About five years ago, I realized we don’t manage time, we own it. It’s ours, we’re responsible for it. It’s our job to nurture it, to protect it. When we manage something, anything, we tend to use outside forces as excuses for why we mismanage it. The poor economy prevented us from managing our money. We can’t manage our weight because our busy life prevents us from exercising.
Too many times I hear people whining and complaining about not being able to get things done. They say their boss changed the desired outcome. Or their company didn’t give them the necessary resources. Or their staff is poorly trained. They’re saying they can’t manage their time because of outside forces–their boss, lack of resources and an inept staff.
In April of 1988 I lead one of my first workshops. It was a time management session for a group of engineers. They were missing deadlines on their projects. One problem was they were getting ‘lost’ in their work and working past deadlines. One tip I gave them was to plan weekly. I taught this technique in all of my workshops but, what I did differently with these
engineers was I told them to plan weekly as a team. Every Friday afternoon they would have a meeting to discuss how the past week went–what went well and what went ill–and then plan ahead for next week. The key point I stressed was they were to keep each other accountable. If one team member got lost in his job, another team member would be there to keep him on track. Problem solved.
When I saw the success they had with planning weekly, I was convinced it was a critical piece to owning your time.
One of the excuses I hear about not managing time is, “I can’t plan weekly–my job is too reactionary.” The reasons why vary but, people have always given me push back about weekly planning. I have been a corporate trainer for twenty six years—26 years!! I have worked in hundreds of industries, with all levels of leadership and in different cultures. We can all plan weekly–to some extent–we can all plan weekly.
Recently I started thinking maybe the terms ’weekly planning’ or ‘plan weekly’ was part of the problem. These words together sound boring to me, maybe daunting to others. And those words tied into other unfriendly words like deadline, crunch time and tight schedule. So let’s change it up. Instead of weekly planning, how about calling it–energy mapping? These words sound better, don’t they? Now, instead of thinking about deadlines and blocking time we can think about channeling our energy. Mapping out our week.
Our energy is something we are in control of, projects that are important, that we want to do well get more of our energy. We can ask ourselves questions like, “Where do I want to put my energy this week?”
And everyone enjoys mapping things. We map our vacations. We do mind mapping when we work on new ideas. Drawing things out before they unfold helps us to see the big picture, another ‘slight edge.’
5 Steps to Energy Mapping & Owning Your Time.
Do it weekly (at least try); it’s still the best length of time to plan—not too far out and not too close so you’re reacting. If mapping weekly is too difficult, try mapping 2 or 3 days out. Mapping in the morning before your day starts is too soon, you’ll already be in reaction mode.
Align with your goals (professional and personal); please tell me you have goals. Any kind of mapping doesn’t work unless you have targets. Review your goals, find the top 3 or 4 important tasks you want to put your energy into and map them into your week.
Don’t over book (stick to the map); when reviewing your goals you may see 6 or 7 things you want to work on. You can’t work on that many tasks effectively. Plus, there’s a greater chance something will come up and take you off task. Think in terms of your energy—you can’t put your energy into everything.
Get everyone involved (team, co-workers and family); tell them where and when your energy will be channeled. Make sure it works with their maps. Ask to not be interrupted.
Keep the tasks top of mind (even if it’s on a 3×5 card); too many times I have asked, “Where are you putting your energy this week?” And I hear, “Oh, a few things. I have to check my planner.” If you can’t clearly state what your important tasks are, you are likely not to complete them.
Instead of planning weekly, try energy mapping. The rephrasing leads to reframing. Maybe thinking that you are mapping where you want to put your energy, you’ll embrace planning more—have fun with it.