Your email inbox is one thing.
Other than turning the spam filter to 11, having an unguessable address, and or sending everything to dev/null – if you have an email address – it’s going to receive email. Your email inbox is, painfully, for others.
You’re calendar is something completely different.
Nothing goes on your calendar without you explicitly accepting it and – at least implicitly – committing to it.
Yet, if you ask anyone – anywhere on the corporate ladder – if they have a commitment today, this week, or even this month (!) that’s just for them, selfishly, guiltlessly, just for them, for their fulfillment, their response is likely:
“I can do that?”
or, slightly the better
“I’ve tried that. It always gets bumped by someone else’s meeting request.”
The need doesn’t go away. It just manifests itself in sneaky and unhealthy ways. People I’ve spoken with have confessed to blocking off afternoons in fictitious conference rooms (CC 86) with fictitious people (Mr. Nunyobizniz) just so they can get some actual, focused, uninterrupted, work done. They’ve taken a day off, to ensure no one expects them to respond.
They’ve found all to often, the moment there’s an opening in their schedule they’ll receive an absolutely-urgent meeting request. If it’s outright declined – the sender will be at their desk insisting upon acceptance. It says you’re available!
A damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario.
What to do?
First – explicitly schedule that solo work – and protect it. Just as you would your most important meeting. It is an even greater commitment.
I know. That sounds somehow strange and counterintuitive.
It’s as if we’ve been taught meetings with others belong on the calendar but not our commitments. The project status meetings are scheduled but not the work in-between them. It’s as if 9-5 is open season for meetings and the actual work must happen outside of those hours. It’s as if serving others is always more important than completing the work we we’ve been hired for.
This is one of the ancillary benefits of the scheduling (and keeping!) your Bi-Weekly Preview. It preemptively closes these open spaces in the calendar week-after-week-after-week. It asks you to answer the following question for each unscheduled hour:
“What’s the most significant thing I can do at this time with the energy I honestly anticipate having?”
– prep or recap time for those important meetings with others (a significant step in making meetings more effective).
– the solo work that you’ve mentally pencilled-in, but haven’t actually committed to by scheduling it.
– a visit to your favorite art gallery.
– a leisurely walk down the riverfront and back.
– a game of solo kubb.
– the first step in that project you keep putting off (if it’s considering why you keep putting it off).
– exploring a new tool or technique that could substantially improve your everyday work.
– staring across the Endless Bridge envisioning where you and your team will be this time next year.
You get the idea.
These are just some of the things you have guilt-free permission to schedule into your work day this week. The degree in which others see the details while stalking your Outlook is completely up to you. Feel free to set everything as ‘Private’. 🙂
Oh, and when you do receive those inevitable requests for your attention during those commitments. Decline them. You have a prior commitment with someone you don’t spend enough time with.
This isn’t just a challenge between 9am and 5pm. We have spouses, children, friends. There are those in our life we love and enjoy spending time with. There are an infinite number of professional events we could attend every night of the week.
It’s easy for the wants, needs, and aspirations of others to crowd out our own. It’s easy to move heaven and hell for their basketball game, their networking event – but not your yoga class or learning a new song on your guitar. It’s easy to decompress in-front of your spouse’s favorite Netflix exclusive rather than studying to increasing your beer judge ranking.
Yet, resentment and burn-out fester when we don’t serve ourselves the way we serve others. When we don’t commit to our own happiness the way we commit to others’.
Every day there is time to put the things most fulfilling to you – selfishly fulfilling to you – on your calendar. Explicitly and obviously scheduled on your calendar. Something to anticipate, something to refuel you, something to pull you through all those meetings with others.
The Bi-Weekly Preview isn’t restricted to the work day. It’s for your entire day. It’s for all of you.