How to carve out strategic time, thinking time, wellbeing time (Golden Time), even just time to get through your own to-do list, when you're scheduled from morning to night on video calls and working long hours?
This week my group coaching with leaders and conversations with larger organisations had a strong wellbeing theme - leaders within these organisations are working hard, harder than ever. All from their homes, where they sit on call after call, maybe ducking out to deal with homeschooling queries, but otherwise logging three-digit step counts. Often the easiest place for others to find a meeting slot in these leaders' diaries is at the end of the working day, so this 'day' gets longer and longer.
One of the things I ask in these situations is what here is in your control and what isn't? We are all parts of systems after all, and we cannot take responsibility for everything. Over time, we can increase our circle of influence (see below), and increase the amount of things we have agency over. But in the very short term, there will be stuff we can influence, and stuff beyond our control. With this frame in mind, a few practical insights emerged this week:
1) What is the worst that will happen if you skip the 6pm meeting that landed in your diary at the last minute, after a long hard day? I can't tell you the answer, but often we don't really test the question. One of my brave clients tested it this week and discovered that the world did not in fact end, and his boss totally understood that he needed to grab some groceries for dinner. I'm not saying do this for every meeting, but start doing it once, twice, thrice a week. It doesn't need to be all or nothing.
2) Don't feel guilty about taking some time to exercise or recharge within the typical 9-5 hours. When you're putting in the long days and even some weekends, you're making a tough deal for yourself if you don't take back some of that time to recharge. But I also want to point out that you're not alone in doing this, its a natural tendency for many. The majority of my clients are incredibly conscientious, and therefore the risk is striking too harsh a deal for yourself, rather than vice versa.
3) Meeting-free days or weeks - which are on the wish list for many of my clients - might not be possible next week. Or the week after. But just as you book holiday, you can find a week in your diary which is more suited to a meeting-free week - or day - if you plan it far enough in advance. I've often discussed with clients that their 'time horizon' for their calendar is one or two months. That they can find a few days to be free of the usual meetings once they start looking out a month or two ahead. It just needs a bit of planning.
More next time,