How to Manage Your Schedule When Your Hair is on Fire
Overcommitment is sprinting into oblivion with your hair on fire.
Self-management is less about getting stuff done and more about your relationship with time.
Effect of overcommitment:
You can’t enjoy leading with a gaggle of tasks honking for attention. Relief is the fullest expression of joy for overcommitted leaders.
Overbooked leaders are riddled with mediocrity.
There’s no time to innovate; no opportunity to develop; and no timeline for improvement when a thousand puppies nip your fingers.
Nagging frustration worms into every situation when obligation exceeds capacity. Even the best of us implode when busyness rots resolve.
How to manage your schedule when your hair is on fire:
#1. Audit your time for a week.
Keep a detailed list of how you use time for a week.
- When do you get the most done? Protect and maximize that time.
- How many breaks do you need? Schedule them.
- What can you stop doing? Trim them.
- What are your biggest time wasters. Trash them.
#2. Schedule interruptions.
Walk-around time is perfect for interruptions. Tell people you’ll walk around at 2:00 when they ask, “Got a minute?” (A minute is never a minute.)
Put walk-around time on your calendar.
Some interruptions are opportunities, when the boss shows up, for example.
#3. Skin the cat. (With apologies to cats.)
Spend less time thinking about doing stuff. Action is thinking. You learn by doing. Finish something.
#4. Make an appointment with priorities.
If you’re starting a new initiative, schedule time to work on it for the next six weeks.
4 ways to get more done in the same amount of time:
- Pass the baton. Give tasks to others.
- Step on the gas. Get faster at doing what you do.
- Take out the trash. Eliminate low value tasks.
- Get smart. Become more skillful at essential responsibilities.
Which item above is most relevant for you today?
One hack that super busy and all executives are using is to add one line to their email signatures which names EA to Executive, his/her name, phone, and email address. That line sends the message to all recipients that perhaps their inquiry could best be handled by the EA. That is usually true!
Thank bjkramen. That’s practical and free! Suggestions don’t get much better than that.
Tip #4 resonated with me. That’s critical time for new projects to get them “in flight”.
Thanks Kevin. I was thinking of a client who is working to make some changes. It seems like the only way to make time is to get it on the calendar. If we don’t, we end up working on what’s important AFTER we do all the other stuff.
Which item above is most relevant for you today?
Get smart. Become more skillful at essential responsibilities. Pass the baton. Give tasks to others. These to items stand out to me on organization and accomplishing tasks that sometimes overwhelm a person, thus the Team concept comes into play. Thinking and doing go hand in hand, just make it happen, we need to plan to culminate the end results, just don’t spends days on simple things.
Thanks Tim. I appreciate your reflection. I’ve noticed that sometimes there are people in the wings waiting to receive the baton. Sometimes we don’t pass it soon enough.
As a manager, I really learned the value of your point “Schedule Interruptions.” By doing the regular walk-around, you at least have the option of leaving the office you are visiting when the conversation goes long. It is much harder to leave your own office when you get “trapped” by a long-winded drop-in.
My father would have loved this post. Three of his oft-repeated quotes were “Time management is self management,” “Always under-promise and over-deliver,” and (from Benjamin Franklin) “You may delay, but time will not.” I learned never to tell Dad, “I didn’t have time” to complete a task or chore.
Thanks Jim. Your dad doesn’t disappoint. We train people on how to treat us by things we tolerate. If we protect our time AND schedule interruption time we teach two important lessons. Time is important AND people are important.
You never told your dad you didn’t have time. Truth is we all have all the time we’re going to get.
If someone asks if I have a minute, I ask on what topic. That tells me if I am even the right person for them to talk with and about how long (becuase few people are good at estimating that).
Thanks Jennifer. Said with a kind tone, that question let’s people know your interested and if you send them to someone else, it lets them know you value their time and yours. Love it.
Self-management is less about getting stuff done and more about your relationship with time. Pass the baton. Give tasks to others. Step on the gas. Get faster at doing what you do.
Take out the trash. Eliminate low value tasks. Get smart. Become more skillful at essential responsibilities. So so true, I am doing all these (including saying no like one of the last posts implied) and I am able to manage my time, my effort, my health, my relationships better. But the most successful attribute is learning in a polite way to say “no” or “not know” or this is when I can get to it. One other skill is showing those that want everything now that “if everything is an emergency” then nothing is.
Thanks Roger. I have leaders report that when they say no with kindness people respect them more. They were worried that people would be upset. But, done well, NO is a good for relationships and good for sanity.
Dan: You are so correct we have a new CEO now and she does not know the market so my Nos are done in a kinder way of education. It works.
These past couple of weeks have been a very trying time with schedules for my personally. My family sold our home plus working on moving into our next home, finishing up school, my son breaking his arm and an overloaded work schedule has created a situation of managing my schedule very difficult plus not having the feeling like my hair is on fire. I find that number 4 on the list, “Make an appointment with priorities” is the key for ensuring I can manage everything going on in life. I have a calendar plus a detailed list that is filled out with things that need to complete and when they need to be done. This ensures I do not forget something or miss a deadline. Also, with having a detailed checklist, it is beneficial seeing things being completed. It helps me get additional things done and motivates me to complete more tasks, as needed.