By DSOA Studio Growth Coach, Jane Grech.
We all need more time, yes? And we often say to ourselves “If only had more time!” or “If only there was an 8th day in the week!”
That actually is my worst nightmare – an 8th day – because we all know we would fill it with more stuff, more jobs, more to do lists. It wouldn’t actually be a day of rest, after all, that is what Sunday was meant for… yet….
The beauty of time is that we all have the same amount allocated to us each and every week – it is an even playing field, yet for most of us, it’s a constant battle against time. So, why, if we all have the same amount of time, do some people get more done than others. Why don’t we feel we have enough time?
The bad news is time is fixed.
The good news is, energy is flexed.
Manage energy, not time.
We can’t create more time but we can create ways to harness more energy and also discover how to best use that energy.
Every day contains the same number of hours, while your energy swings up and down depending on multiple variables, including rest, nutrition, and emotional health.
My energy and productivity is best in the mornings, alone, after I have dropped my children at school and returned to my home office. I’ve discovered I need a clear desk, a cup of tea or coffee, and some music. With the right set up, I can power through hours of deep work, really making good indents into my work.
When do you do your best work? Morning? Afternoon? Late in the night. There is much research telling you that mornings are best – and this is true for me, but it wasn’t always. When I had young children at home mornings were a zombie eclipse. I used to stumble to my computer at 8pm each night and then power through to 11pm – it wasn’t ideal, but it was quiet and I could concentrate. And there was still a cup of tea and music.
Don’t fight what your body and mind needs.
On the days I teach in the late afternoon I find I have slump between about 2-330pm.I used to fight this and try and continue to work on the computer, but I really was wasting time. There is a difference between busy and productive. I was “busy” but I certainly wasn’t productive. The 230pm slump is based on the circadian rhythm: the 24 hour pattern of sleep, mood, body temperature and performance. I now work really hard in the mornings so that I achieve my goals and then take a slower approach in those afternoon hours. Instead of forging ahead clicking mindlessly at the computer, instead I tidy my office, set up my studios, chat with my staff or go for a walk and listen to a podcast.
We can’t do it all. We’ll talk about delegation another time, but it’s worth noting that the best way to be more productive is to get others to do your work! You are not super human and you do not have to be. I get big projects off the ground because I have a team that helps me. I am the conductor and they are the musicians, together we work to produce great sounds.
Let things simmer
I have so many ideas! Do you know that feeling!? So much great stuff to do, right now, all so urgent.
Take the pedal of the accelerator and coast for a little. Enjoy the ride, and slow down. Do less but do it better. Focus and refine what you are doing. Those times I have had great ideas, I write them down in my note book so I don’t forget them. Month later I look back at them and think, “nah I don’t want to do that any more!” The novelty of the idea has worn off, and I am back on track. Thank goodness I didn’t spend too much time chasing that big shiny disco ball at the time. It’s hard being a creative! I hear you!
Distractions are real
Focus is hard.
Things bing and bong all day aiming to take us away from what we are doing. Aim to set a task and block of time such as 30 minutes on Facebook or 20 minutes on email, and do just that. If working on a task, work JUST on that task and nothing else. As hard as it is in this ‘age of distraction’ you must be disciplined with yourself. In the meantime do yourself a favour and turn off the Facebook notifications and the email, and the phone.
This is an area of improvement for me this year and I am getting better, but still have a long way to go. I’ve even been known to write FOCUS on top of my computer so when I drift my subtle CAPS LOCK SHARPIE reminder is there. FOCUS! Yes, yes I will!
Create White Space
I used to write lists as long as my arm and wonder why I never felt satisfied with what I had (or more likely hadn’t!) achieved that day. I had unrealistic expectations of what I could achieve in one day and was leaving no white space for emergencies or ANY down time. This is a sure way to burn out, and burn out quickly. As a reformed over-achiever, I now leave ‘happy gaps’ in my schedule for emergencies or conversations I hadn’t planned on having – and guess what, that white space always gets filled. I’ve never had a time where I sit around thinking “Oh great I have two hours and nothing to do!”
Interruptions, and life, happens. As a leader, interruptions are plentiful. Acknowledging this fact will allow you to be more understanding when they do occur. It may be a team member needs more of your time, or a parent from the studio wants to discuss something at length with you. All of a sudden you feel stressed, because you hadn’t planned for this 30 minutes of your time to be used in that way, and you won’t get your To Do list completed.
The Big Three
Whilst we are talking lists….. each day, pick your top three things to do. Three! That is all! So that if nothing else got done that day, you’d still have your big three. I know happily tick those off most days and instead of chastising myself on what I haven’t done I give myself a little pat on the bag for the three that I have done. Go me!
Sunday Sessions – Planning helps!
Spending an hour on a planning session on a Sunday night really helps me get set up for the week, mentally, but practically as well.
I review the week that was: what were my wins, my highlights, my lessons learnt and what was I grateful for? Reflecting on the week means that if I did make mistakes (and I usually do!) that I am more likely to learn from them and less likely to repeat them.
Then I look to the week ahead: what are my big three that I must fit in this week? What is my intention and focus for the week? What impact do I want to make and how? These are all the questions I spend a couple of minutes on each week. It helps me focus on where my energy and time needs to be spent. I am proactive rather than reactive.
Create a weekly game plan
If possible, schedule your working week, and even though it doesn’t feel ‘quite right’, schedule family time too. I map out my weeks (rarely are two weeks ever exactly the same but the ‘bones’ generally are) and I schedule in what I will be doing and where I am. I do this in a very general way (Categories include Home, Teaching, Office, Meetings) I enjoy the predictability that routine brings – so I structure that into my week. Mondays I catch up with my managers, Tuesdays I focus on tasks that enhance or support my teaching work, Wednesdays I read and research and sometimes I shop (!), Thursdays I plan and review other people’s work and Friday I dream and innovate new works. Obviously, there are weeks where this differs, but I try and keep to this as much as possible.
Learn to say NO
Agggh, I know how hard this is. At some point, you can’t be everything to everyone. You must review how many projects you commit to. Consider your priorities in work, and in life, and keep a close eye on how much you are doing – ask does this fit with my current priorities and what I want to achieve. This area is difficult for me, but I am getting better. I want to go to conferences, I want to take students interstate for workshops, there is so much I could be doing, but I’m getting better at saying no, knowing that now doesn’t mean never and that I am where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to be doing.
Give the gift of your time
In complete contradiction to the above paragraph (and that is life isn’t it – contradictory in so many ways!) allow yourself to spend some time, giving to others, because it feels great! If you can make this work within how you like to spend your time – even better. I really enjoy cooking, and so, I will quite often use my time to make food parcels for friends who have moved house, or who are sick, or who are struggling. They are always blown away, and while I think yes they probably love having not to cook, what is most touching, is I have given them my gift of time. Whether you read to children at school, walk Nanna to the shops on Mondays, have a cuppa with a friend who is not feeling wonderful – it is really lovely to be able to give the gift of our time, so leave blank spaces in your schedule for that as well.
Nothing is more precious or more meaningful than our time and energy, so we must work hard to use it as wisely as we can.
Jane Grech is the author of Dance Studio Success as well as the owner of the Jane Grech Dance Centre in Adelaide. She is also a loving wife, mother of 3 gorgeous children and our DSOA resident expert when it comes to studio culture and leadership.
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