I love my iCal on my computer & phone. I love using it to buffer my time to juggle all the tasks I am responsible for in a week. I love labeling myself "unavailable" to be sure I have time to retreat behind a closed door to work on key jobs that need my full attention.
I do not love the people, phone calls or incidents that try to sabotage my time. It is comical to me the amount of people that stop you while you are walking back from the bathroom, try to interrupt you while you're talking on your phone or while walking out of a coffee shop. Some people must just assume you have all the time in the world to talk with you in that moment that is most convenient for them. I swear sometimes I think I am wearing an invisible sign that reads;
"I have nothing to do, nor any responsibilities so feel free to talk to me at this very moment".
So how do we buffer our time to get stuff done? To some degree as a husband, father, friend & employee I am always "on call" and yet there are always key tasks that need attention. Here are six rules I try to follow.
1--Tell people NO. Best advice I was ever given about how to buffer your time as a leader was tell people NO when they ask "do you have a second", "can we talk right now", "do you mind taking this phone call", "can you help me with this?" and many other requests. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO KNOWS YOUR CALENDAR. Guard it, protect it & maximize the time you have when you have it. If you are a people pleasure this can be a hard habit to develop & stick to, but it'll be worth it.
2--Know who can trump the NO. My wife, kids & a few select individuals are the only ones who can trump my NO response. Now very, very rarely will they even have to use their trump card because most tasks that could involve them I schedule when they are around so the life calendars can match up.
3--Buffer space for error/side conversations. If you never leave room in your day to stagger tasks, appointments, kid drop offs, sports practices, etc., you will always be running behind & rushing around stressed out. Yes there are some times you can't help it but have a full day of tasks but when you can buffer. Also leave a little room for the side conversations with people, they'll appreciate it and it helps with staff camaraderie or being a part of a community.
4--Take personal time to recharge. Go to bed earlier, go for a run, read a book, sleep in or lay in a hammock. If you don't recharge, no matter how well you manage your calendar, you'll burn out and you won't be fully present for any task you have.
5--Plan well. If I need a lot of focus to balance the check book then I won't schedule time to do that when my kids are bouncing off the walls around the house. If I need time to prep a message then scheduling that during the busiest day around the office may not work the best. Be smart about when & where you plan to handle certain tasks.
6--Be productive when you go work. Avoid email, Facebook, Twitter, distracting thoughts and anything else that could derail you from what you are supposed to be doing. What I have found that if I lump tasks or responsibilities that are similar in nature I tend to be more productive. For example I schedule as much administrative stuff to do in the same day while leaving a day for brainstorming & personal reading. Trying to do a little bit of everything every day leaves me very drained. Everyone has their own rhythm they work well with, just find yours and stick with it until you need to make a change.
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