If you are like the vast majority of people we meet in our workshops, then you are struggling with too many meetings, too many messages, too many requests, and too many demands on your time.
If you are like the vast majority of people we meet in our workshops, then the boundaries between your home life and your work life have disappeared.
And if you are like the vast majority of people we meet in our workshops, you are highly frustrated by this, and struggling with ways to deal with it.
Here are a few calendar management techniques that you can deploy on your own that will help you hold back the tide a little bit:
- Look out on your calendar several weeks at a time, and look for time windows that you can block off with a “do not disturb” appointment. Block off time for you to do your work, not be in a meeting, or (god forbid) catch your breath. If people that have access to your calendar see open windows of time, they will likely fill those windows up. Instead, how about you fill them up instead?
- After a certain time each day, when you want your day to end, place a “not available” appointment on your calendar. Make it obvious to everyone who has access to your calendar, that you are no longer available after that time.
- Or perhaps use your “out of office” notification more aggressively. When you want to be away from email, but also want to manage expectations, don’t be afraid to turn your OOO on at certain points during the day.
In other words, we have to be protective of our time. If people see open spots on your calendar, they will assume you are available. Unless you tell them you aren’t. People around you have to know when you are working, or not, and available, or not. Be protective of yourself.
But in many ways, these are merely band aids. You may have noticed that in the fourth paragraph above, I described the above techniques as ways to “hold back the tide.” Unfortunately, no one or nothing can hold back the tide forever. The tide always wins. So, we need deeper solutions that may change the tide itself. And those changes are cultural, within your organization.
Having a culture that respects time, and respects home lives starts at the top of the company, or the business unit, or the project team. Culture choices typically flow downward. And a culture that respects time usually includes a realization of the toxic impact that a lack of time has on a team. The feelings of frustration from a lack of time are real, and cumulative.
So, here are a few cultural choices that will have a huge impact on the culture of time management inside your organization. And if you are the leader of the organization, I am speaking directly to you… use your influence:
- Start with a publicly stated recognition of the problem. Call out the fact that you recognize that your team is stressed, and over-scheduled. Acknowledge it. It will help everyone breathe easier when they realize that you see the problem.
- Declare a respect for boundaries between work and home. Let people know that you see the need for boundaries, and give people room to place some boundaries. If they don’t think it is OK to set a boundary, there is massive disincentive to be the one who tries to establish one.
- Create a normative behavior where people virtually “check in” and “check out” with each other at the beginning and end of the day.
- Good morning everyone! Happy Tuesday! I have started my day, and look forward to connecting with you later.
- Hello all… I am wrapping up my day in a few minutes. Let me know if you need anything else.
- Create normative behaviors on how meetings get scheduled… do they always have to be scheduled for 30 or 60 minutes? How about 20 and 45? How about we start allowing people to have a moment to breathe or refill their coffee between meetings? If we don’t do this, then every meeting after the first one of the day will either start late, or have people joining late. And no one will ever have a moment to think and breathe.
- Create normative behaviors that everyone is expected to end the meetings they lead on time, or (crazy talk) five minutes early. Create an expectation that meetings have to be organized, with purpose, agendas, expected outcomes… and hold people accountable for the meetings they call.
You get the idea. The point here is that there are tons of band aid ideas that the individual can deploy to protect themselves. But the deeper solutions are at the organizational and cultural level. And if you are the leader, those deeper solutions start with you.
Your people need help. Trust me. They are telling me and my team exactly that in every workshop we teach. Every… single… one.
We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.
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