You gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life. ~ Warren Buffett
If you’re like many professionals, your work week is probably filled to the brim with meetings that are making it difficult to find the quiet time you need to get things done. That’s a pretty good description of what my work week used to look like but, the moment I had a child, I realized things had to change. I want to be a good parent and with having a child, I instantly lost that “make up” time I used to have working late at night and weekends. Now, as I noted last week, an important rule I follow is to reserve evenings and weekends for family, long-standing friends, faith, and self.
In theory, that sounds easy but it’s not when you are continually fielding requests for meetings and other needs. Not wanting to be inconsiderate, it’s easy enough to acquiesce to these requests without much consideration. But consider this from Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. I’ve found it helpful to ask the following three questions before agreeing to say yes:
- Am I the right person?
- Is this the right time?
- Do I have the right information?
Ever find yourself in a meeting wondering why you’re there? Trust me when I say, you’re not alone. A great way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to politely ask some questions beforehand to make sure you’re the right person.
Do you find yourself continually putting out fires for others? To keep your entire existence from being consumed, consider letting the person who is asking for help know you’d be happy to help but cannot do so until [insert some day in the future]. Although this won’t necessarily keep the task from your desk, by scheduling it as a future activity it will be far less distracting.
Finally, how many times are you asked to do something without having all the information you need to complete the task successfully in a timely manner? I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself working on something that should have been straightforward and simple but 10 minutes into it I figure out it’s going to take me five times longer to complete because I need more information. The problem of course is if you’ve been procrastinating (not that I would ever do that), a now rapidly approaching deadline coupled with being worried about being exposed as someone who does things at the last minute will likely force you to gather the extra information yourself rather than get it from the requestor.
(For those of you who happen to be procrastinators, consider setting aside what you were planning on working on and watching Tim Urban’s TED talk titled “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.”)
Although I’ll have some more tips for you next week, having procrastinated working on a proposal for long enough, this seems like a good place to stop. How about some music before I check out?
I’ve been wanting to introduce you to the band Thievery Corporation for awhile but haven’t had a good chance. They are fantastic. The first song of theirs I heard, “Lebanese Blonde,” transported me to the Middle East on a hot summer night with a Lebanese rosé in my hand and I was hooked.
Today I’m going to leave you a song off of their new album The Temple of I & I titled “Ghetto Matrix” which features hip-hop collaborator Mr. Lif.
It’s on you
It’s your mind
It’s a complex plan that keeps us confined.
Powerful stuff indeed and certainly something to keep in mind if you’re struggling to keep control of your time.
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