In a recent post, I shared my past struggles of attempting to gain control of my time.
How I set unrealistic expectations that led me to make myself available to my clients around the clock. And how that made me utterly miserable and unhappy.
Living an authentic life means to build your life on the blueprint of your values, acknowledging and sharing your gifts, expressing yourself artistically and creatively.
To be able to lead a life of authenticity, you must create your life from choice rather than reacting and living in default mode. You must regain control of your time.
Today, I share some practical strategies that have helped me take back control of my time. These boundaries allow me to balance my values – my desire for Excellence and Success vs. my need for Freedom, Health and Happiness.
They enable me to be a leader in my own life.
Make yourself dispensable
I disagree with Seth Godin’s Linchpin philosophy in one respect. When it comes to consulting, I am passionately advocate that all consultants making themselves dispensable to their clients.
I will repeat that one more time, make yourself dispensable to your client.
The most successful consultants are not those who withhold information but those who empower their clients. Instead of injecting themselves into each task, they inform and educate their clients.
By all means jump to your client’s aid! After all you are a partner who is there to assist whenever need arises. But at the same teach your clients to thrive in your absence.
You can make yourself dispensable yet invaluable by following one of these strategies:
Let them serve themselves
Don’t waste time fielding routine questions. Create a database of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Develop detailed answers to those questions. Include process flow charts and tutorials that will help your clients service themselves. If necessary, offer your clients rewards for using the self-service feature.
Create a Decision Tree
Inform your clients that you are to be contacted only in specific situations. Elaborate on the conditions for those situations. For ex: “For any questions about delivery of reports refer to FAQs. For any questions about user interface, refer to the manual. If you don’t find an answer, then call or email or submit a ticket”.
Create routines for recurrent events. Redirect energy from mundane tasks towards something exceptional. Establish systems, processes and metrics to address day-to-day operations. Create detailed documentation and make them available to your client. This will enable you to focus on identifying new opportunities for your client or enlarging your client base.
Put a price on your time
When you purchase a car from Toyota or Honda you are guaranteed to acquire a safe vehicle but you are also required to comply with their limited terms of warranty. This ensures that you do your part in caring for the car. You don’t expect Toyota to service your car for free beyond the warranty period. Why should your client or customer expect your undivided attention beyond the warranty period of their project? Set clear limits on how much involvement your client can expect with every project/program/package. Offer them the option to pay for additional hours beyond the stated warranty.
Making yourself dispensable to your client requires you to think like a leader and anticipate their needs beyond the initial engagement.
The way I see it, any time saved can be allocated on building even more services to propel my clients in their business!
Make yourself unavailable
It is hard to get any work done when you are constantly being pinged by clients through instant messenger or your phone is always ringing.
You have the power to decide when you will answer those IMs and phone calls!
If you are busy, do not hesitate to set your instant messenger to “Unavailable”. But do include a note informing clients how they can contact you in case of an urgent need.
Switch your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode during your off hours. Alternately, you can permit specific calls to be brought to your attention.
Typically, I answer my phone only during my “break hours”. My outgoing voicemail message on both my Google Number and my Verizon Number informs clients that I am otherwise occupied and will return their call within 24 hours. You can use a similar script.
Contrary to your belief, by setting limits around your availability, you are demonstrating to your clients that you value your time. The clients who are worth keeping will understand that if you value your time, you are sure to value theirs.
If you an employee, this policy shows your manager or your Director that you are adept at managing your time which can only lead to better perception and improved visibility within your organization.
Learn to say No
What exactly is it going to take for you to say no to outrageous demands placed on your time? Are you going to continue to put up with stress and exhaustion or do something about it?
Time is valuable commodity even in this technological age. But perhaps it is the commodity that is most easily squandered or given away freely with utter disregard for its value.
To create the biggest payoffs you must begin by choosing to dedicate your time to your greatest opportunities. To be great, you must think like a leader. You must gain clarity on your vision and live your life with intention.
This means avoiding distractions, guarding your time and eliminating anything that detracts from your goals.
Before you give your word to anyone, before you commit your energy or your resources to any effort remember that your success and your client’s satisfaction depends on how well you manage your commitments!
So, are you ready to say to no to anything that doesn’t align with your values? Are you ready to protect your schedule and your word?
Learn to say no often and say it well, as well as a leader.
Make your schedule non-negotiable
One of the reasons people are unwilling to pursue entrepreneurship is because more so than the blank page, they fear the blank calendar.
One way to avoid the fear of a blank calendar is to transform your career vision into a realistic non-negotiable schedule. It is easy to spend entire days in meaningless tasks only to discover that you haven’t created anything of value. Don’t fall into that trap!
Use the technique of time blocking for activities that add to your bottom line.
- Set time aside for developing, designing, writing, planning, analyzing – whatever may be your primary pursuit. On an average 60% or more of your workweek should be spent in these activities.
- Reduce time spent in reactive tasks such as answering voicemails and emails.
- If you want to see where the pitfalls lie in your schedule, use an application to track your efficiency.
- Use hacks to save time spent on repetitive non-value added tasks.
When you are working it’s best to stay away from social media altogether. However, if you are required to be online but need help blocking social media, try an application such as Freedom. Many entrepreneurs rave about it!
On the other hand, if you do need to engage in social media, manage time spent on various platforms through the use of social media apps. They allow you to focus on what you do best – your primary pursuit – and handle the rest, scheduling, posting and tracking analytics.
Make time for what matters
The last few months have shown me how easy it is get caught up in work and forget what matters most: health, happiness and peace.
Autumn has been a busy and fun time for my family. But, Fall has also brought inevitable health issues – migraines, allergies, and other minor ailments. Having spent more than a few days incapacitated last month, I am grateful for my good health!
Whether or not I write half a million words this year, I have accepted that it is only by caring for my well being that I can even hope to fulfill any audacious goals. I must pay myself first with my own time. I must spend time on my own well-being, by caring for my body and mind.
To that end, I have taken advantage of the early sunrise and begun a meaningful morning routine. Following a morning practice can make a big difference in your life. It is a time of reflection and preparing for the day ahead. It can boost your energy level and enhance your productivity throughout the day. Most successful and productive people credit their daily practice with anchoring them spiritually.
My morning routine includes writing a few pages longhand in my morning journal, saying my affirmations and devoting a few minutes to meditation (or meditative art). No matter how busy your schedule may be you can always find 15 minutes for your own morning practice.
Implement a variation of these five strategies to regain control of your time.
Choose to focus your time with intention. Guard your time from hijackers. Make time for what matters most in your life. Be a leader in your own life!
Wish you and everyone you cherish, a peaceful, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!