Now that I am retired from twenty years as a school counselor, lots of people ask me how I like retirement and what I do to keep busy all day. My response is that I love my new job of working full time as an author, coach and speaker. I am truly busier than ever. In fact I was just commenting to a colleague that I don’t have enough time to complete all the tasks and ideas that are swarming around in my brain. So just what is the secret to managing my time effectively when there is no boss or predetermined schedule?
You Can’t Really Manage Time
You can’t really manage time because it is, well, time. You can’t corral it. You can’t stop it or speed it up. But you can manage your activities. The problem most people have is that they try to manage their time by keeping track of information and priorities in their mind. The brain is not designed to hold on to and maintain a list of everything that you need to accomplish. The brain is designed to be used as a problem solving organ. Here are my two secrets to having a productive day:
Begin Your Week with a Plan
Each Sunday afternoon I spend some time creating my calendar for the next week. I have it on a whiteboard that I keep in a very visible place. I put all my appointments, client calls, speaking engagements etc on it. I also have this on my ipad but the large visual that I can quickly see each morning over my coffee helps me organize my day.
I have another whiteboard where I list ongoing ideas and projects. Some of these are in various stages of completion. Some are in my parking lot of ideas. This means that I will get around to them at some point in the future but they are not currently demanding my time. For example, I am currently working on completing programs for two breakout sessions for the Georgia School Counselor Conference which is in a few weeks. This is an active project. Creating a proposal for speaking at other conferences is in my parking lot.
Begin Your Day with a Plan
There is something incredibly compelling about a schedule that is written down. There is something powerful about knowing how you are going to spend your time and being accountable to a schedule, even if you are the only one who created it.
I begin every day with a very simple form that I complete. I’ve tried lots of different approaches and forms and this one addresses everything that I’m trying to do in my day. It guides my day in terms of business activities and personal schedules but it also begins with getting my mindset firmly in place. I’ve found that this is often the forgotten piece in so many checklists. We spend time recognizing what we want to do but don’t spend any time centering ourselves in who we want to be. I begin each day answering the questions: Who do I want to be? and How do I want to feel?. Then I align my mindset with that before I even begin my tasks.
Why Creating a Plan Works
One thing that we know about the brain is that the brain is drawn toward congruity and completion. This is why it is important to have a plan or a goal for the day. Our brain will then want to align our daily activities with those goals. It is drawn toward activities where completion is a given. This is one reason that we often find our selves emptying the dishwasher when the plan was to contact three possible clients or write 1,000 words on the book. It’s not just procrastination. We can easily see the end of emptying the dishwasher or sorting the mail. Other tasks are not so clear. This is why having a system for managing tasks and setting priorities is so important.
Learning to identify the important activities in your life and structuring your day and your weeks to direct your energy is a necessary part of living an intentional life. It is how dreams become reality and goals are achieved. A goal is simply a dream with a plan.
For more information on living an intentional life, including how to structure your time, check out my book: DreamAchiever: Simple Steps to an Extraordinary Life.
Do you need some help with creating a plan that will help you move closer to you dream job and dream life? Check out my coaching packages. I’d love to talk with you!
My teleseminar on Work in you Strengths~Stand in Your Power for Introverts is less than two weeks away. Learn all about it here: http://acalledwoman.com/teleseminar