How many people in your organisation don’t take regular lunch breaks, come in early, stay late, and take work home (often bringing it back the next day unlooked at but weighing heavy on their mind)? How many never get a clear gap of time-out, leave cellphones and PDAs on 24/7, and answer and emails non-stop even when on leave? In a phrase, how many of your colleagues many never switch off? And what is the impact on your organisation?
As I sat in one of the final workshops of the 2008 NZATD conference listening to John Hornblow from Nexus, my heart sang. He represents the tip of an increasingly large iceberg – people in the corporate world talking honestly about burnout and overload and how to fix it. ‘Stopping: facing the mountain of too much’ was the title of his session – based on his own experiences of stress and overwork. Good on you, John. The folk in your audience were clearly were as concerned as you.
I’ve been beating this drum for some years – it’s great to have company! On one point only, and it’s really just semantics, I disagree slightly with one of John’s comments. I think I heard him say: ‘It’s not about time management.’
I believe it’s everything to do with time management, but not the old style of time management. It’s not just about how to use a diary and prioritise: a focus on that alone typically has most people just trying to squeeze in more and more. However, if we usemodern time management principles we’re well on the way to fixing the problem.
To ‘manage’ our time well we need some degree of mastery in four areas. As I speak to audiences around the world I invite them (and especially my senior management and L & D audiences) to think of this outline as a diagnostic tool for future learning opportunities. Wherever you see a gap is where your attention and training budget needs to go.
Our Actions: Set Goals; Understand the long game; Say ‘no’ to distractions
Outcome: Make the right choices
|Plan & Prioritise
Our Actions: Be Proactive; Focus on important as well as urgent
|Tips & Techniques
Our Actions: Constant improvements in every task
Our Actions: Take micro as well as macro breaks; Self-nurture
Get your life back
© Robyn Pearce 2001 (2008)
[If you’d like an expansion of this diagram, please help yourself to my free ebook ‘How to Master Time in Only 90 seconds’]
Consider someone who’s good at only one or two of these areas. You wouldn’t want to leave them in charge of high level company affairs, would you? And suppose they’re good at the first three elements but still don’t have their ‘Sanity Gaps’ managed? I suggest that they’re still a danger to the organisation. Potential consequences? Burnout, stress and all the attendant issues we know only too well.
So – what can we do about it?
- I’m sure John would be only too happy to share his notes with you – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Help yourself to my short list of ’23 Strategies to Keep You Sane, Happy and Healthy’
- Listen to the expansion of the list of 23 strategies in a recent tele-seminar on Work/Life Balance I ran with my friend LaVonn Steiner, US leadership specialist who joined me from her home in Bismarck, North Dakota.
How many hats are you wearing?
Here’s the first strategy to get you started. Take a minute and write down all the roles you juggle. As well as employee or employer they might include parent, adult child of aging parents, grandparent, sibling, friend, taxi service to various child-based activities, contributor to voluntary organisations, church or community group member, sports activities, ….. How many categories do you have? And – have you put ‘self’ in there?
John mentioned energy, and I endorse that point. Around the world I’m now hearing the phrase ‘energy management’ as opposed to ‘time management’. Consider those multi-layered hats you wear – can you grade each on an energy ratio? When do you experience your highest energy? What lights you up? And what drains you? Most of our close relationships are non-negotiable (sorry, you can’t return that messy 12 year old!), but what about some of the more peripheral ones? Do you find yourself reluctantly putting in ‘time at mill’ on some of those committees or activities? Are you feeling stretched like a sick rubber band as you try to fit in yet one more obligation?
Here’s the key – minimise, simplify, cut back – until you feel in control. There are no prizes for being a martyr. If we try to do everything we’ll end up doing nothing properly. We’ll also burn out, be snappy, poor company, tired parents and lovers, and less-than-effective workers.
Instead, as my good friend and associate Lothar Seiwert, German time management specialist and author of ‘Slow Down to Speed Up’ says, ‘The time management technique of the future consists of self-management skills that give you the ability to actively shape your own life… It requires finding your own speed and rhythm. It means learning to experience time consciously and savor it. It means slowing down when doing everyday activities. Those who reduce their pace don’t work slower, they work more effectively and efficiently. In addition, they enjoy life more and have more satisfaction in what they do.’
[If you’d like to get a copy of Lothar’s book, email me at email@example.com. It’s not readily available outside of Germany but I can get copies.]
My recommended ‘next step’
On a weekly basis, make appointments with yourself and your loved ones for ‘me’ time – not in the spare bits of left-over time, but first – before you schedule in work matters. You’ll invoke a natural law: get your priorities right and everything flows with ease and grace. Distort them and everything you love and value eventually will suffer.
I wish you every success in ‘getting a grip on your life’.