Welcome back to our periodic column on boundary setting! Last week, we talked about setting limits when people say things they shouldn’t.
Today, we’re talking about setting limits with our time. There are a lot of topics which fall under this category, and it is easily the foundation for the questions I get asked most.
One of the simpler time questions is how do I find time to: (1) get caught up on my work with all these calls/meetings, (2) meet someone for lunch a few times a month, (3) do business/professional development?
It’s true. Certainly when you work in a company, calendar items just pop up on your Outlook calendar because folks see “an opening” even if it was the half hour you were going to grab a sandwich.
Even if you work in an environment where folks don’t have access to your calendar, the inevitable pile up of meetings and conference calls crowd out your ability to do any “thinking” work much less squeeze in social or professional time.
Here are a few tips for making your work/extras load manageable:
1. Block recurring weekly appointment on the Outlook calendar from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Fridays. This is a strategy I have used for two years. There are times when that appointment has to give for work travel or an emergency situation (and the day may not be Fridays for you, but it’s the best one for me), but generally that block of time is sacred. I use it to meet friends for lunch or to catch up on family or administrative matters or just to listen to songs or a talk I’ve had on my to-do list. That time is a precious gift.
2. Granted, an hour and a half isn’t long, so I encouraged my girlfriend who runs a small law office to employ a different strategy. She and her partner are so busy taking client meetings and hosting three hour client deliveries, their backlog of delivery work often overwhelms them. For her, I advised block out Friday as your “no appointment” day. DO NOT take appointments that day. Make it an office policy. You can never dig out of being buried without uninterrupted hours; that, in turn, helps you serve your other clients/business lines by doing the thinking and research and written work necessary to support those meetings the rest of the week.
3. Ask if you are a required participant. So many of us getting meeting invites for two hour meetings or calls where there are over a dozen participants. If we’re needed at all, and sometimes we’re not, it’s for five minutes on the agenda. If you are required, ask for an agenda. Often, if there’s a long meeting, you are only needed for a half hour. If you host these mega-meetings, create agendas. Not only does it keep you on track, and help redirect people on rabbit trails, but it allows you to grant people the option of only attending the part relevant to them. You will be a superhero.
These are just a few of the tried and true time block tips and tricks. What has worked for you? What is your boundary challenge?