How to Get a Handle on Your Busy Life

By 19 Aug ’13Blog

I’m continually amazed at how busy people are.

When I lived in Florida and lived much of my life interacting with hospital executives, sometimes it took two or three months just to get together with someone for a cup of coffee. At the time I didn’t understand the demands on the life of a high capacity leader. But after coaching executives for a few years now, I’ve seen an unhealthy pattern that needs to be spoken to – Overly busy scheduled lives.

Perhaps you aren’t an executive and you can relate to an all too packed schedule. Well, what’s about to follow are two simple disciplines that can make all the difference. Here they are:

  1. Plan each day with some margin so there is room for the unexpected.
  2. At the beginning of each day, ask yourself “what’s the one thing I should be working on today?” Then block off time to actually do it. If you are too busy, schedule it for later in the week.

I was reading a blog today that made me think of this issue of planning margin. Here’s what I mean.

In an 8-10 hour workday, how many time slots do you have? Some people think they have 8-10 time slots. Not really. You actually only have about three. You have a morning time slot, a lunch time slot and an afternoon time slot.

The stats show that setting 1-3 goals will result in accomplishing them all. Set 4-10 and you’ll accomplish one. Set 11 or more and you’ll accomplish none. How many goals are you setting for your day?

Every day I plan my day based on three time slots, each relating to a goal I want to accomplish. The first one contains the thing I’d like to accomplish in the morning. The second contains a person I’d like to interact with over lunch (this interaction may play toward one of my goals) and the third time slot contains what I’d like to accomplish in the afternoon. Here’s the catch: I plan margin.

That’s right, I plan time where nothing is scheduled. Why? Because things come up all the time that will derail my schedule. If I have not planned a place for those urgent things that pop up, my important goals will not get executed.  I rarely allow something to derail my already planned time frames. Why? Because I have 1-3 goals for the day, not four or more. Thinking back on it, maybe that’s why those executives had to plan to meet me so far in advance.

Ask yourself, “what is important that I must accomplish today?” Then plan your weekly time slots accordingly. Try it out.

The only downside to this is that you will have to say no to some things. But that’s OK, this will force you to prioritize and hand off the urgent stuff to someone else. Try it out. Have some fun. Enjoy the margin.