Burnout to Leadership

Ep#40 Time Management

July 15, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 40
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#40 Time Management
Show Notes Transcript
  • How and why we are losing time in burnout.
  • How to save yourself time, even if you think you can't.
  • Other tools for saving time and energy.
  • Being present to your family.

Essentialism Greg McKeown
Scheduling Tool
Ep#05 Overwork
Ep#12 Saying NO
Ep#14 Perfectionism
Ep#21 Setting Boundaries
Ep#22 People-pleasing
Ep#23 Imposter Syndrome
Ep#24 Procrastination

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For more insights see @coachdexrandall

Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, people, this is Dex. I hope you're well today. And I will just apologize. I have got a bit of a cold. I hope that doesn't disrupt anything because today what I'd like to talk about is time management. And I think it's kind of funny because it's at the heart of burnout, but I've never done a podcast episode on it until now. And the reason really is, I think of time management as a little bit of a slippery topic. It's got so many tentacles into so many things. But really, fundamentally, it's got nothing to do with workload or lack of time. So I think it's an interesting thing to cover now. And I remember way back when I was managing a team of software developers, and this is pre internet, I warn you, and I couldn't find a time costing system that handled all the ways my team recorded and build for time. So one Friday night, I just sat down and designed one myself. And on Saturday I wrote and tested the software for it. And on Sunday, I integrated it with our billing system and I wrote all the reports for it. And that was that. We started using it on the Monday and just kept using it. And it's funny 'cause even though I was hyper productive and successful in my software engineering career, I would have considered myself phenomenal at time management. But as the years rolled by, I kind of lost the plot and I started to procrastinate more. And my time efficiency plummeted. And I stopped being invincible. And this is me really tending into burnout. And you know, when I look back on it now, heads up, my procrastination had nothing to do with my workload or time or the complexity of the problems I was trying to solve. It was really a side effect of the erosion of belief in myself as this top level performer. And it was really then a flavor of imposter syndrome. And it crept up on me little by little, and it just got worse and worse, until at the end, I hardly produced anything of note, and I fell on my sword and left my job. And you know, now for you, if your time management isn't great and you recognize that, I don't suggest you leave it that long. So if you don't think you're kicking enough goals at work or not as many or not as easily that you used to, how are you feeling about that? How are you feeling about your productivity, your work self? And really, as for me, I've previously reported that that time when I left my job is when I had a heart attack. And suddenly I had a great deal of sofa time. So that's when I really started getting introspective, I looked for and received coaching. And I took a really long, hard look at why I wasn't succeeding, now, why this glorious career had suddenly ground to a halt? And it was purely lack of self belief, which under the barrage of self criticism that have been mounting over the years, I'd finally collapsed. And it really put me in a lot of fear for my career. And also, it made me worry about my worthiness as a human, 'cause I was very over identified with work. And so when I discovered coaching and started working and receiving coaching myself to help me with the burnout, I used it to start rebuilding my self belief at work. And what I'm gonna do today is I'm gonna share with you my current time management system, because it's a really big part of the solution for me. It's massively helped me to reduce kind of the bleed of time, procrastination. And it's helped me to get very, very intentional with my time based on what I'm trying to achieve, whatever my goals are. And if I thought I was productive before burnout, I'm super productive now, and I'm also much less stressed about work. I actually just know I'm going to get the right work done to a high quality and on time. I don't miss deadlines. And I know exactly what I'm gonna do, when I'm gonna do it, and when I'm gonna complete it. So I don't get too many surprises. And I also know when I'm gonna take breaks and when I'm gonna finish work each day. So for me, it's taken this small but really critical revolution in my relationship with time to get me here. And I'm gonna just run through the steps that I take, where how I manage my time now, and see if any of that really resonates for you at the end. So step one is, I decide ahead of time how many hours I'm going to devote to work each week. And in my case it's around 40. And so that's step one. Step two is, I draw up a schedule every Sunday, moulting hourly intervals for those 40 hours. And I do mine on a piece of paper, because then if I scratch something out, I can see that I've done it. It really keeps me honest. Well, I do have a Google Calendar as well, where the all the rest of the stuff is. So that's two, I draw up a schedule with 40 hourly slots on it. The third step is, I write to know my fixed meetings, and in my case, quite a lot of that is coaching, call appointments, or meetings with people. And then step four is, I black out all my personal time right away. So my personal commitments, my meal times, coffee breaks, errands and so on. And then step five is, I put in all my daily routine tasks. So in my case, that includes self coaching in the morning, it includes emails, answering messages, time for social media, collaborations, team meetings, and so on. And I also add in padding every day for emergencies. I mean, there might not be one, but there might. And I don't wanna get stumped by it. And I put processing emails and messages at fixed times every day, so they have a little window

8:00 till 8:30, noon till 12:30, and 4:00 until 4:

30. So I'm not checking for messages all day long. I guess there's no such thing as multitasking, right? I need deep concentration, and deep concentration once it's broken, the human brain takes 20 minutes to get back into it again. And I used to really think about that when I was in software development mode, 'cause that was quite a deep level of focus that was always required. And if I was interrupted, it screwed the whole thing, so I still work on that principle. And so if my windows are 8 AM, noon and 4 PM for answering messages and emails, I let people know when those times are and what to expect from me, and I also let them know if they need to contact me outside of those times in case of an emergency, there's another method of doing that, and I tell them what it is. So, once people kind of know what it is that you're doing, they'll generally fall in with those expectations, better than you think that they will. And then step six, so let's say I've done all of that and I've put in 20 hours on my schedule until now into my hourly time shot, time slots on my calendar, and then I write a list of other tasks that I also want to complete this week and then I break that list down, each task I break down into hourly sub tasks, 'cause I've got an hourly schedule and I want to be able to pop them straight on. And when I make these tasks and sub tasks, I never put the activity that I'm going to engage in, and instead I nominate the result I commit to achieving on that task within that hour. And it's... Estimating that is a skill that develops over time, but I'm kind of generous with my estimates, because number one, I don't wanna make my life too hard, and also I don't want to fail, I don't like failing. So I've kind of stopped under estimating tasks, and that's the skill that I've honed over the whole period of time when I've been using this scheduling. It wasn't one I started off being terribly good at, even though I'm a software engineer, and so that involves a lot of estimating hard things. Sometimes for us, there's a little bit of room for improvement on that. So don't be too hard on yourself if you play with that and it's not working out initially. Okay, now I've got a list of tasks that I want to put in the gaps on my schedule that's gonna fill the remaining 20 hours that are on there, so step seven is I put those tasks in priority order, and then I select the top 20 hours worth and put each of them in a spot on my schedule. And again, I write down the result I've committed to achieving in that hour, not the activity. And then basically I toss out the rest of the list 'cause I'm not gonna get it done anyway, it's no point putting that pressure on myself. And then number eight is I do what's on my schedule, whatever I see there, I do it. And this is... Probably you're gonna share this with me. This is where my mind used to rebel, it used to argue, it used to give me all of the reasons why I couldn't do the thing that's come up on my schedule next, but what I've encouraged is, I've encouraged my brain to find a way to do it, not to argue with it, 'cause it's easy to argue with it. And now what I do is, when I see it coming up on my calendar, there's a task at 9 AM, I actually started at 9 AM and I finish it at 10 AM, and I charge my brain with finding a B minus way to achieve the result I've committed to. Because really, when I look at it, my B minus work isn't really a lot different than my A plus or even my A plus plus work, at least to the outside view. And if your brain's a perfectionist, this B minus work is gonna save you because really most people can't tell a lot of difference between what we think of as B minus and what we think of as A plus plus, you've got the same skills and experience and knowledge you had before, and you're gonna use it, you're always going to produce the best result you can in the time, anyway. You're not gonna bunk off and go, "Yeah, I'll just produce some rubbish," because otherwise you wouldn't be the style of person who's listening to this podcast, to be honest with you. People pretend to be very driven, high achievers, and they will always produce their best work, but now I'm asking myself to produce my best work within that time window and to find a way of doing that even though it wants to argue. So, if you are a perfectionist, by the way, listen to episode 14 of the podcast on perfectionism, it's gonna give you some tips to handle that for yourself, and it will also help you understand that perfectionism is really not contributing to your high standards, we're not... When we're doing B minus work, we're actually not sacrificing on our standards. I'm not sacrificing on mine, I'm probably producing better and more timely work than I ever have, 'cause I don't wanna lower my standards and probably you don't either. So, that episode is gonna help you with that one. Step number nine, I never re decide my schedule in the day, because that's where procrastination creeps in. There's always gonna be another task that I could argue is more urgent, or more appealing, or more fun, or that I simply have to do right now for some reason, but that is in my experience, rarely true. And that's exactly why I plan my week out on a Sunday. And as I use this time management method week after week after week, there are less and less surprises and emergencies for me. I've learned how much I have to leave in my schedule to accommodate the unexpected, and also how to plan what I'm gonna do far enough ahead, so I don't get many unexpected things turning up, and I've also trained other people not to expect this 24/7 turnaround on any message they send me, because they soon realize I actually give better service like that rather than if I pander to their sense of urgency, which could easily come from their anxiety, for example, or an oversight they've made, and it might not even be my responsibility. So I've come... People come to me and they want to put something on my schedule, I already know when the next available slot is, and I say, "Okay, that's when it's available to you." And then number 10, if I don't get my work done by my finish time on a particular day, it's really on me to make up the time by working late, but I don't like to do that, so I don't often put myself in that position. It has taken me a little bit of a time to get my estimation and planning to that level, but the pay off is astronomical, and the quality and the timeliness of my contribution in my work, and also my sense of ease when I'm working with a schedule. Step 11, finally at the end of every day when I've ticked all the boxes, I stop work, and I don't continue on, think I could jam in another three or four things in. My mind at this point is usually pretty satisfied with my output and kind of calm and easy. I don't spend my evenings and weekends worrying about work not done, because I plan to get the most important stuff done, and I did it.

So, I don't wake at 2:

00 AM anxious about work undone either. I let it be what it is. I planned it, I did it. That's good. So, what I've just described there is the base method, and I won't be surprised if it's different from what you do now. Your brain's probably not gonna like it. Where is the spontaneity, you might think? And that's what a lot of people say to me, "Well, what if I wanna change my mind? What if something that comes up?" Well, my answer to that is, if spontaneity had worked for me, I'd still be using it, 'cause I love spontaneity. But what it does for me is it has me following these wild creative ideas, I go down all these rabbit warrens of exciting new toys to play with. I procrastinate with research, with education, or I might just go to a new place for lunch, or have a long chat with someone. But that is the problem, really. I find that creativity can be cultivated on a schedule if you actually know how to do that, and particularly if your mind is in a restful state, not driven by over anxiety and overwhelm. And the book I read about this that you might like to have a look at is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It's basically how to essentialize your use of time, such that you can give your greatest contribution, particularly in leadership roles. Not perhaps if you're baking bread for a living, because that is time based, but I think it's a very good book and it'll help you understand some of the principles of becoming more efficient with your time in a whole range of different ways and why you would do that and how it's going to support not only your contribution, but your status, help you... How other people in the work environment view you. Okay, basically, so that is... That's the method, but if your mind is coming up with all the reasons that it won't work, then basically you've got a human brain, so that's fine. It probably doesn't want to be held that tightly accountable, it doesn't want to be wrong about the way you're managing time now. Naturally, really, it's hitting you in the ego a little bit. And me too, when I started, I was exactly the same. And to be honest, every other person I've ever encouraged to try this and taught this to has come up with the same slew of objections as to why it's not gonna work for them. But I've been using it almost five years now. I work a lot less, I'm a lot happier with my results and my contribution. And both of those continue to improve all the time, so really it's up to you, if you wanna have a play with this or not. It is a method I teach to all my clients, and it seems to produce great results along with some other teachings on how to reclaim your energy, 'cause energy is what we got so little of in burnout, isn't it? I think most of all, if you get more done in less time into a higher quality, what happens to your self esteem, what happens to your status at work, what happens to your career, your employability, your remuneration at work? And then on the flip side, what happens to your anxiety, what happens to your quality of sleep, and what happens to your time with your families and your partners? Because one of the biggest problems people in burnout face is that they are not fully present to their families, either they are working or they are making course for work, or they're checking messages or they're thinking and fretting about work, or they are just so fried they can't handle anyone else's need for attention, or they can't really focus. And because there are other factors in burnout with overwork, overwhelm, exhaustion and so on. There are some other podcast episodes I would recommend you to listen to, I will include them in the show notes, but it's... Number five on overwork, number 12 on saying no. Very, very critical in reclaiming your time. 14 on perfectionism. 21 on boundaries, setting boundaries with your time. 22 on people pleasing. 23 on imposter syndrome, another really cool kind of friend for this time management processing. And 24, procrastination, big stealer of time for anybody in burnout. So, each of those episodes can give you tools and ideas and concepts that will help you resolve your burnout, your work load, your performance. And it's really gonna help you value your own time, energy and expertise at the appropriate high level for where you are. And when you do that, it makes it much easier to use your assets wisely and elevate your actual contribution and success. Because time is not your main asset is it, your brain is. You're not selling time, you're selling results, right? So really, results are defined by other people's implicit or explicit needs. So, if you're scheduling a lot of tasks just because people have asked you to do them or because they don't have the nerves to do them properly themselves or they look like they need help, or you're just doing it out of habit or not wanting to say no to people, if you're doing any of those things, you've probably got a little bit of scope for reclaiming some time here with this method. And that's what I got for you today. If you wanna hear more, come and talk to me. Thanks for listening today. I really appreciate you being here. I wish you all the best in taming your schedule, I really do. But if you do need some help with it, with applying this method or learning more about it, come and talk to me. It's really not worth the level of suffering that you're probably going through if you're in burnout, in overwhelm and overwork, and exhaustion, so come and talk to me, I can help you out. You can also visit my website burnouttoleadership.com for the show notes. And please do subscribe and rate this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thank you so much. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book into talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging me, and let's make a plan to fit it.