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The way we work has changed forever. According to recently research by Zippia74% of US companies use or plan to implement a permanent hybrid working model. This trend is forcing leaders to improve their time management skills to survive the new ways of working.
While the flexibility and comfort of working from home can be exciting, leaders increasingly face unintended challenges, on the brink of burnout. Before the pandemic, physically segregated workspaces and commuting to and from the office helped many employees separate work and personal lives.
Unfortunately, after two years of telecommuting, many leaders have filled their commute time with additional to-dos and responsibilities, increasing mental exhaustion. When work and life merge without physical structures, the discipline of building healthy boundaries falls back on the will and resilience of a leader. Setting and sticking to healthy boundaries is essential to everyone’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
In my coaching and consulting practice, I work with leaders to create healthy routines to optimize their performance and well-being.
A fundamental behavior to help create healthy boundaries for leaders is their ability to control their agendas. Here are six strategies you can adopt to detox your schedule and get your energy back.
Related: 18 Proven Ways to Stay Focused That Boost Productivity
1. Protecting your agenda is protecting your energy.
In a article for the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz And Catherine McCarthy talk about the importance of paying attention to your energy levels and needs and aligning your life accordingly. They write: “Defined in physics as the ability to work, energy comes from four major sources in man: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals. pose – behaviors that are deliberately practiced and carefully planned, with the aim of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.”
They explain that people “need to recognize the cost of energy-consuming behavior and then take responsibility for changing it, regardless of the circumstances they face.”
So what does this look like in practice? Let’s say you have a long, somewhat tiring meeting scheduled for the afternoon. That means committing in the morning before to taking a brisk walk in nature, eating a healthy lunch, and going to the meeting prepared and mindful.
Consider the habits and rituals that charge you. It could be yoga. It could be a meal with your significant other or just a good night’s sleep. Be sure to integrate these recharging rituals into your life to keep your energy reserves full for when you need them most.
Related: 5 Proven Habits To Create Success In Business And In Life
2. Understand your body’s rhythm and adjust your schedule to your mental, emotional, and physical needs
This consideration ties in with the first point. Part of maintaining your energy levels involves getting to know your personal habits. Are you a morning person or a night owl? How many hours of sleep do you typically need per night to feel rested and ready for the day? What hours of the day are you most productive?
After creating a personal profile of needs and habits, you can create a calendar based on your peak performance. Not the most energetic first thing in the morning? Consider using that time to do less mentally taxing tasks, such as answering simple emails.
Related: 10 Time Management Tips That Work
3. Prioritize your to-do list
We all have a million things to do at any given time, which can lead to serious overwhelm. Use the Eisenhower matrixie the Urgent-Important Matrix. This is a way to break your to-do list into four categories based on urgency and importance and provides an essential strategy for getting things done. See below:
- Urgent & Important; do first — Start focusing on critical tasks that need to be done today.
- Not urgent & important; scheme — You want to schedule tasks that are important but less urgent for a later date.
- Urgent & not important; delegate — Assign urgent but less important tasks to others on your team.
- Not urgent & not important; do not — Is something on your To-Do list not that important or urgent? Cross it off the list.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix is an easy way to help you determine what’s most important on your weekly or monthly to-do list and what to leave undone or delegate.
Related: 4 Easy Ways to Manage Your Overwhelming To-Do List
4. Categorize your calendar and block time for specific tasks
We can generally divide our calendars into several categories. For example, we may label specific duties as administrative and others as managerial or personal/family. Our digital calendars, Google or Apple, provide easy ways to color code or label tasks and events, and this is an easy way to make visual.
Your calendar should reflect your to-do list. Each critical task and work episode needs a special block of time to allow yourself to complete it. Are you expected to review and edit your Board Presentation? Block special time.
Anticipating an emotionally challenging conversation with a report? Schedule it in your Google calendar with 15 minutes of preparation and debriefing. If you’re struggling to follow your exercise routine or missing family dinners, block your calendar. Do you want to spend a few hours with your partner on a Saturday morning before the chaos of the day begins? Block the time in your calendar. If you do not follow this principle, week after week you will be disappointed because you are not working on your priorities, but are guided by external demands.
5. Move away from the idea of work-life balance and strive for work-life integration
We often talk about work-life balance, but there are better ways to conceptualize work-life balance. Instead, reframe your concept of time: Prioritize setting up a work/life integration. Stephen Kohler, the CEO and founder of Audira Labs, describes work-life integration as follows: “Work-life balance focuses on keeping your work and personal life separate, but equal, while work-life integration focuses on is on the belief that there is no distinction between the two and that both should coexist in harmony.”
So what does this look like? You may be scheduled for a two-hour conference call that does not require your full and undivided attention. You can take this call on a walk in nature or cook while listening.
Or, if you work from home, you can break up your day into several segments. Perhaps you spend the first two hours of the day getting your kids ready for school. You then spend two hours on virtual meetings and answering emails. Then you take an hour to get some exercise. In the evening, you may want to spend 30 minutes learning your long-awaited new language.
All of your priorities should be reflected in your calendar, personal and professional. It’s about establishing a healthy work-life relationship and valuing both aspects.
Related: Why Most Entrepreneurs Are Bad At Time Management (And What To Do Instead)
6. Make room for meet-free “creative days”
While we may feel compelled to fill our schedules with tasks, we need to allocate space in our calendars. Recent studies have shown that a little free time, a space for boredom in your day, is essential. According to Andreas Elpidorou of the University of Louisvilleis boredom a “regulatory state that keeps one aligned with one’s projects. Without boredom, one would remain stuck in unsatisfying situations and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want doing and a push that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”
Designate a day off at least once a month to clear your mind of all your to-do’s. Let your mind wander to new ideas, projects and solutions. Give yourself room to be creative.