When we first start out in our careers, we welcome busy. We stay late to prove we have what it takes to earn credibility. There’s no issue with “face time.” In fact, we want to be seen.
Then slowly things change. We begin to manage other people, and we have family obligations that have us rushing out the door at 5:30 p.m. Most importantly, we begin to develop a clear vision for our career and our role in our organization. In order to succeed, we need to have a clear strategy about how we use our time at work every day.
When we are at the doorstep to senior management, we have to change how we approach our day. We can no longer have our day (and other people’s priorities) running us; we have to run our day by deciding how we spend our time.
The only way to do this is to plan your week in advance. If you wait to find time as the week progresses, it won’t be there. Why? Because if you don’t schedule your priorities other people’s emergencies will fill the space.
Use the tips below to get started and click on this link to use my Frame Your Week worksheet to help you get started.
If you have meetings or family responsibilities that are absolute necessities, fill them in first. When I say necessities, this means if you don’t pick your child up from school no one will. No one will write this newsletter for me, so I need to start drafting it on Tuesdays if it’s to be published on Thursdays.
The non-negotiables also includes time to focus on career strategy. If you want a new job or time to reflect on your quarterly or weekly goals, you need to set aside 60–90 minutes each week to track your progress and decide upon action steps that will support your career goals. If you don’t want to stay stuck in your career, you have to plan time to move forward. Without a dedicated block of time for this each week, you lose track of your priorities and eventually find yourself standing still.
The next thing to schedule is self-care: Exercise, sleep, meditation, or whatever you do that makes you feel alive and capable of managing your life needs to be a priority in your week. If working out first thing in the morning is ideal for you, then choose two or three mornings to do it.
The key to scheduling time for self-care is flexibility—give yourself options so that if you miss it on one day, you can fit it on another day.
Schedule at least one day each week that you’ll have lunch out of the office with someone in your network. When we get busy, typically we stop meeting with people outside of the office. This is such a big mistake. Networking is the fuel that helps you keep your strategic plans in action.
Opportunity comes from the other people. If you isolate yourself, you’ll miss out on information, possibilities and perspective from people who want to help you.
Meetings, Email, Etc.
Once you’ve added the above items to your schedule, then you have a clear picture of how much time you have for other people’s priorities. Start your work day with your priorities, reaching out to people that will help you make progress. If you have standard meetings with your staff, make sure they are at the same day and time each week.
Try to get in the habit of checking your email and social media accounts at a designated time, not sporadically throughout the day. Otherwise, they suck valuable time out of your day.
This exercise is designed to help you visualize how you spend your days and ultimately, your week. We rarely imagine how we want to spend our time—we just spend it. The best part of writing out this plan is that when your life goes crazy (kids are sick or you have tons of travel), you can come back to this and have the ability to refocus and get back on track.
Take the time compare how you are spending your day versus how you would like to spend your day. And remember, this is going to be a work in progress. You might need to readjust the timing as your life and responsibilities change.
The important thing to remember is, if you don’t give yourself time to take care of yourself and your career, you won’t have the chance to take your career where you want it to go. Good careers don’t happen by accident. You need to make it happen!