It’s fall and my inbox knows it.
Something sneaky happens every year around this time: some sort of collective hyperdrive sets in, and people start filling up your calendar. Then you’re left wondering why you’re running around from meeting to meeting without a spare moment to focus on your projects and priorities.
But what if you decided to get an edge on everyone else this year and use the mobilizing power of fall to claim first dibs on your time?
Having a simple plan to get organized and master your to-do list before anyone else’s is the first step out of overwhelm and into the confidence you need to lead.
Here are a few strategies to get you started:
Strategy #1: Remove yourself from autumn’s clutter
Take a time-out–an hour, half a day, however much time you need–to get clear on your priorities. Albeit simple, this is one of the smartest personal investments you can make, and it gets easier with practice.
Here’s how it works: today, right now, or as soon as you can, eliminate all distractions for the time it takes you to focus in on what’s most important to you. What projects or priorities, if and when pursued, would have the greatest positive impact on your life and career?
If you can take this time-out in nature, even better. If not, go ahead and put a “focus session” note on your door, turn off the wifi, unplug the ethernet, silence cell notifications and schedule focus time in your calendar so others will not disturb you. Worried about missing something on email? Set an auto-reply telling folks that you’re not available during the time you’ve set aside and to call if it’s urgent. Or just say you’re in a meeting, which you are — possibly the most important meeting of the year.
Strategy #2: Choose where to start
You may look at your freshly created list and be tempted to start a bunch of things at once. I understand this feeling. At this stage, though, it’s critical to decide where you want to focus first.
You can do it all. But just not simultaneously.
I learned this the hard way early on in my life as an entrepreneur. I wanted to take on everything, all at the same time. And I did. The result: I had way too much on my plate and was unable to meet my standards for any of it. Non bueno.
Today my list includes being an energetic, present, playful mother; a supportive, engaging partner; and a successful entrepreneur who creates an inspiring and supportive space for my clients and my team to evolve.
That kind of clarity around what’s most important to me makes it easier to show up for it. So whether it’s coloring with my daughter, grabbing a morning coffee with my husband, or having a dance party with my team — I set aside dedicated chunks of time that ensure I’m living into my choices.
Strategy #3: Schedule it.
For most people, consistency is key to success. Typically, you’ll see greater end results by dedicating small portions of time daily to moving forward. But occasionally I meet people who get excellent results by “binging” — tackling their desired outcomes in bigger, longer, less frequent gulps.
What’s important is to decide what’s doable and then to schedule it in your calendar.
When I was working as a corporate executive, one of my personal side projects was to write an article for Corporate Communication International of New York. I was working during the day, so the only time to dedicate to this priority was in the evenings when I was back home. I set aside an hour every night for researching, writing, and rewriting.
Often I’d get so into it, I’d continue into the wee hours, writing away. The result? That paper won a prize at the Institute’s annual conference and launched my career in a new and very fulfilling direction working in Corporate Responsibility for a Fortune 500. That’s the power of applying focused, scheduled time to a specific project of your choosing.
Try it out. Give these three strategies a shot between now and the holidays and watch as your levels of engagement, focus, and clarity rise.