Several years ago I had to see a surgeon and schedule a procedure. I arrived early to do my paperwork and after giving it to the nurse I sat down for the usual long wait. Within seconds of sitting down, the doctor stepped into the waiting area and called my name. “Wow! That was fast!” I said. He told me that he took responsibility for his own schedule. He knew how much time he needed with each patient and to dictate their notes following the visit. His schedule was in his control.
I was in his office three times. He was never late. He understood the power of seizing his schedule. As a result, both he and the patients were much happier.
Our schedules can be filled to the point of being booked, overbooked, and double-booked. Sometimes we struggle to say “No” to anything. At times we are convinced that we are superhuman and have the ability to do far beyond our true capacity.
Yet, to succeed in life, lower stress, and keep our sanity, we have to be able to seize our schedule.
Let’s look at some lessons we can learn from the surgeon. To seize our schedule and have remarkable results:
1. Take personal responsibility.
Don’t leave our schedule in the hands of someone else. We know more about our plans than anyone. We know the time frame that’s necessary for each item. Take action and develop a proactive schedule. Taking responsibility to set our schedule, empowers us and our productivity.
For some of us, our employer is in control of our work schedule. That’s okay, that’s part of our job. But work time is not our entire schedule. We must take charge of the remaining time and it will help us achieve our goals.
2. Allow enough time for each item.
Give sufficient time to complete each item. Knowing something takes 30 minutes and giving it a 15-minute block in your calendar is only self-defeating. We need to set ourselves up for success. Schedule according to the actual time frame needed. Small successes create positive energy and allow us to work better throughout the day.
3. Perform in the best time frame.
Some people are better writers in the morning, others are better at doing something physical or leading a meeting. We need to think through our day and schedule things according to when we can do them best. If we struggle with doing paperwork in the morning, move it to when we are more successful. If we are an early morning people person then set that as the time to meet folks.
We can have a conversation with our employer to help them understand how we work best at different times. Based on that information, seize the opportunity and ask for permission to change the work schedule. Ask for the new schedule to be set for a specific period and then evaluate its effectiveness. Let the employer approve any long-term changes.
4. Do not overbook.
Research on multitasking has shown that it is often ineffective. Some studies have shown that our efficiency drops as much as 30% when we multitask. Over-booking our schedule forces us to think about multiple unrelated items and reduces our effectiveness, much like multitasking.
If we struggle to say “No,” then assign the person or task a place in our schedule that is truly open. Each of us will be more satisfied because we can give them our full attention. We are also more satisfied when we can complete small tasks throughout the day.
5. Schedule time for action.
Many items on our schedule require additional action. Plan for a time in our schedule immediately following an activity to write down those areas that we need to focus on next. We may want to write down a list of items that we will need to complete the project. We can list the names of individuals who may be able to help us to complete the activity. Write down questions that arose during your scheduled activity that requires further research.
I make it a habit of jotting down notes while I’m talking with someone. Afterward, I write down my follow-up notes and don’t have to rely simply on my memory. Over the years I found out that if I don’t write it down immediately, I am highly likely to forget it.
6. Schedule time for you.
We must block out time for ourselves. People often say that they do not have time to do ___________. We can put whatever we want to at the end of that sentence. It could be exercise, relax, plan, read, research, etc. Whatever it is, don’t let the schedule stop us. Allow the schedule to give us the authority to do what we need to do. If we need to exercise, schedule it! When someone asks for that time, let them know it is unavailable. That time slot is taken.
We are the only ones that can seize the opportunity and make positive changes happen in our daily schedule. We need to give ourselves the authority to do so.