Episode 64 – Time Frameworks

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Let’s talk time.

You are in charge of it. You have the same amount as I do. Yet, we get different results in our lives based upon what we think about time and ultimately what we do with it.

I’ve been a planner for a significant amount of my personal and work life. I keep my PMP certification up to date (so I don’t have to re-take that test!), and I feel pretty good about my approach to managing it.

Still, every month there is a new challenge. And, every month or two I get introduced to new thoughts about how to handle this precious commodity that slips away quickly.

This episode provides a framework for managing it. Or rather, managing our brain so that we can take charge of our time.

Episode 64 Show Notes

Episode 64 Transcript

This is Rebecca Clark Episode 64 Time Frameworks.

This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found offered up their best work that are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to do your desk?

Thou love life, then do not squander time for That’s the stuff life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin

A few years ago I heard a story that I cannot find on the Internet because I don’t know the name of the wealthy gentleman that it is about. But the story goes that a person saw the success of this gentleman and asked him what were the keys to his success? And the wealthy gentleman said, I’ll tell you if you pay me $10,000 so the man came up with $10,000 so he had to have some level of success himself, and he was very disappointed when the wealthy gentleman handed him an envelope and he opened it up and it had two items listed on a piece of paper. An item one said, decide what you’re going to do each day, and the item number two said something to the effect of do it, so it is very simple and straightforward. The man was disappointed, and yet at the same time, the lesson from the story is very clear that if we want the success that the successful person had, we need to follow our plan. And then to follow a plan, you have to create a plan. I love that story, and I wish I had it forefront of my mind more often in my life, right? But from a very young age, I was always aware of time I’ve planned since I was a little girl. Over 10 years of my career, I was a project manager, knee deep and hundreds of projects that required schedules and teams and coordinating and making trade offs and all the things that are part of project management. In fact, I do have a project management, professional certification, but I joke with people that that doesn’t mean as much, even though I pay my dues and fees so I don’t have to take that test again. But your project manager, you live your life. By the calendar, I lived and breathed that every day of every week. In fact, because of the constraints of my work calendar online. I use that as my combined work and personal calendar, and I just put all my personal stuff on private settings in my work calendar because I knew the importance of having it all together in one spot. When you live by your calendar, you execute what is on the calendar. Well, then, this past year, as many of you know, I quit my job and I took those same planning skills into my life. But then it felt like I was having all kinds of upheaval to my schedule. And then I got sick, and then I completely didn’t follow any schedule. And then my child was then at home full time instead of being at school, and very quickly I was getting overwhelmed and not feeling well. And this is around the time that I realized I needed to get coached. Since I was a coach hate. I need to get coats and realize that I was not applying the planning principles that I had applied for most of my life. And so I learned a little bit more about planning, and what’s interesting is there’s always more to learn. There’s always ways to improve. It’s wonderful that we can get back on track, so to speak, if we feel like we aren’t in charge of our schedule in our life. And so the good news is, is the last three months or so I’ve consistently completed about 80 to 85% of what I’ve planned for the week. I follow the plan, and that’s really big, because I am at home, taking care of a child and realizing that this will be my life for a while and a world that is very disrupted. And so I’ve had to flex with some of my planning and scheduling, but it’s working. And so I wanted to share today a time framework that I use and that could be used whether or not you are a stay at home mom or apparent that is home schooling and creating a business or someone who’s in the office all day long or in a virtual office, as it could be right now, because there’s general approaches and principles that apply to everyone, and even if you don’t use all of these, using some of them will help you use your time in ways that benefit you. the most. So first and foremost, you’re the only person that is responsible for managing your time unless you are some of the little group of teenagers. I know that get to hear this podcast when their parents are listening to it. So if you’re the only person that’s responsible for managing it, you need to take the time to plan and make decisions around your time. Right. You are the CEO of your life and therefore the CEO of your time. And just like a paid CEO for any organization, you will need to manage yourself in your brain because the unmanaged brain will default so quickly to past habits and beliefs. Right, the good, the bad and the ugly. And when I say default, it means that it won’t do anything or just be very responsive to others, right? Oh, yes, I’ll tend that meeting because they set it up for all work around the Doctor schedule or the volunteer schedule or the church’s schedule or the bosses schedule or the Neighborhood association schedule. Very common dating at times, and we may be very productive when we do this, but we may not be productive and doing what we want to obtain in our life, right? And what we want to obtain might be different from our neighbors or our co workers. So defaulting to their expectations of us and our time is not gonna work very well for our happiness. Anyway. Right might work well for them. So we want to be planning from a place where using our prefrontal cortex, the planning part of our brain and not the subconscious lazier part that knows lots of stuff. But it’s very prone to stick to its habits Now. I know many of you have used Franklin planners in the past. Franklin Covey Planners, Day Timer’s Day runners. They’re all useful. So if that’s working for you, by all means, keep doing it. But I also hope there’s a nugget er to in here for you that you can take an apply. But before we get into managing time, I think it’s really important to point out that, like Benjamin, Franklin said, the daily use of our time determines who we will become in this life. So it iss first important understand who we want to become, or we run the very real possibility of defaulting toe. What is put on our calendar than deciding what’s important enough to add. And in my mind we shouldn’t delve into the calendar until we’ve decided what our ultimate goals are. But that’s not how real life works, right? Sometimes you gotta start scheduling, learning how to manage your calendar in the process. You can think in the background about who do I want to be when I grow up right? Because if we just go straight to the counter all the time, we’re letting a seven day period dictate or a month long period dictate what we’re going to do. And in some ways, that’s like saying, I’m gonna go get all of these ingredients out of the cupboard, put them together and there better be chocolate chip cookies that comes from this. Well, of course, you wouldn’t do that right. You’d look up a recipe of what you want to make. If you want to make chocolate chip cookies and you go OK, these are the ingredients I probably should get. If I want them to taste the way that this recipe says, they’ll taste, and I should probably follow a lot of this rest of B. I may want to add walnuts, whatever. And so it’s just something I feel compelled to share, since I’ll probably have more on this. And I’ve already shared in a few other episodes about frameworks that it’s worth taking a step back at some point in your time management process and revisiting your life goals and your life habits so that you make sure those air represented on the calendar every time you start scheduling things. So I feel it’s really important that as you approach, learning more about time management or just upping your game on your current knowledge that it can be very valuable to connect this planning process to your life vision, your goals, your daily habits so that the outcomes or something that you love. So I’m going. Teoh share this framework represented through five major steps, even though there are some sub steps to some of these. But a practical approach to manage your brain so that you can manage your time includes first and foremost, making a commitment to schedule a weekly session with yourself. Commit to a weekly planning session on the same day and time each week. I have this scheduled for Sunday night at 8 p.m. I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes I get really excited on a Saturday and sit down and do it because I have so many things already geared up in my mind that I want to get down on paper and work on along with using the same day in time each week. Select the tool. Doesn’t matter which one. There’s so many. They do so many things. Some people use paper calendars. Some use the wall chart. Some use electronic. I would suggest Elektronik be your ultimate goal for right now. I know with my life situation I have certain appointments on two days a week, and I make sure that’s all electronic because I’m coordinating that with other people and the other is on a piece of paper I carry around with me. Sounds really hokey. Never had it split like this before. But I have a goal to not be on my phone all day and glancing at it less. And I wanted to make sure I had a good habit of the approach I’m taking. Before I went completely Elektronik with it. I’m also combining several calendars, right? That’s that’s a different story but decide on a method that works for you and stick with it. You’re taking charge of your life. You are choosing to act and not be acted upon. So the commitment to have this weekly session, same day in time and choosing a tool to do it with is important. And in some cases, you will want to add additional planning periods, right? If you want to plan with a spouse, you might want to add that onto the back end of your meeting. If you have the team at work, you might have a weekly meeting where you’re planning certain things for that week or month. So keep that in the back of your mind if you have more than one individual. But right now, this is for yourself. Step to hold your meeting. So in this meeting, you’re gonna be doing a lot of stuff. But you’ve gotta at least start the meeting right. And to start with, I find it effective to reflect on the prior week. Now, when I was full time in an office, I actually did this part of it Friday afternoon in the office or at the end of my tele work day because I would reflect on what I got done and what I didn’t get done. So what I got done I reflect on the accomplishments and the failures. Right? And I kept a little list of accomplishments. I wanted to see the outcomes of what I’d accomplished that week. So it’s helpful. Look at the list, and I even do this right now. I put that list of accomplishments and Evernote every week, and it’s need to look back and see when I was stewing over the podcast when I finally got it live, when I started producing episodes and then when I started interviewing people. And then, of course, when I finished coaching school and when I had my first clients and to look back on the accomplishments, there is a thrill associated with that. But it also gives confidence in those times where you don’t feel like you’re making progress and you can look back and go. Wow, I actually have made progress. Keeping another list of your failures is very valuable to review as well, so you don’t repeat thumb, so you see what you learned from them, what you will do differently the next week because sometimes a failure can have to do with your planning. Maybe you weren’t putting a habit in the right place on the calendar that served your personal capability to be able to accomplish it. And you need to adjust things. Also, what didn’t get done. Are there patterns. I have this one item, this video I want to create that I’ve been carrying over for eight weeks. I think it’s about eight weeks. I have to go. Why am I doing this? Well, I perceive it as being extra hard, so I keep on pushing it off. The goodness in this is I’ve also learned some other things that are helping me think of that video in a different way. So it will be a different video when I create it than if I had done it eight weeks ago. But pay attention to those patterns of things you aren’t getting done because there may be a lesson in there. You may need to switch something up on your calendar. You may need to decide to push that off two or three weeks, schedule it for later, or you may discover you don’t even want to do it right I’ve written those down as two don’t before because I’ll keep going toward a goal. I quit out of habit and realize. Wait, what am I doing? That’s right. I wasn’t going to pursue that in your meeting after you reviewed your week. Write down all the to do’s that come to your mind all the tasks that you’ve been storing up or you have on little pieces of paper. Whatever you dio, get it all toe, one piece of paper. I would also add that right down your daily habits that you want to pursue habits are so important. That’s how we meet our goals, Read James. Clear the atomic habits. Read all the other habit books, for that matter. Very interesting. If we are what we spend our time doing, those little daily habits matter. Be very strategic about those little habits. And of course, in this brainstorm include those carry over tasks from the prior week. While you’re in your meeting, we’re still in Step two, holding the meeting group in sequence. All of those tasks, and this should be really quick. Don’t get into this really intense project management grouping and sequencing, but quickly scanned a list and group. Any task that makes sense to put together. Like if you had to create some special emails to go out to specific clients, why not put that all together? So you’re doing this one or two hours of thinking all in one chunk batch processing, right? Because it’s the same kind of thinking required for that task. And then find those tasks that air and then find those tasks that are a sequence of task. They’re related to each other. So where you need to invite people to a meeting, you need to prepare a presentation. You need to hold the meeting and give the presentation like those air all things that are related to each other and that can be lumped together or thought of together in your planning. They might not all happen on the same day and then take a few minutes to prioritize, right? You might have 40 items. If you’re like me. Well, I might have even more start the’s huge brainstorms. Quickly look through and see. No kidding. What needs to be done this week? What have I promised myself? What if I promised my family? What have I promised my work and you can even including the priorities of names, right? If you’re someone who’s gonna be delegating to someone else, some of these things make sure to include their name in it, because then that becomes counter item for you, perhaps too delicate and follow up. But you’re going to be assigning those to someone else. Third major step schedule on a calendar. So I guess we’re still in the meeting. But now we’re taking everything on that piece of paper, and we’re putting it into the calendar, whether it’s a paper calendar or an electronic calendar, so get your calendar Doesn’t matter the tool, like we said. And the goal is to get as many things from the papers possible on the calendar. Now you want a lot of them on that week. But some things that makes sense to put on the out weeks right, especially if you have a project that spans weeks or months, and we’re used to collaborate with people and get to building timeto wait for feedback, that kind of thing. You might want a whole separate brainstorm for a particular project, so that may be just one item on your list, right saying, I’m gonna schedule time this week to brainstorm all of the tasks and connections and critical path or whatever. Four. That particular project. But maybe you’re not doing that in this one hour that you’re planning. But it’s such a relief to have a shorter to do list now. I know that many people have the goal after they put everything on the calendar not to have it to do list. But this is not realistic. In some work environments. Been there, tried that I still had to have the to do list because you’re adding to that list throughout the week, even as you await your big planning. Our and most of us on the job have to spend a few minutes every day planning for the next day because schedule, shift and change in meetings, adjust and so be flexible with yourself, but also understand that sometimes when you’re being flexible, you’re being lazy minded to so pay attention to that. So when we start scheduling, it’s counterintuitive. But the first thing you’d want to schedule is your personal time in your free time and any special events like holidays, birthdays, vacations, things like that. This allows you to be fully present for those times and to be fully present. It requires your time. So even if you’re taking the kids to the pool, you’re going to a movie. You’re meeting up with friends or family. You’re reading a book. Whatever be fully present in it, put it on the calendar. So you know, to be guilty because you’ve planned this break to take care of you and honor that time. I think this also shows when we put this on our calendar first, that we’re kind of following that mantra that Suzy or Germans has that is people first, then money than things. Sometimes our calendars don’t represent that. The next thing we scheduled on the calendar is our basic needs, like meals, home tasks like laundry or cleaning travel time paying bills, these air little daily or weekly habits that need to be done kind of the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you will, right, they get us through life, whether we like these little things or not. Next is meetings and appointments. Notice how that didn’t come first or second. That’s important. We make meetings and appointments so important, and they are but even more important, to put that personal time up front remind ourselves we’re in charge. We had to take care of the brain that’s going to be doing all of this stuff. So schedule that next and those meetings Appointments can be work related, doctor’s appointment, soccer practice, whatever and, of course, include any prep time and travel time in that. How often have you scheduled a work meeting and forgotten to schedule the two hours it takes to prepare a presentation or to find resource is for that meeting. Next schedule. Focus time. This is one or two hours a day for hyper focus on creating or learning. So if you need to create that presentation or formulate a strategy or take a professional development course, this is such an important part of each day is having that time of focus. No distractions. Turn off the phone. Don’t let anyone interrupt you. This is where you allow yourself to get into that flow mode. I call it Bionic Mode. Software development teams have specific two or three hour period or a day whatever called sprints. So instead of doing all this coordinating with people and waiting for feedback, all this. You just get in a room together, you get online together and you get it done. And the important part of this focus time is too have a goal to have an outcome at the end of its You’re not just gonna work on it. You’re gonna finish it, whatever it is. And that’s the expectation for yourself and will be shocking How much you get done. I know so many times used to joke at work where there would be this project or task that seemed so huge. And he said, I don’t have enough time to do that because I need to have, like, eight hours of focus time. I need to do this on a tele work day, and then you’d finally get to this Tell a work day we’re gonna focus on it like, OK, I’m gonna roll up my sleeves are gonna be working hard on this all day and like two hours later, you’re like, Wait a second, I’m done. What was all that drama about? I thought it would take eight hours, only took two because I’ve been saving it up for so long. I probably spent eight hours worrying about it if I counted all the time, I thought about it. But it didn’t take that long. Because once you enter that focus and that flow mode, amazing things can happen very quickly. And if we put parameters on ourselves, that creates a constraint, right? I got to get it done. I got to get it done, just like if you have an emergency come up or an unexpected deliver verbal, you work super fast and you make it happen somehow, some way. So how do we recreate that for ourselves on a daily basis? Well, we calendar it and we put bumpers up, and that’s time frames. Next thing you want to schedule is this slacker, this back up. You know, in Project Management, there’s these terms, like slack and float, where you are building a little extra time to the schedule and making sure that if you take extra long on it, you’ll still be able to meet the deadline for that milestone or the next deliver rule or whatever. And if you finish early, great, that gives you some more space to create some other stuff. Most of us have riel emergencies come up in life, where we have to adjust. Others of us have boss emergencies right that are real or fake, whatever that must be done. And I’ve gone through this. I’ve been through it daily for some months at a time before where year best laid plans were laid to waste and you had to keep monitoring and adjusting. But this is why, on a daily basis, it’s important to have a plan. If you don’t have a plan for sure, you’re not going to get stuff done. But if you have a plan and it changes, at least you’re already in the habit of planning. And because you’re in the habit of planning and executing the plan when you do have the interruptions, it won’t disrupt. Your life is much because you will already have methodically been working toward whatever needs to be done. So you will not have procrastinated and have a huge pile up of things if you have some kind of emergency. And that’s the beauty of having a plan and working on it every day because you can be a lot calmer when emergencies hit, because you know that you’re consistently working toward things perfectly or imperfectly so the fourth step. Now that we’ve planned to have a plan, held the meeting with ourselves scheduled on the calendar we’re going to review and adjust. Now step back and look at it. Will the plan for the week work for you? Sometimes some of us get super hopeful that we’re gonna be in bionic mode all week, and we might overreach what’s actually possible for us in that moment in time. Others of us don’t reach high enough, so you have to know who you are in this situation, right? But if it looks so aggressive, you may need to readjust some priorities. Readjust how much time you spend on each, because that’s something you’ll be doing. As you put it on the calendar. You decide how much time it takes and you might monitor and adjust is the calendar starts to fill up. I know we had so many meetings, we even had them during the lunch hour, so I rarely went out. I think I went out to lunch once a month or so when I was working, and I usually wasn’t taking lunch all the other times there were so many meetings to balance, and sometimes there’d be three meetings that once you get to decide or send a team member to it or a boss or like whatever, there were so many priorities going on, and that speaks to a different problem. But one of the issues was being on a campus that had 10 buildings, and you’re some house was to get from one meeting to the next in two minutes. Well, that’s not possible on while you’re walking to the next meeting, you could run into someone who has a question. You know, you’re like this radar like, Oh, there she is. I’ve been meaning to ask her this or oh, we have a problem and they’ll want to discuss it on the way. So building in those travel times, even if it’s in the office, matters If you care about showing up on time, you may have to leave some meetings early. And so take a look at this plan and make sure it actually will work. Otherwise, you’re gonna stop honoring it pretty quickly. What I also suggests, based upon what I shared a few minutes ago, is too. Make sure it’s aligned to your yearly goals inhabits, make sure it’s aligned to your life aspirations. Now, every week you’re not going to look at and go. Wow, Look, it looks like I’m totally on track for who I want to be when I grew up. But if you start seeing little to no evidence on your weekly calendar of where you want to go in life and what your goals are, it’s time to look. Adjusting your habits right. Look at creating habits of support your desires so they can suddenly be built into every day because that’ll matter. Over time, you will rapidly become who you want to become, or you will rapidly not right. You’ll stay in place or you’ll veer off into other directions, often dictated by other people, not by your brain. The fifth step is easy. Follow it, Do it. Execute the plan. How simple is that to follow your plan? This is where you succeed or fail at being at CEO of your life and of your time. And if you know you want certain things out of life, those things will be difficult to obtain because they require daily practice and steps to maintain focusing really hard. One month won’t get you there has to be consistent daily practice in many cases. I mean, that’s why all the habit gurus and time management gurus air sharing that the best way to meet goals is to figure out how to translate those goals into daily habits. That’s where all the magic is in the small, mundane, boring daily habits. But you planned this week using your planning brain. You had a special appointment with yourself, and in the moment that you planned, you decided you wanted to do something, or in some cases, maybe you just barely got it on the calendar and you didn’t really want to do it. But follow your plan, and your confidence and capability will increase as you decide to follow it. Now your brain is gonna have objections. You will hear yourself say to yourself what I say to myself. I don’t feel like doing this right now. I’d rather do this instead, and it’s too important to. So I’m going to switch out this task for this other, or I need a break from calling people my clients prospects, whomever. I didn’t really want to do this, but I put it on my calendar just in case these air, not helpful thoughts. They show that you’re and indecision things air inconvenient. You have the urge to change it or not. Do it and you’re just not feeling like it. All these excuses that come up we have enough energy for the excuses, but we don’t have enough energy to follow. The schedule right were very interesting and predictable in these ways. So in listening to this, is it too hard? Does it sound too hard to follow this approach to time management? Wolf. It is. Start simple. Just schedule one area of life that you haven’t scheduled before. Maybe that’s a little daily habits stack. Have you heard of habit stacks? Pretty popular, just grouping three or four small habits together that makes sense to be together and you call it a stack. So some people call morning routines a habit stack, because let’s say you get up. You have a moment to meditate or pray. You read a spiritual thought. You take a shower and you stretch something like that takes 2030 minutes, tops that it starts you off for a great day or you keeps you in the right mindset. I used to have habits stacks at work where it took a while for the computer to start up and run through all the network and security stuff. And I would have little habits tax that air like, OK, I’m gonna take a quick look at my to do list. I’m going to write a thank you note, and I’m going to read a little quote short and sweet. Little five minute habits. Stack these things air powerful. You can have multiple habits tax throughout a day that makes sense. But maybe just start with one of those habits. Tax and follow it for a week and decide the next week whether you just need to stick to that area and turn it more into a habit. Or if you’re ready to commit to something else and just slowly add more of these commitments into your planning meeting each week. And don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t follow it. Just start from where you are, and that’s the beauty of it. Any day you decide, you can start following your plan because any day you like you stop following it right so you can start following it and keep track of those accomplishments because you’ll look back and go. Wow, It felt like such a drag. It felt like so long and like I didn’t change and it didn’t make a difference. But if you look back, you’ll see. Wait a second. I’ve actually accomplished some things. I’m kind of proud of this. I can do big things. I am managing my life, and that’s when you can really start revisiting those life goals, those aspirations and going, How do I turn those into little habits that I include in my weekly planning session? Planning can be so fun and empowering when we decide to stick with our plan. And I just want to end with a little story about a person at work who was so amazing. I think I’ve mentioned him before. He had a certain time every day that he would exercise and we’re in a meeting environment. There’s just tons of meetings and it didn’t matter. He would get up in the middle of very important meetings and walk out, and he did it very matter of fact Lee. He was always dressed nicely in a suit and everyone assumed he had something important to go to and it was pretty much always the gym or the swimming pool, whichever one he had it whichever time a day, and very rarely did he not do it. Now there’s a couple of times, you know, where the president and board of visitors or guests or whatever, like he knew that that was more important and he would adjust his schedule. But that was so rare, I think, over a course of 10 years of working around this person, he probably broke his schedule 2 to 5% of his time. Amazing. And he’s accomplishing what he wants to in life. It’s different than what I want to accomplish, but I respect that. He respects himself enough to follow his schedule, and people amazingly will respect you for following your schedule. They may not like it, but they’ll work around it most of the time. So I hope there’s some tips in here that serve you. And if you have any feedback, er, insights, police tell me, because managing ourselves and our time is a continual process and there are so many ways to do it. But the best thing to do is to do it and follow it. Okay, my friends have a great week. I’ll talk to you next week. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it, I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. See you next Monday.

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