Take Control of your Schedule – Don’t Let Your Work Overwork You

Does this sound familiar?

You get into work early with the intention to start to fire off some emails before heading into your first meeting. You grab a coffee and before you start, your colleague comes over to talk to you about their weekend, and then your assistant walks in to have you approve some documents, then you see an email notification pop up from your boss and by the time you’re finished, it’s time for your first meeting of the day. It doesn’t stop there – you go from meeting to meeting, with little to no break. Finally, you try to address your emails piling up in your inbox, but you are being interrupted by further distractions: more team members with questions, new urgent email notifications that need your attention immediately, and MORE meetings and surprise, it’s the end of the day. Your day has just flown by and now you have even more to do with due to addressing immediate concerns.

You’re spending way over 40 hours a week, working evenings and weekends always trying to catch up and never feeling on top of anything. That is just a one-way ticket to burn out because you can never shut off from work.

I have worked with several clients on workplace burnout – it is usually the first topic I address with them before we get into talking about strategic intelligence. Unless you can regain control of your calendar and priorities, there will be no time in there to be thinking about visioning, motivating your team, or partnering with others to reach your goals.

By addressing and regaining control of your workday, you are going to see some immediate benefits including:

  • Reduce time working at home (using work time to actually tackle work),
  • Increases your productivity,
  • Allows time to be an effective leader – strategic visioning, foresight, planning, motivating and developing your team,
  • And reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed and finally regaining control

Here’s how you can start regaining control:

Reduce time in meetings

Start by doing an inventory of all the weekly repeating meetings that are in your calendar and ask yourself if you are leading them:

  • Is this meeting providing you and your colleague’s value/meeting your objectives?
  • Is the frequency of the meetings correct and can it be done in less time?
  • Can this meeting be led by one of your direct reports instead?

If the meeting is not led by you:

  • Do you need to be in these meetings? What is your role in this meeting – are you providing input, direction or just participating? Should you be in initial meetings or later ones?
  • Can one of your employees or reports attend and give you an update?
  • Can you attend for the part of the meeting to address or receive a status update and then step away when it comes to operational discussions?

Communicate the changes

Let your team and cross-functional teams know your intention to reduce the frequency and your presence in meetings with your rationale. Let them know moving forward you will be asking for the objectives and agenda of the meeting from the lead before the meeting to understand if there is a need for your attendance. Only once you have appropriately communicated your new approach to meetings, that you start to reduce the time in meetings.

Add in Time blocks

Place up to a maximum of time blocks of 60 – 90 mins through the week in your calendar. Let your team members know you have placed some time blocks in your calendar in case they are trying to get urgent time in your calendar. If you have an assistant, let them know you would like a certain number of time blocks protected in your calendar.

I also recommend either on Friday afternoon or Monday first thing in the morning to have time blocks, to allow for a chance to look ahead to the week coming and determine how to be better prepared for the meetings, and or understand your need to be in the meetings and for how long. Also, plan out how you want to spend your time during the time blocks – e.g. addressing emails, working on project x, etc.

Remove Distractions

Turn off your notifications on your phone and laptop. A strategy that has worked well for a lot of my Clients is putting your phone away for 25 – 30 mins increments. I usually recommend setting a timer and put it away from your line of sight, then take a 5 – 10 min break, check it once and reset the timer. Trying to multitask does not work (stay tuned for my article about monotasking). Another recommendation is putting app time limits on your phone to avoid checking social media during work hours – which can lead down a rabbit hole of a chunk of time being lost. That way when you go to try an open up Instagram or LinkedIn, it won’t open the app and ask you if you want to remove your app limit.

These small changes can lead to amazing results. I have seen Clients reduce their work time at home and even have time to eat and pee! They are simple changes, but necessary. You just need to be honest with yourself, let go of needing to be in the weeds, your fear of missing out, and beginning to empower/delegate your team where appropriate.

I would love to hear about your progression once you’ve started the steps to reorganizing and prioritizing your time!