5for5 blog – The straw that breaks the calendar

18 Apr


I was reminded last week of the only resource that is truly in our control: our time.

“Busy” is a condition we like to reflect towards external circumstances, but in reality it is often our lack on internal discipline and awareness that can be a significantly portion of the problem.

In a conversation late last week with one of the business unit vice president’s, we started off the conversation light, and then proceeded to walk through some key topics my team is supporting in his business unit.  During the conversation, we reflected on a topic we had reviewed in a November strategy meeting which he was able to recall with a few clicks on his desktop. It was clear that he had a solid command of what was important not only to himself, but through his organization and kept key ideas in front of himself at all times.

Although we didn’t intend to discuss work management, he shared a few great nuggets that I have been reflecting on for my own work:

  • Managing your work is a commitment – the process he is using didn’t come magically with downloading an app. It is work in itself; but the effort committed to be organized pays dividends in freeing up his cognitive load to think deeper on really important topics
  • Work and meetings are batched – As he mentioned, batching allowed him to achieve a flow by accomplishing similar tasks
  • All meeting notes and actions are captured and recorded – He uses his online work management system to record tasks by individuals initials for easy recall and follow up
  • Friday’s are blocked for strategy – Specifically he spend a chunk of time on Friday’s reviewing upcoming meetings, assignments, and commitments. Rather than showing up on Monday and being surprised, he actually has the weekend to allow many of the upcoming items to incubate which, knowingly or not, will help him be better prepared.
  • All tasks are assigned a time budget – Not just meetings are given time slots, actions and projects to be done all get time blocked in the calendar

But the point that struck me the most in our conversation was that he knew that once his planned actions added up to four hours, anything above that wouldn’t get done. He was completely aware of his ability to be productive in the face of switching between tasks, meetings, and unexpected items. Proverbially, he is aware that overcommitting will be the straw that breaks the calendar’s back.

I spent time later in the day wondering how often we feel as if we accomplish nothing, because we set out to accomplish too much. Because we haven’t committed to the practices that my colleague shared, we end up in the “busy-ness spiral” individually, and even worse, dragging our team in with us. And while I was trying to focus on some of these habits this year, it was a great reminder of the adage:

Either we control our schedule, or someone will control it for us.

For reference, the management tool he was using was Nozbe (https://nozbe.com/). Whatever tool you use, small improvements, will not only help your mental load, but most likely that of your team as well

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

From Inspiration to Implementation – by Tina Seelig – via Medium

The Secret of Dramatic Improvement – by Mark Sanborn

7 Essential Lessons From The Harvard Innovation Lab – by Gwen Moran – via Fast Company

Leaders, Here’s to Not Being Normal – by Peter Langton – Via Chief Learning Officer

Good Leadership: Why Leave It To Chance? – by Bob Chapman – via Truly Human Leadership

All the best, kevin