Episode 288 Rethinking Time: Peak Productivity & Wellbeing in the Hybrid Era

peak-productivity-and-wellbeing-anna-lundberg

Discover practical time management strategies and boost productivity and balance as you align your actions with your deepest values and aspirations.

In this week’s episode, we’re diving into the crucial but often underappreciated art of managing time. In our busy lives filled with overwhelming to-do lists and competing priorities both at work and home, effective time management is key to achieving our goals and maintaining a semblance of balance. I’ll be sharing three strategies that have significantly helped me and my clients: Blocks, Balance, and Boundaries. These concepts are not just about increasing productivity but about aligning our actions with our deepest values and aspirations. Whether you’re juggling professional deadlines or personal commitments, understanding how to prioritise and structure your time is foundational to success. So, let’s get started on how you can reclaim control of your time and, by extension, your life.

00:00 Juggling work, life, and priorities, feeling overwhelmed.

05:15 Planning ideal week, aligning with reality.

08:12 Balancing solo vs team work for success.

10:24 Manage your schedule intentionally, prioritise priorities.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*
1:1 Coaching & Mentoring – If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. www.onestepoutside.com/coaching

Effective time management strategies

We’re talking time management today. And I know, I know it’s not the sexiest of topics, but please hear me out, because the more I dig into this topic of personal productivity and managing our time, not just our time, but we’ll get into that soon. The more I realise how critical this is to achieving our goals, whether we’ve set ourselves ambitious goals for ourselves, our teams, our organisations, at work, in our business or in our personal lives. And those goals could be more about being present with our family and our loved ones, taking care of our health, whatever that goal is, whatever form that goal takes. Managing our time is going to be the key to achieving those goals. And in the environment today that we live in, in the office, certainly, but really in life as a whole. Unfortunately, and I don’t need to tell you this, we’re faced with this really daunting reality of seemingly endless to do lists and competing priorities.

So we have project deadlines, we’re attending meetings, and too many meetings at that. We’re responding to emails again, far too many emails, all while under pressure to deliver results, meet targets, and within that kind of whirlwind of tasks and obligations, we lose sight of what really matters. Let’s not forget on top of that, the additional challenge of balancing our personal commitments like childcare and fitness, and social engagements, if we have any of those, if we’re lucky enough to have a social life. So as a result, we find ourselves stretched thin. We’re struggling to keep up with the demands of our professional and personal lives and that is an incredibly tough situation to be in. Now, as we navigate through this chaos, if you will, it becomes even harder to discern what’s really important from what’s simply urgent. And although work projects are going to require our focused attention on the one hand, but we’re also tasked with managing all this kind of life, admin, personal responsibilities, admin, chores, laundry, blah, blah, blah, as well as more meaningfully maintaining relationships, staying healthy and pursuing again, if we’re lucky enough to have other interests, pursuing those interests and hobies and ambitions and so on. So if we don’t have a framework for prioritising, for managing our time effectively, the risk is that we’re going to end up being engulfed in that never ending cycle of busyness that I talk about quite a bit, where productivity is measured just by activity, ticking things off to do lists, and your manager seeing your mouse move at the extreme rather than meaningful progress.

And so again, effective time management in that chaos kind of could be the secret, dare I say it to reclaiming control and getting some semblance of balance back into our lives. And so if we can navigate those complexities of all the work projects and personal projects, if we can carve out space for the things, the people, the activities that really matter, then we can ensure that our time is spent as much as possible. Let’s be realistic here. It’s not always going to be 100%, but as much as possible. That time is spent in alignment with our values and our most meaningful aspirations. So prioritising in a deliberate way, allocating resources in an intentional way, that’s how we can be more productive, but not just productivity. For the sake of productivity, we’ll feel more fulfilment and we will achieve more success in the most meaningful sense of the word, in both our professional and our personal spheres. So, be quite a short episode today.

I’ll be looking at managing your time. Today I want to give you three strategies that have really worked for me and my clients. And then next week we’ll talk about managing our energy and the week after that, managing our attention. Because, as I talked about last week, so again, if you missed the episode last week, do have a listen. It’s not just about managing your time. An hour in the morning is very different to an hour in the evening. An hour when I’m feeling at my peak performance, if you want to call it that, is very different to when I’m feeling drained and frustrated and so on. And also attention, because it doesn’t matter if I block the time, I’ve got the energy, if I’ve got people bombarding me or calling me and coming to my door and kids banging on the door, whatever, that’s not really going to help.

So it’s really that triad of time, energy and tension that we need to manage. But so I’ve got three building blocks, ironically, because the first of the building blocks is blocks. So, three building blocks for managing your time. Three key strategies to make the most of what is unfortunately a finite resource. So that’s blocks, first of all. So you may be familiar with the idea of time blocking, time boxing. I’m a huge fan of this technique to structure your day into focused intervals that are dedicated to specific tasks or activities. So, for me, I’ve many times in the past talked about creating the ideal week.

So it’s really looking ahead to map out how and where and when I will prioritise the things that really matter to me. And that could look like, when am I going to go for runs subject to energy and time and commitments with work and family. It could be when am I going to spend time with my partner? Quality time, hopefully it could be the children, as well as business projects and conferences and deliverables and content creation, whatever else, mapping that out. It’s an ideal week. It’s never going to be 100% that, but that gives me an idea of how I want to spend my time. And then my goals each week, basically, is to try as much as possible to bring the real week into alignment with the dream ideal week. So again, blocking time, both in the ideal sense, and then when it comes to your real calendar, scheduling blocks of time for those priorities that you’ve identified. And that will mean in many cases, if you are working in a team, in an organisation, there will be some things that are out of your control. 

They need to be there. Unfortunately, at least in the short term. In the longer term, you can maybe push back on certain things, meetings, commitments, get together as a team and reprioritize. But at least in the short term, there might be some things that have to be on there, but it should also include, in my opinion, your personal commitments. So one integrated calendar for your personal and professional life. And not just the doing stuff. Not just first of all, meetings and external commitments, but also commitments with yourself. So that’s doing what Cal Newport would call deep work.

Having time to actually create the presentation or write the strategy or record the podcast or whatever it is on the one hand. And then secondly, also having blocks of time for breaks. So a proper lunch break. A proper break, really we should take. I mean, there’s stats on it, but after 45 minutes or so, my watch unfortunately sometimes says, hey, you just start moving. You’ve been standing still for too long. So I have a standing desk, but nonetheless, I’m still standing here quite a bit. So I make sure I go for a long walk along the beach.

Today’s a beautifully sunny day, so I’ll go for an extra long one and enjoy that. Moving, going for a cup of tea and so on. So those blocks need to be on there, because if not, somebody will pop a meeting in the diary or you’ll just, by default, keep working the whole day. So blocks for professional and personal priorities, breaks for rest and rejuvenation, and then really looking at that and trying to bring that into alignment with your ideal week. To have as balanced and productive a schedule as possible that aligns with your goals. So the first one to manage your time is blocks, the second one is balance. So what we’re trying to do is achieve a kind of sense of equilibrium between different activities. So we’re not talking about this perfect work life balance, which is unachievable and doesn’t really make sense, but that’s another matter.

But I’m talking about balancing work and personal life, balancing solo work. So things working by yourself in terms of maybe writing something, creating something, even admin and so on, versus collaborating with a team strategy, high level planning and operational tasks, business as usual on the one hand, with more innovative creative work, big picture versus nitty gritty, admin versus strategy and so on. Right? So I can’t tell you what that balance is, but we want to make sure, and it’s not going to be in an exact 10% here, 10% there, but you need a sense of that balance. With my clients and my business mentoring, we look at certain things that we need to be doing in the business and that includes income. So revenue generating activities, visibility, marketing and so on, being on often social media events or whatever that is. It includes service to our existing clients, operations, more on the back end and legacy, which could be creating a book or something like that. And we need a balance. Again, I can never give an exact number for each of those categories, but if we neglect a few of them in favour of the others, that’s over time, not going to build that sustainable business.

So balance is the second strategy for managing your time and then third. And finally on this topic, boundaries. Yes, it’s three B’s, blocks, balance and boundaries. I am a big fan of work life integration, but in order for that to work, ironically, we need to have boundaries. So it’s not about blurring work into life and everything becomes one. Even in my case, where work and life are very close and I’m really passionate about the work I do, there still need to be clear boundaries to protect your time and your energy from distractions and interruptions. You need to be super clear on what those boundaries are. Communicate your availability and limitations to colleagues, to customers, to family members, set realistic expectations for when and how you can be reached and make sure above all, and that’s critical, that you uphold those boundaries consistently to make sure that you’re protecting your focus and maintaining, dare I say it, control.

It’s never 100% control, but some kind of intentional, proactive management of your schedule. I think Stephen Covey said, let’s see if I can get it right. Schedule your priorities, don’t prioritise your schedule. I always want to say schedule, but I think that’s american. So I’m doing my best to say schedule so rather than just be led by what your calendar happens to say that day, by a meeting that’s just popped in or by your emails, you are actually taking a step back and being intentional and proactive about focusing your time or what really matters. So that’s the first topic that we have with the coming weeks, the really critical, basic foundation of managing your time and the three strategies of blocking balance and boundaries. So I’ll be back here next week for the second piece of the puzzle, which is managing your energy. I’ll see you then.

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If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring

If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring.

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