Have you felt like a hostage to the commitments that others put into your daily agenda, even without consulting you? Do you think that there are days when your time organization is managed by others, and not you?
Well, it is that there may be some pickpockets around who have taken control of your schedules and organization systems, especially when you use shared calendars.
The dictionary says that “pickpocket” is someone who snatches pocket wallets, who steals a valuable asset from you without you realizing it, using tricks for their own benefit.
If you are affected by this “wave of kidnappings” of your time, even if it seems innocent, it is not, because you lose control over your routine and processes, meetings, and how you could make the most of every minute of the day.
The inner thieves of time
Before moving on, you have to consider that, just as there are people we could call “agenda-stealers”, there are also other types of time thieves within you.
They occur when you are the one who produces these effects, both in your time management and in others, causing waste and low overall productivity.
Here are seven of the top internal time thieves:
- Notifications that distract you
- Lack of organization and processes
- Not knowing how to delegate
- poor communication
- Believing that everything is important and has the same level of relevance.
Although they may seem imperceptible, camouflaged in the form of hundreds of seconds that would seem insignificant, the result is painful, since the final sum causes hours and hours wasted. Think about it, which ones do you suffer from and could you improve?
5 ideas to learn how to take care of time pickpockets and increase your productivity
Some time ago, a client who is the CEO of a technology company confessed to me: “This is crazy: I don’t have time for myself, to think, to do more strategic things. I open the calendar and they put me meetings all the time. I feel like I’ve lost control and direction.”
We are facing a very clear fact that, due to carelessness or convenience, he handed over his agenda to people who perhaps have priorities different from his own, and after so much time has passed, it is now considered normal for them to do so.
Whether you run a company, lead people, be a professional, or run a business of any kind, if there are moments (or every day) where you feel the presence of external time management tyrants, here are five ideas to take back control.
1. Set limits and make coexistence agreements
First of all, look at the origin of this behavior at work, and detect if there was a time when you allowed it more than normal. For example, it is common to share the calendar with the work team and assistants; although if you can not have your hours you are really in trouble.
Here I suggest that you learn to set limits by clearly expressing the level of relevance of the priorities for you.
Also, make coexistence agreements for the organization of time in shared activities: for example, assign certain minutes for brief matters, and that the schedules of you and the others are fulfilled. In other cases you can contemplate more extensive meetings. Currently the trend is to reduce the duration, and concentrate meetings on two or three days a week, either virtually or face-to-face: this can also help you.
2. The emergencies of others are not always emergencies
There is an evil in most people that is the overacting of stress and urgency. Although it is true that there are stages of greater acceleration due to work dynamics, you are not always in a virtual intensive care unit. Therefore, emergencies should be exceptions, and not the rule of the activity.
If you want to be the master of your time again, I recommend you verify in detail the level of relevance that each issue has for you, and contemplate the points of view of others. Emergencies are not always such: what is more, in most cases they could be planned.
This requires your negotiation skills and agreeing on the best practices so that you do not live in a permanent acceleration, which only produces a greater sense of chaos and emergency in any matter.
Also think if there is something in that behavior that has to do with the way you lead; For example, I know people who take too long to decide -and perhaps they can speed up this aspect-, or who delay authorizations or document signatures, promoting subsequent urgency.
3. Learn to save spaces for yourself
If hundreds of executives have learned anything when we work together, it is to have personal and professional spaces, without any invasion from the outside.
They can be to read, study, recreate, or do business networking: as the owner of the agenda, you can in many cases have sections of the day without the need for meetings, and dedicated exclusively to you.
The recommendation is that the first thing you schedule in your calendar are these spaces, and then allow other people’s commitments to enter.
So, just as you design the meetings, I suggest you do the same with the moments of work alone, to face the tasks that require a greater focus and reflection on your part. Being able to work remotely helps in this regard, if you have the discipline to maintain effective work schedules and routines outside of the office.
4. Do not postpone your personal plans
Another visible tendency is to overlook your personal longings in pursuit of work and professional commitments.
We already know that work stress is a reality, and it can end in Burnout syndrome, when you are already so mentally, physically and emotionally burned out that you are unable to react to the slightest of stimuli. It is a severe pathology that addresses mental health and affects all your performance and relationships.
That is why it is essential that you regain control of the time you dedicate to family and affections. When you postpone that genuine bond with those you love the most, those people who accompany you through thick and thin, you begin to suffer from a loss of meaning. It is as if a patina of sadness tarnishes your life, no matter how successful you are.
To avoid this, you can organize during the week what days and hours you will dedicate to them, making every effort to be present and to let them know that they are a fundamental part of your balance between professional and personal life.
Ask them for help: they can remind you of your commitments about meeting certain schedules with them, instead of recriminating you. And, especially, do not blame yourself internally or feel guilty, because this will mean only one thing: that perhaps it is already too late and that you have postponed too much attention to those essential links.
5. Take care of non-renewable goods, and manage them wisely.
Just as time is a non-renewable commodity, so is your attention. They cannot be bought even with all the gold in the world. Instead, they can be properly managed.
With an agenda taken over by the pickpockets of the moment it is possible to feel overwhelmed and with little room for manoeuvre. Instead of reaching this point, think about how to protect your time and your spaces, your focus and your energy, as if they were precious ingots.
In short, it is about learning to better maneuver the complicated agenda of someone with many responsibilities. And, above all, knowing how to maintain the appropriate balance so as not to leave in the hands of third parties any aspect that is a good that is not renewed, multiplied and not bought.
Yes: time, your attention, your affections, and your health are not bought. Don’t lose them.
daniel colombo Facilitator and Master Executive Coach specialized in senior management, professionals and teams; mentor and professional communicator; international speaker; author of 31 books. LinkedIn Top Voice Latin America. ICF certified; Certified Coach and Member of John Maxwell Team.