Creating Space – How do we stop ourselves from becoming overwhelmed and exhausted through our diaries?
The need for space.
A little while ago I hit a Friday and knew I was in trouble. I was struggling, tired, and feeling depleted. Looking ahead, I knew I had no time to recuperate, and it wasn’t going to be easy.
What had I done? I had forgotten to create necessary space in my diary.
I had a period of two weeks where I was out of the office almost every other day, including many back to back days.
It included earlier starts, coming home late, and then needing to deal with any important urgents, and preparing for the next day. For a sustained period. There wasn’t anything in my diary that I wasn’t, or hadn’t, been looking forward to.
There was limited capacity to catch up on ‘needed-to-do lists’, which naturally plays on our minds. Nor was there much opportunity to catch up on rest or sleep. And as we know, when there is a lot on, or we very much want to sleep. We often find it harder to calm our minds to allow this to happen. By the end of the first seven days, which included weekend travel and commitments, the emotional and physical output had impacted, and I knew I had another seven similar days to go.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Looking ahead, I knew there was little I could do to change my work diary, and a couple of non-work related things were important to me. All I could do was focus on letting go of my to-do lists (not easy when this meant that it would be two weeks’ worth of catching up) and focusing on resting (predominantly my mind) whenever I could.
Whilst there are, and will be times, when this situation arises because we don’t have control over our diaries, or at least not without losing important work, or missing out on important family or friend occasions.
It is not unusual for us to forget to look ahead in planning. Or forget to take a moment to pause before saying yes to something. It can then become a bit too much. We become depleted, tired, less productive, and we realise we still have a full diary ahead of us, at work and at home.
Whilst I learned the importance, a long time ago, of ensuring I had space in my diary. I still need a reminder every now and then. Perhaps you do to. I therefore hope you find this prompt useful.
Five Spaces To Protect In Your Diary
Here is your reminder, to ensure that you leave space in your diary, and five ways that you can plan for it:
1. Between meetings. This allows you to act on any important, time-focused, tasks after meetings, whilst it is fresh in your mind. It also allows your brain to take on board what was said. Gives you a chance to regulate, so that you don’t take, for example, any irritations or annoyances from one meeting into another. Ensures time to undertake any important work, that wasn’t meeting related. Finally, it allows enough time for refreshments, food, and to have sufficient comfort breaks (we have all been there)!
2. At the start of each day. Use that time to plan and remind yourself about your day ahead. This can include setting your three most important tasks for the day. Again take some time at the end of the day. To clear your desk, and look ahead, or prepare for tomorrow. Ensure you plan for space during the day, to allow time for those unexpected calls, requests, conversations, or emails that come in and do need dealing with (or indeed occasional admin time). Whilst the content may be unexpected. We know that most days, we do have to deal with activities we haven’t planned for. However, we often haven’t allowed time in our diaries to do so.
3. Every month and every week. For strategic thinking and planning. Ensure you have time to look at the bigger picture, understand your priority, and what needs to happen to get you there. Enabling you to stay focused on what is truly important in your business, organisation, department, working week, your personal goals, and home life. In addition to regular planning. I have a global/higher level biz and life goal planner that is worked through at the start of each year, and then is pulled out monthly, to review where I have got to, and where I want to go.
4. Between days. Particularly, if you are out of the office more than usual, or have lengthy meetings. Returning to back to back clients, or other meetings, can be exhausting. It doesn’t give you time to catch up, or be proactive, with what needs to happen. You often need a bit of space in the day to recuperate mentally. Networking, training, travelling, long meetings, repetitive meetings, or working at other offices. These all have a different impact on our mental and physical energy. We need to take that into account, and create space, so that we can continue to be productive. If you have come away from training, or a workshop, or an important meeting. You also need time to digest, process, and implement any learning, or put items into action. Before it potentially gets lost in the noise, with everything else taking priority. Leaving them to fall to ‘best intentions’.
5. Your evenings and weekends. Again, look ahead when slotting anything new in. Ensure you have space between things. Try to keep some evenings, and time at the weekend free, including running around and errands. You may want to have at least one weekend a month, or every six weeks, free of plans. If you have children, there may be a regular activity that makes this challenging, and it therefore may be not adding anything else. Or it could be that they don’t go once in a while, depending on your thoughts. They might benefit from a break too. Should you wake up on the Saturday or Sunday morning, and decide you do want to do something or visit someone, or go to an event. Great. However, by keeping it clear, it gives you a choice. A time to catch up, recuperate, rest, have quality time with the family in a different way, stay in your comfy clothes all day, or do nothing. If it is needed or wanted.
It would be remiss of me not to add. Take into account how much you want to do certain activities; if there is some control. If it feels heavy, or the people drain you, or it no longer brings you joy. Perhaps it it is time to say no more. Or switch it for something that feels more productive, expansive, easier to manage, or feels fun.
Can people come to you (at work and at home)? Can you delegate it to others, internally or externally? Is it time to cut ties? Do something different instead, ie switch networking groups, change out of work activities, look at how you work, or run your weeks, whatever it might be.
As we start to move towards Christmas it is often even more important to ensure you have space between things. To let you rest, recuperate, and enjoy the things you are doing. We have all struggled at work, or at social events, because we are too tired to be able to fully function or appreciate it.
Keep an eye on your diary, ensure you have space, and allow yourself to delegate, drop, or delete accordingly.
Which space are you focusing on creating going forward? What do you commit to changing?