If you believe that getting a good time management system in place will be the solution to feeling like you’re “in charge” of your life, think again.
I’ve tried all sorts of time management systems to get things done. I’ve bought countless calendars that full of daily inspirational quotes to inspire me to “get to it.” I’ve read books about and taken online courses that promise me satisfaction and success if I just organize tomorrow today.
But one of my coaching colleagues, Susan Bock, told me that if I thought I could manage time, I was delirious. She was right. I just need to manage myself…a process that some define as how you “…influence yourself to achieve your objectives.”
So here are some of my secrets for developing self-leadership and creating the life you want:
1. Make a Commitment to Be Honest With Yourself.
I’m a data collector and self-monitoring is my tool. I check in with myself each morning and evening. When life feels easy, when relationships are smooth, and when I’m feeling generally content, that’s all the data I need.
But on those days when my jaw is so tight that my teeth ache, that yucky feeling in my stomach starts to grow, and I’m repeating the same story in my head over-and-over-and-over-and-over, I know it’s time to dive deeper into what my data is telling me.
I STOP and ask myself my favorite question from Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong”:
“What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation, about me, and about the others who are involved?”
Often, you don’t initially know why you’re feeling irritable, nervous, moody, negative or grouchy. Maybe it’s something you can’t control. Maybe it’s your attitude. Maybe it’s another person.
And that’s the point:
This question opens the door to honesty and the possibility of finding new perspectives and solutions. It gives you a chance to adjust your course, and get back to the ease and flow we all so desire in life.
2. Be Loyal to Your Inner Cheerleader (and not to your inner bully).
I practice self-appreciation: the act of recognizing some things that I’ve accomplished or of which I feel proud (and yes, in honor of my commitment to honesty, I admit that I don’t do it every day. But I do it a lot!). Self-appreciation is especially important when I hear the voice I’ve named “Ms. Bully” starting to rumble in my mind.
At those times, I have to stop in my tracks (cause Ms. Bully is a bully) and take charge of me!
Here’s my strategy: I take a few deep breaths and start to move around. I stretch my neck, shake my arms and legs, flex my fingers and toes and think about moving every joint in my body (we have 3000 joints!). Even small movements increase blood flow, increases oxygen to my brain, improves my mood and enhances cognitive functioning. And voila! That boost kicks me into gear and I can focus on what I like about me instead of what’s wrong with me. This perspective shift puts me back in charge of me and I can move forward with what I wanted to accomplish.
I have to confess: it’s often arduous to appreciate myself.
Sometimes I have to stretch my appreciations.
This morning, Ms. Bully was talking loudly and expressing her disappointment about my “laziness” yesterday when I didn’t finish this blog. The best I could do was to acknowledge and appreciate that I got out of bed after pressing the snooze button only once. But even this small appreciation made me smile, and that makes Ms. Bully back down every time.
3. Slow Down & Play!
Although I have often considered myself to be a BIG procrastinator, I must admit that when I look at what I’ve done over the past few years, it’s clear that I’ve accomplished plenty—in fact, my new commitment is to play. I don’t have to get everything done NOW.
In his book “Play”, Stuart Brown says:
“The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice of life elements are missed, what is left is a dulled soul.”
I try to take a “time out” every day every day to nourish my soul with activities that allow my brain to slip into neutral. Sometimes I grab my colored pencils and just doodle or I play a bit of Solitaire on my phone. My secret pleasure is to dip into the newest issue of People magazine, the “#1 place for celebrity news.” And of course, gazing out the window and watching leaves drop is mesmerizing.
A moment of truth: This “time-out” thing is easier said than done.
First, I feel a bit guilty engaging in these “unproductive” activities. Second, I can get lost in those wonderful mindless ventures and hours can pass. My trick to making it happen is to set a timer and give myself permission during that time to totally zone out. Whether I take 5 minutes or 50 minutes, those minutes are mine! No worrying about the work I’ve left behind.
What’s your version of play? I have client who loves to read the latest issue of The Economist. He says it gives him energy and boosts his creativity.
Whatever it is that makes you clap your hands with glee, just do it.
And remember…your hopes and dreams don’t have an expiration date.
4. Give Yourself a Break.
I try to be reliable and live with integrity; it’s part of my recovery program. But I have to be honest (see above): sometimes, I just miss the mark. I lack the interest, motivation, energy or time to do what I intended.
Sometimes, I want to take a nap—other times I want to binge watch Game of Thrones.
I used to be pretty good at punishing myself for moments like those. But now, when I have a day when I’m not doing what I planned to do, I just go with it.
You see, you win when you own these moments. When you let yourself off the “always be productive” hook and admit and accept that what you want and are going to do is take some down time, you reclaim your integrity…with integrity.
Of course there’s a caveat: Pay attention to how frequently you give yourself a break. If it’s so often that you’re not getting ANYTHING DONE”, revisit the “honesty” commitment in point #1).
Dr. Seuss puts it another way:
“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
If you’re ready to take charge of YOU (instead of time), I’m happy to help you figure out what works bests for you, and how to move from your current status to where you want to be.