Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. And while my friends in Canada or the US Upper Midwest won’t be planting anything for several weeks, the rest of us are watching trees bud, flowers bloom…. and pollen build up on everything. I think the late Robin Williams summed it up best: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
Our schedules are “blooming” too aren’t they? Work is wide open, expectations of our time from family and friends are increasing, and there’s all those projects you want to get done now that winter is becoming a distant memory. How will you get so many things done? As you celebrate the beauty of spring and begin to reflect on what you want to grow this season, I also invite you to think about planting these four “seeds” for success in your daily schedule to ensure that your most important things can get done:
Protect Your “Prime Time”
It’s easy to allow interruptions, meetings, and distractions to steal those moments when you could be most productive. You keep thinking there will be time to make up for it in the future… and there never is. To help keep yourself in the “productivity zone” more often, ask yourself these questions when you’re tempted to let something (or someone) steal your minutes:
- Saying yes to this interruption means I will be saying no to _______________ .
- Am I attending this meeting because I need to, or because I have been unwilling to have a conversation with someone about how my time could be better spent… or how we could improve the effectiveness of such meetings?
- What action should I take now that I will look back on tonight and be glad I did?
Automate Automate Automate
One line in a recent Seth Godin blog perfectly captured the need to develop more consistent habits and routines. Godin wrote, “…because without habits, every decision requires attention. And attention is exhausting.” From your morning routine to how you manage your email to dealing with that dreaded, “Have you got a minute?” question, coming up with routines you can do without letting your brain get so emotionally or mentally involved frees up energy you can use to be more creative, focused, and even more present in every moment in your day.
Get Serious About Professional or Personal Improvement
I enjoy eavesdropping on people shopping for plants in a garden center in the spring. I almost always hear someone say, “I’ve always wanted to grow ____________ (insert name of flower or plant) but just never tried it.” In the same way, reflect on some ways you’ve wanted to grow over the past year but let your daily overload crowd it out of your schedule.
Create Consistent Space to Think Forward
It’s a funny thing about seeds. You can’t just put them in the ground and come back later expecting them to have grown into the perfect plant. You have to monitor their growth, providing resources as needed, and make sure the weeds aren’t overtaking them. To make sure the three “seeds” for success mentioned earlier can thrive, It’s important that you set aside time to check on your growth in these areas, both to celebrate your small successes and take corrective action. Some ways you can more automatically make this time of reflection happen include:
- Setting a daily alarm on your smartphone or wearable tech. Perhaps when you are normally driving home from work or not actively engaged in other activities. The alarm will be a quick reminder for you to assess your day and how you might make even better choices tomorrow.
- Scheduling the time in your calendar. It might get crowded out by other things, but just the visual reminder will help keep you thinking about where you want to go and not just where you are now.
- Creating a question a day to answer for yourself. You can allow your schedule to keep you so narrowly focused that you rarely look at the bigger picture. Do an internet search of “Powerful coaching questions” to give you some questions that will force you to look at more than the 37 things on today’s task list.
Plant the Seeds for Success and watch them grow.
If you want a powerful visual of the need to use your time wisely, buy a pack of seeds of your favorite vegetable. Pour them into a clear jar or cup and place them in your work area. Then each time you notice yourself not using your time well, remove a seed and throw it into the trash. And as you do, think of the potential harvest of that favorite vegetable that is now lost with that seed gone. Pretty soon you might find that you see the “seed” of each moment in your day a little differently.
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