One of my favorite topics to write, coach, and speak on is Maximizing Your Time. It’s not just a topic for me – it’s an obsession! Your time is too precious to waste. I’ve started a collection of good ideas for maximizing time (which is the Sixth Practice of Personal Leadership). Most of these are available in The Inner Edge, and even more in The Inner Edge Extension. Here are a three more for today.
A New Kind of Balance
Paul Melchiorre, VP of Global Strategy at Ariba, once reframed for me the topic of “balance.” He said, “It used to be that there was office time for your work and down time with your family.” Now, though, our PDAs, laptops and cell phones bring the office right home. Flex time, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks likewise bring family life right into the workweek. “It’s not like you have a work life and a play life anymore,” Paul went on. “It’s just your life.”
Paul had a good suggestion for managing the co-mingling of the various parts of our lives: Set Rules. Don’t answer the phone during dinner, for instance, or schedule a family breakfast if you know you’ll be working too late to make dinner. If work and home are to share your time, make sure they both get an equal part.
Fun on the Run
It’s not just that our work and home lives are so integrated that we have trouble maximizing our time. It’s also because we’re so busy. Who has time for the full work day and the homemade meal and the family time and the workout all in one day, everyday? (It can be done, mind you…I coach people how everyday!) In a full day, sometimes you’ve just got to double up.
My friend and client, Saly Glassman at Merrill Lynch, often has creative ideas for Maximizing Time. She once told me a very funny story about how much fun she and her daughters have as they run errands. A trip to CVS might not sound like the typical Family Fun Night, but given all the laughs they have, it can be equally as good! Exercising with your spouse, taking your kids on business trips, or cooking dinner as a family all offer ways to get in quality down time in the middle of a busy day (or life). You really can do more with less.
Personally, I find peace of mind in compartmentalizing. I like to separate my work life and my home life. It’s my way of finding focus and relaxing into the moment.
But I am coming to realize more and more how much people can make interruptible time work.
“Interruptible Time” is time that is scheduled for one thing but doesn’t require so much concentration that you can’t switch to something else that comes up. I am convinced that this how executive search consultant Christine Heidenreich can work seven days a week and feel perfectly balanced, or how the CEO of a health care association can enjoy a long day at the zoo with his nephews right in the middle of the week.
To practice interruptible time, it’s best to plan a bit ahead. Make a list of the tasks you have that you can easily “switch into.” For many people these include phone calls, but could also be reading or making simple decisions. Then look at your schedule to see when those tasks could be intermingled with others for an acceptable balance – for instance, on a low key Saturday or some evening after dinner.
As the world changes around us, we are all learning to adapt. Technology is transforming the human experience. Suggestions like these are surfacing where the people who have found peace with the changes can show the rest of us what to do.
Don’t worry. I’ll keep looking for more great ideas, and I’ll post them as I do!
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