Silicon Valley prides itself on maintaining a "hustle culture" that glorifies a workaholic lifestyle. Entrepreneurial icon Gary Vaynerchuk preaches that we must hustle every minute of every day if we want to reach our goals.
Here are 3 strategies you can apply today to take back control over your schedule, achieve a lot, and feel better at the end of each day.
This is one of the easiest and most powerful scheduling tactics. When scheduling appointments, schedule buffers before and after to factor in any unexpected incidents that will cause your schedule to slide including:
- A late start because of the other party
- An unexpected, extended meeting
- A need to take a break and pause
Factoring in at least 20 minutes before and after your meetings may seem like lost time but it's an opportunity to plan for the unexpected, and to arrive at your meetings focused and calm, which will make your meetings more productive.
In addition to implementing daily buffers, I recommend scheduling one "blank" day per month where you have absolutely nothing scheduled. The secret to making this work is to keep it completely blank, because once you add even one small task, it become very easy to add additional tasks. The day must remain a blank slate. Staring at a blank page in an otherwise packed schedule is like a mini-vacation.
If simply looking at your daily or weekly calendar causes you anxiety, than something has to go. The saying, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person" is great for the delegator but terrible for the delegatee.
We often say Yes because we get caught up in the moment of the "Ask," and we want to help others. Further, entrepreneurs are attracted to the shiny, new opportunity, even when our plate is full.
Saying No requires us to pause, to think about how saying Yes will impact our schedules, the people in our lives, and other commitments, and then firmly refusing the request to pursue another obligation.
The greater the number of initiatives we chase or support, the greater the likelihood we will be overwhelmed and will not deliver excellent results.
Finally, apply the practice of self-discipline to both your buffers and your No's. When you set a buffer, honor it as you would any other commitment. Do not use it as a way to extend a commitment. Similarly, when you say No, stand firm, even if asked to say Yes multiple times. We must train ourselves to say No the good so that we can say Yes to the great.
Driving a Permanent Change in Behavior
Adopting these habits will take time. Two of the most effective strategies for sticking to a new habit are accountability, and a reward system.
Ask a friend or colleague who has a history of being supportive and is someone you admire for their time management capabilities to be an accountability partner. A required weekly check-in will keep you on track, especially when you are tempted to over-schedule or to say Yes to too many things.
A Reward System
A client has a very difficult time saying No and staying disciplined with her schedule. She knows it is disrespectful to show up late to meetings, and she knows she is the source of her own chaos.
She also knows she is potentially sabotaging key relationships with co-workers, partners, and customers because of her poor time management habits. We've implemented a system, in which she treats herself to a reward at the end of the week if she's been on time for all of her appointments.
She will eventually re-condition her thoughts and actions to permanently modify her behavior, regardless if a reward awaits her.
These 3 strategies will take practice and willpower. However, if you view them as a catalyst to greater productivity, less stress, and improved relationships, the end results will motivate you to stay the course, And aren't these the ultimate rewards?