Design the Time of Your Life
By Sheryl Adkins-Green, Chief Marketing Officer, Mary Kay Inc.
Friendly warning: This article is not about planning a dream vacation or the ultimate party. If however, you want to create more time to invest in your professional and personal goals, please keep reading. Time is truly priceless. Money can’t buy it, and once it’s spent, you can never get it back. You already know the wide variety of career, family and social demands that compete for your time and attention, so I won’t waste time describing why there never seems to be enough hours in a day. Instead, I will jump straight in and share a framework that I’ve used successfully. I call it “Designing Time.” Whenever my schedule cannot accommodate all that I want and need to do, I design my time utilizing the following blueprint:
Step 1: Determine your priorities.
It’s often said that if something or someone is truly important, you will make time, and if not, you’ll make an excuse. May Kay Ash consistently taught the power of a “Six Most Important Things to Do Today List.” This simple habit can create a daily discipline that facilitates the consistent achievement of success one day at a time.
Step 2: Decide to accept that you can’t squeeze more than 24 hours into a day.
You can’t, no matter how smart you are, how well you multi-task or how hard you try (except perhaps when you fly from New York to California!) Until and unless you decide that you have to make choices and trade-offs, you will spread your energy and attention into a thin layer. Instead of giving the “best of you,” you wind up giving “the rest of you” that’s leftover from trying to do too much.
Step 3: Delete, delay, decrease, delegate.
Make changes and trade-offs asking yourself four questions:
- What can I delete? If you’re a can-do woman, (and aren’t we all?), then the hardest thing to do is say “no,” or do less. Yet one of the most common keys to success cited by high achievers across all professions is their ability to know when and how to say “no.” Sometimes the best way to determine what you can stop doing is simply to remove a routine item off from your to-do list and see if anyone notices, or minds.
- What can I delay? There’s no doubt that we live in an age of immediate gratification, but that doesn’t mean that everything is required immediately. ASAP is often interpreted as “right now!” but remember, it stands for as soon as possible, and we need to remind folks that sometimes “possible” may take a little time.
- What can I decrease? What can you simplify? What is the minimum effort/output that will be satisfactory? Does every meeting need to be 30 or 60 minutes? Not always! As often as possible, I actually keep my meetings to 20 or 45 minutes, which provides me with time to stay current with emails, phone calls, and quick follow-ups.
- What can I delegate? Think of who can help you accomplish what needs to be done. Leverage the full talent of your team. Take full advantage of ways that technology can streamline your efforts. The next time someone offers to help you, don’t be so quick to say, “No, I’m fine.” Give them that opportunity to help you so that you can leverage their expertise in the future if/when you need to.
Step 4: Define and defend your time boundaries.
Once you’ve determined how best to use your time, don’t give others free access. How many times has a colleague asked you if you have a minute, and then taken 10 minutes or more? How many times have you arrived promptly for a meeting that started late, had no agenda—and ended with a decision to hold a follow-up meeting?! Protect your time by being more insistent that others be prepared to make the most of your time. Also be mindful of when and how you might be sabotaging your time boundaries by spending too much time rethinking past events or worrying. Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Channel that energy into action!
When people are not pursuing all that they desire, the lack of time is the most common reason—aka excuse—that is given. How many times have you said or heard, “I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to do X, Y or Z”? There is no such thing as finding time. Time is not sitting in a box in your closet or your garage. You need to make time for what matters to you by thinking differently and purposely about how to design your time. As Mary Kay Ash would always say, “You can do it!”