good for most people), and when there are plenty of other people around to deal with unexpected emergencies. Give people notice that you aren't going to be available. Be realistic about how much time you can set aside in one go, as that makes number 2 easier.
- Protect. Protect that time in your diary as if it were a hospital appointment, or a date with Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie. You wouldn't give THAT up on a whim would you? If possible, work somewhere else... at home, in a meeting room - anywhere where you won't be constantly interupted by people, your phone or your email. Switch your devices OFF.
- Prioritise (and Persevere!) If you get put under pressure to discard your plans and deal with (yet another) emergency, resist the urge to save the day, and take a step back. Pause. Think. Is this the very best use of your time? Is there another way that this emergency can be dealt with? Does it have to be you? Does it have to be now? If you give up your precious (supposedly protected) time, when will you get it back?
For most us, no-one is going to die or come to serious harm if we don't immediately stop what we're doing and respond to someone elses emergency. Of course, if this IS the case, then drop what you're doing and go!
Unexpected events happen all the time. How many truly need immediate attention? Can you acknowledge the issue or put in a temporaly solution quickly? Are you solving someone elses problem? Should it even be you who is dealing with it?
What's the worst that will happen if you DON'T attend to it immediately?
When we constantly fire-fight we can feel important, but it's exhausting and things never improve. Only by making time to deal with the important stuff can we ever make things better for ourselves, our colleagues, our organisations and our customers.
If you want to take back control of your time, why not download our self-study workbook?