As life slowly returns to normal and summer feels like it’s officially here, it seems many of us are experiencing burnout after lockdown.
We crammed into excess dates and dating and struggle with feelings of over-engagement and the pressure to keep EVERYBODY happy. So how can we better manage our time and set boundaries that people actually respect?
“It is your responsibility to protect the white space on your calendar. Often times we feel like we are victims of our workload, but we have more control than we admit, ”says Jodie Rogers, human behavior consultant, founder of Symbia and author of The Hidden Edge: Why Mental Fitness is the the only advantage that matters in business.
Here, she shares her tips for protecting your most valuable asset – your time.
Block two hours each week with yourself in your calendar and use a unique project or event title. Use this time for deep reflection or focused work. You can even run recurring workshops and brainstorming sessions with yourself under that same unique project title.
If you title the meeting “Focus Time”, make sure it’s the first thing you delete or reschedule in your agenda.
Be a ruthless editor of meetings, errands and “quick coffee”, if you walk away from a situation or person and regret scheduling this meeting – take note. Learn your lesson and don’t say yes to meetings or relationships that wear you down. It’s important to think about the wrong dates so you don’t repeat mistakes.
Don’t feel bad when you take time for your mental fitness. In micro it might sound forgiving, but in macro you are doing the right thing. In fact, research shows that the brain’s creativity and problem-solving functions are most productive when we are inactive. Resting and recharging one’s batteries is indeed precious and efficient. He deserves your time.
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Saying “no” is often uncomfortable and frightening. Whether we’re afraid of being judged or not being seen as a team player, it’s easy to fall into the “yes” cycle.
Break the cycle by having better conversations from the start. Use probing questions to really understand what the person needs. “If I do this quick task for you, it will actually take me almost 3 hours – do you still need me to do it?”
The requester in this scenario may not understand that the task is indeed complicated, so you are in the process of qualifying and communicating. Well done. Find a solution that meets their needs without sacrificing your focus. Try phrases like “not yet”, “not me”, or “not this way”.
You don’t have to be everything to everyone. It’s perfectly okay to get help with meal preparation, house cleaning, and anything else that takes up your time.
Ignore the stigma and the little voice in your head that says only you can do it.
There are a million ways to skin a cat or, in this case, cook dinner. Get help with tasks that take time and could be better used. Authorization to hire a nanny, a chef, a personal assistant, a gardener … granted!
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Choose your words wisely
You teach people how to manage your time. Saying things like “I won’t be moving my training” or “Picking up my daughter is my priority today” sets the tone that these things are non-negotiable for you and demand respect.
This change in tone will also become a healthy habit that will remind you to speak with conviction and honesty when it comes to protecting your time.
Break old habits
You will be tempted to say “yes” several times. In the moment, you will feel that your time is the crucial link between success and failure or happiness and disappointment.
It’s the old you with bad habits and she has turned a new leaf. The new boundary-conscious you know that protecting your time means protecting your health and the health of those around you.
Follow the 15 minute rule
Allow 15 minutes between each call or engagement. This will give you time to breathe, stick an apple in your mouth, complete a task, or send a quick text. Back-to-backs do not allow for bathroom breaks, food, or transit time. You can’t live like this so don’t pretend you can when you plan your time.
You teach people how to deal and your time. Prioritize yourself, plan realistically, and speak with conviction about your schedule and availability.
Bonus tip: Make sure to quickly intercept any kid’s birthday party invitations that come home in the school backpack and throw them away immediately before your child sees them. After all, you are a master of the “no” and a warrior of the watch. Don’t take prisoners.