It’s been comforting to connect with people all over the world and hear how everyone is doing. It’s like we’re all on this airplane going to the same place and each of us has a bit of a different view out the window.
Some people are focusing on their growth, others on family, or rest, creativity, health, work, and more. One common thread I have heard in all of my conversations is the challenge in knowing how to manage this time.
First, the work environment has changed drastically. Whether you’ve been working in an office and now have to work from home, or you always worked from home and now your family is there. A friend was sharing how she now has to play teacher to her daughter so it’s difficult to balance that with her own work. It’s like she just got handed a full-time job she never applied for. Right? We’re all taking on things we didn’t expect.
And one more scenario in the work space—maybe your home environment hasn’t changed that much but your industry has. Some people are putting out fires, some are looking for employment, others are finding ways to pivot and create opportunity where they’re at.
Whatever your world looks like, there are two underlying facts: lots has changed, and we don’t know how long things will be the way they are.
The time is going to pass either way, and I want to help you feel less overwhelmed and more effective with your time, however you want to spend it! We can easily go into victim mode and feel like there’s so much out of our control, and it’s true, there is. But there are still things that are in our control, and that’s what we want to focus on.
Before we dive into how to structure your time to be productive and effective, you have to know there are two primary styles for time management, and determine which is the best style for you.
I have a free quiz you can take, which includes steps and tools you can implement based on your style—please feel free to download that and use it! Otherwise, stick with me here and read through the two types.
When it comes to planning and making progress in anything, the strategist is someone who likes to use a short-term timeline with a step-by-step approach. Anything too far in the future will feel irrelevant and not energizing. This person likes to focus on the now, or something in the near future to work toward (typically less than a year in the future).
This person can be very organized, he/she tends to create a standard process where there isn’t one in place. And where there is a process in place—even if it’s old, this person runs on the adage “Don’t fix it if ain’t broke.”
The strategist is pensive and still—you might see one sitting calmly, legs crossed, thinking through a problem. He/she doesn’t expel a lot of energy in the thought process when the strategizing is going well. If this person gets frustrated, he/she will start making more movement, hand gestures, breath, leg bounces, etc.
This person is organized with information as well as time (when they aren’t overwhelmed). Some tools and resources this person thrives on are:
- Daily/weekly planners
- Excel spreadsheets
- Task management software
- To-do lists
- Data analytics / graphs, charts, stats
- Binders + folders
Rather than the strategy, the visionary likes to focus on the big picture. This person will get excited about a big goal—it might even be a goal that people think is a little wild or too lofty. This person will typically focus on a plan for one year out or more (maybe much further out!)
The visionary is inspired through motion and movement. Taking a walk can get the creativity flowing. Having a walking meeting instead of sitting at a boardroom with a PowerPoint will feel much more effective. You might also see this person walking around while they’re on a call, making hand gestures to express themselves throughout the conversation. The visionary can feel bored, stuck, or shut down if they’re sitting at a desk all day (or anywhere with little movement).
This person can also feel bored creating the business plan, the next steps, or structure for the big goal. Strategy will come through, but all the little baby steps involved can feel like a big drain for this person. It’s much more exciting to focus on what they are creating than how they will create it.
To an outsider, this person’s approach to goals can look chaotic, but this person knows what he/she is doing. Some tools and resources this person thrives on are:
- Yearly planners
- Task management tools w/ timelines
- Whiteboards, big sticky notes, dry erase surfaces
- Visuals, like large workflow processes posted on the wall
- Mind-mapping over a large surface area
- Voice memos – recording things while walking
You may have read through both of those types and noticed that you have traits from both sides. That’s common. What you’ll want to observe to have a better understanding for yourself is which one you are behaving like when you feel your best, when you’re energized.
As far as implementing one of those styles to be more effective with your time today, here are things you can do:
For the Strategist, pick one thing you want to achieve in a short-term window that feels good for you. You might try making a 3 month target, or maybe you want to stretch a bit further and go for 6 or 9 months. Wherever you land, check in and know you’re choosing it because you like that timeframe, not because it’s what other people do.
Once you have that set, determine how you will track and measure that goal. You probably already know about SMART goals—those that are specific and measurable essentially—but you need to choose a tracking system that feels good for you too!
Do you like writing things on paper or having the convenience of technology? Do you want to track your progress daily or weekly? Do you want numbers? Graphs? Kanban boards? Go with a system you’re going to use, one that you’ll enjoy updating.
Focus on using small steps and create a process for anything that feels inefficient right now. When you get overwhelmed, take a step back and see what you can adjust in the strategy or process to create progress.
For the Visionary, to avoid the massive drain of creating structure for your big goal, you will do better with bigger chunks. Instead of working on a micro strategy, keep the perspective of a macro view. You’ll still want to break these big pictures up so you can track and measure your results, and know whether you’re on target. It tends to help to plan backwards—start with the big end result and break it down into parts to determine benchmark goals along the way.
If you have a 10 year goal, break it into biannual milestones. If you have a 5 year goal, try making yearly benchmarks. If you’re looking at a one year goal, break that into quarters.
Whenever you start to feel your big idea losing steam, or you feel the creative process coming to a dead-halt because of the baby steps, zoom out. Reconnect with the big picture and adjust your benchmarks or the length of time to a period that feels more energizing.
And as I shared with the strategist, think about tools you will actually like using to track and measure your progress. You might find it more effective to have a big space to brain dump your ideas, mind map, and then pull a system together rather than whittling it all right down into a planner. Find where you’re inspired, and do that. You might want to add in color, even art, to create a plan that is fun and attainable.
If you have more questions on this time management approach, please let me know! My goal in sharing is to help you find peace in your schedule, so I’d love know how I can support or clarify. To access the free quiz and download you can complete, click here.
Happy planning! Please share this with someone who can use some support with his/her new schedule or time management.