You schedule time for large meetings, small meetings, conference calls, and phone appointments. If you are like many leaders, you often feel that your life consists of nothing BUT meetings. As a result, there is no time to complete the work you volunteer for, agree to, or are assigned in those same meetings.
What can you do? Simple: Schedule time for you.
You need time for what Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors of Rework, call “the Alone Zone”:
Long stretches of alone time are when you are the most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. (Ever notice how much work you get done on a plane since you’re offline and there are zero outside distractions” (p. 105).
But this kind of alone time doesn’t happen by accident. Like everything else in the leader’s life, you must be intentional, if you want to be effective.
I personally schedule five kinds of alone time:
- Morning time. I typically get up at 5:00 a.m. I do my most important tasks right away, including exercise and reading. I also try to get done my single most important to-do item before I leave for the office. Why? Because I know a thousand interruptions and distractions await me once I arrive.
- Weekly appointments. I literally block out time on my calendar with the clever title of “Office Work.” I generally do this on Sunday night as I prepare for the next week’s meetings. When I am really on the ball, I do this a month in advance. The beautiful thing is that when someone asks for that time slot, I can legitimately say, “I’m sorry, but I already have a commitment then.” It’s a commitment to myself.
- Special Projects. These are those projects that always seem to fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent. You know the ones I am talking about. They have been stuck on your to-do list for weeks. The key to overcoming inertia is just to block out some time on your calendar, close your door, roll up your sleeves, and get started. It’s amazing how much progress you can make with a little dedicated time.
- Quarterly reviews. I schedule a day and a half by myself each quarter. I have written about it on this blog before, so I won’t repeat myself here. However, this is a time when I can reflect back over the previous quarter and then look forward to the coming quarter. It’s an opportunity to poke my head above the clouds and see where I am going with my business—and my life.
- Travel time. I am never more productive than when I am in an airplane. However, I have to be very intentional. I upgrade when I can. If that’s not possible, I get an exit row seat. (It’s difficult to be productive when the person in front if you has their seat reclined, and their head is practically in your lap!) Specifically, I try to work on projects that require extended creativity. I plan in advance which projects I am going to tackle.
I am sometimes asked, “How do you get it all done?” Part of the secret is by scheduling time to get it done. What about you?