I’ve been paying closer attention to how I spend my time. Like many, I put ‘my all’ into a project, work, or whatever it is I’m involved in. I can inadvertently spend more hours on an activity than I want to. I do think there’s a time and place for getting lost in the present (such as when sharing a meal with someone, or hiking, or travelling somewhere new and fun) but I want to be sure that I also preserve time to do the things I care about each and every day — like reading, getting outside for fresh air, and enjoying a meal with someone.
At work, there are always simultaneous projects happening; there are calls to make, and clients to tend to. Time can very easily run away from me. Knowing this to be true, before I start my work day, I review my calendar carefully and set the time I plan to leave work that day. I set reminders in a few different places (on my iPhone, in my Outlook calendar, and on a little post-it note on my phone) to be sure I am out the door on time.
I recently shared with a co-worker my habits of pre-designating my end of work day. Smiling, she said, “Seriously? You know how busy it gets around here…how can you do this?” We had a conversation about time management, and the daily demands we have at our jobs. I admitted to her that my plan doesn’t always go perfectly smoothly (occasionally, an urgent work matter does throw a temporary wrench and cause a delay), but most of the time my plan works. She thought I was sort of bold to plan to leave at a certain time every night. She said, “What if you run late from a meeting? “What if your boss needs you?” I told her I understand the “What ifs?” and I deal with those responsibly as they come up. For example, I’ll say going into a meeting “I have a hard stop at 5:30” or if my boss needs me, I’ll find out quickly what it’s about and take care of it, or see if it can wait until morning. Often I have found that my co-worker or boss puts an issue out for discussion or resolution but doesn’t necessarily expect I need to take action “now.” I told my friend I adopt the attitude, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and go about my merry way of time management. I might have to change my plan if something unavoidable comes up (and I do need to do something “now”), but I’m already ahead of the game if I’ve started the day with a plan to leave on time to do the other activities that provide me a balanced life.
I’m mindful of achieving the results at work, and I enjoy my job; I think those who work with me would say I do my job well and with spirit. But for me, work is not the only priority I have in my life. Ultimately, I have the responsibilty to myself, and to my family and friends, to manage my home life, too.
Call me crazy, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to put some strategies in place to help manage all the activities I want to do to be sure I’m taking care of the little things that mean a lot.
You, too, can empower yourself.
Think about what you need, what you want to do and experience, and then consider what strategies you need to put in place to fulfill those plans.