Mar 16 2017
Transcendent Time Management

This article is taken from a blog post by Simon Horton, one of the Centre’s trainers.

It ain’t the to-do list

So in my previous post, we talked about a delegate on my Time Management course who was an advisor to an Ambassador but never got her work done because she was so de-motivated. And we found that re-connecting her to the amazingness of her job was the key to getting back her drive.

But there was another delegate on that course who had a different problem and, again, it was nothing “to do” with her to-do list.

Want your life back?

This delegate, I’ll call her Mei-Lin, came along because she had recently found herself working at 3am for the third time in a week. Now, this didn’t happen every week but for the last 8 years working as a senior in-house lawyer for an investment bank, she found herself working regularly until 10pm or later.

And it had now reached crisis point and she had had enough. She wanted her life back. She wanted her marriage back, she wanted her friends back, she wanted her health back and all the things she had always wanted to do but never had the time or was too tired.

So what did she need to do then? Simple, as the drugs campaigners will tell you: Just Say No.

She worked such long hours because every time her boss (or anyone else in the office, for that matter), said, “Oh Mei-Lin, could you just…”, she would say “Yes”. And her to-do list would grow by one more item. And because she was clever and conscientious, she would do a very good job, so those same people would come back to her the next time, knowing that she would deliver.

In other words, she trained them to give her too much work.

The Victor Meldrew approach

Contrast that with an ex-colleague of mine who used to work on an in-house I.T. help-desk. The phone would ring, he would pick it up and answer gruffly “Yes?”, he would be silent then say “No” and put the phone down! Now, I’m not really sure help-desk is the appropriate name in this instance, but he had a customer service manner that would have impressed Victor Meldrew.

But, and here’s the thing, he trained his internal customers not to call him unless they had a real problem. He said when he first joined the company 90% of the calls were looking for an understanding ear rather than any technical help. Well, counselling wasn’t in his job description and he wasn’t going to say “ah, diddums” to anyone! Now they only call when they have a real technical issue and then he is quite glad to fix it. (Well, “glad” is perhaps a bit strong…)

Working out at the “No-Gym”

Well, I didn’t tell Mei-Lin to answer the phone like this but, I can tell you, she had a long way to go before she was anything like Victor Meldrew. So we practiced saying “No” again and again, to lots of requests, plausible, legitimate, friendly, even emotionally-blackmailing requests. She found it really difficult at first but after a while at the “No-Gym”, she began to get the hang of it. The uncomfortable squirmings and facial contortions involved in saying “no” became less and less. She even began to enjoy it.

And we role-played “The Big Conversation” – the big conversation she was going to have with her boss about boundaries, about job description, about resources, about expectations of how things were going to be from now on.

Make no mistake, Mei-Lin didn’t even wait until she got back to work, she went out and called her boss straight after the course.

We gave her just enough Victor Meldrew to get her life back. And, to make sure she kept to it, just like Natascha, she decided to put “Say no” as the first task on her to-do list every morning.

And you?

What about you? I’m sure you don’t find yourself working at 3am on a regular basis but, if you think about it, couldn’t you do with a bit more time for those good things in your life?

Couldn’t you just be a bit more choosy about what you say “yes” to? Couldn’t you benefit from training some of your customers (whoever they may be) to be a “better” customer? Couldn’t you do with a little bit more of your life back?

Transcendent Time Management

Or maybe it’s something else even.

Time management isn’t just about to-do lists, it is so much more than that. It’s about getting your life back. It’s about re-connecting with your inspiration, it’s about so many things.

Time Management is probably the most common management course out there. It is also the course that falls by the wayside quickest as soon as the delegate gets back to their desk.

But if you go beyond the to-do list and beyond the other traditional “band-aid” approaches, you can make so much profound, meaningful changes to your life.

For the better, of course!

Simon Horton has spent over 10 years as an expert in the fields of Negotiating, Influencing, Leadership and Management Skills, working with an impressive list of high-profile clients, in the private, public and voluntary sectors. Read more articles from Simon. 

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