I have been committed to providing content for clients on this site monthly, and the feedback I'm receiving is positive. With that in mind, I want to try adding another component to this site: a monthly coaching conversation related to "What Am I Talking about with clients." In other words, a "WAIT" list. [Too corny? Let me know. Seriously] So here goes -- a topic that has come up multiple times in the last few weeks, so perhaps it's coming up for you as well?
Certainly, most (if not all) of us are currently navigating the unknown waters of post-pandemic return. We had some workable routines that emerged during these many months, and it is honestly a little jarring to have to adjust again. Offices are trying to figure out hybrid schedules, some people are timidly re-entering commutes (some for the first time, since they took the position during the pandemic), others are feeling the challenges of back-to-the-office requirements just as school is ending. YIKES.
More than ever, we need help with our calendars as we juggle multiple priorities. As one client told me bluntly today, "we need training on prioritization and time management." This is certainly a longer conversation, and each of us has our own unique circumstances, but I want to share three key elements that I use, and have shared, with many people.
- 🏔 THE SUMMIT. This HAS to be your starting point. For the first time you do this, you may need to set aside three hours to really dig in -- but trust me, It. Is. Worth. It. I call this step the "summit" because I am asking you to climb a proverbial hill and get the 30,000' perspective on your life.
The best place to start is to select your main five priorities in your life. That might be family, health, faith, work, hobbies. Or it could be friends, exercise, community service, career, cooking. You get the picture. Slow down and take the time to really drill down and decide the 5 areas you want and need to spend most of your time on. PS Notice how work or career is only ONE of the five.
Then I strongly recommend that you start a mind map. Please try doing this digitally, since digital mind maps are easier to edit and refine, and go with you everywhere. My two favorite sites are mind42.com (free!) and MindMeister ($50-$100/year, but more bells and whistles - ask about the academic discount). Put yourself in the first, main bubble. Then create 5 separate branch bubbles off of your central bubble for your main five priorities. Once that is done, go to town! Start downloading all the hamster wheels spinning in around in your head, creating further bubbles on the mind map. Nothing is too small! Put it ALL there. PRO TIP: sync your computer with your big screen TV or if you have it, a video projector, and cast the whole crazy mess onto a large space so you can see everything. You truly need to get the big picture.
- 📋 PROJECTS. Once you lay everything out on the mind map, start identifying the projects you are responsible for, especially when it comes to work, but for everything else too. For me, I start with each of my clients. Then I break down the various projects I have going with each client. Then I also note the projects in my personal life: my meal plans for the week, home projects, travel, exercise, books I want to read, etc.
Then this is a crucial step: identify a project management software (PMS) to use. Personally, I use Trello. But there are a BUNCH out there: Asana, Basecamp, MS Projects and Planner, etc. Here's the deal: most of my clients get stuck here. They focus too much on TASKS, and not where they should be, on PROJECTS. We tend to get lost in the weeds when we focus on individual tasks, rather than clustering and organizing tasks together into projects. (The latter step is especially crucial when you're collaborating with others.) If you don't pick up what I'm laying down, read this brief article: it's an ad for ClickUp, another PMS option, but it does a good job 'splaining things.
I have collected a bunch of resources on how to set up Trello here: I like it because it is visually stimulating (thus keeping my attention better than lots of bullet lists), and it has a GREAT phone app.
Take the time to load up your projects onto the project management software, delineating all the tasks you can think of. If you're really feeling it, try to put due dates on those tasks.
- ✍🏾 SCHEDULING. NOW is the fun part. Every Sunday afternoon or evening, I take 60-90 minutes and map out my week. I basically hike part way up the Summit and see where things are. I look over my mind map to note any changes or make updates, then I review my projects to figure out what I am doing for that week, and then I put those responsibilities in my calendar. If I am giving a presentation (usually already on my calendar), I set aside two hours to create it. If I am part of book club, I schedule an hour to read the darn book. If I have a review scheduled with someone, I set aside an hour on my calendar to prepare for it. Get the picture?