How I Prepare
Over time, I developed a routine for how I prepare for my work day. It started by working on my goals and objectives for the year. A process that was used across the company. That led to quarterly objectives, each measurable and graded at the end of the quarter. There were established processes in place to support both of these activities. But I was left to my own resourcefulness to manage my calendar so I could work on those goals and objectives every week.
It seemed like my calendar was always a challenge. And it still poses some challenges. I work off of lists of things I need to accomplish. Lists for the day, the week and even a list of things to do over the next few months. I proactively reach out and schedule the meetings I need or block time to do the work. That’s the easy part. The reactive part of calendar management is the challenge. The meetings being requested of me. What is the topic? How important is it? In my last corporate role, sitting down with my executive assistant for a calendar review became critical. Rather than be surprised by meetings on my calendar or even meetings disappearing from my calendar, we would meet weekly to proactively review it. Ideally early Friday afternoon so I would have a sense for what was required of me for the next week. This approach didn’t eliminate all of the calendar challenges, but it did address most of them. I continue to use Friday afternoons to prepare for my next week ensuring that meetings are confirmed and I have time to prepare for them.
To prepare for the day, I had my commute. Although I didn’t enjoy the 45 to 60 minute drive in traffic. It gave me time to think about my day. I was able to get centered. I would think through each of the meetings. I would take the time to think through what my intention was for each meeting and what I could do to achieve that. I would also reflect on the things I needed to accomplish and outline the things I needed to do. My commute is a little different these days as I walk across my backyard with the dogs to my office. But I still begin each day preparing. I sit down and plan my day. What meetings do I have? What are the other things I need to accomplish? And the toughest part of each daily plan isn’t what I will do. The toughest part is determining when will I take time during the day to just ”be”. I have spent so many years doing things that it is hard for me to let go of that and just experience the moment. Find time to go for a walk or throw a ball for the dogs. And to be OK with that.
I attended an executive education program two years ago. Part of the program was on wellness coaching. I was struck by the question of “how do you prepare for your day”. I responded similarly to what I wrote in the last paragraph. The follow-up question was “what do you do to prepare yourself for the day”? I didn’t notice the subtle difference in the question at first. We had a conversation about how I could take time in the morning to prepare myself. That could be taking 20 minutes to stretch or to journal or to meditate. Ideally, I could get a workout in a few mornings every week. That became part of my routine and it made a big difference. It allowed me to discharge energy, improving my focus throughout the day.
The following question was “how do you prepare to go home each evening”. I didn’t have an answer. Typically, I spent my commute home reflecting on the day and thinking about what I needed to do over the next couple of days. His question caused me to reflect on this time. I spent so much time preparing for work, including an annual plan, quarterly objectives, weekly calendar reviews, planning my day during my commute to work. How was I preparing for my personal life? What was I doing to prepare myself to spend time with my wife? How could I let go of work so it wouldn’t get between us and proactively prepare for the evening I wanted to have with my wife and my family? Was I going to make dinner? What would she like? Were we going to go for a walk after dinner or was one of our favorite shows on. And how would I prepare for spending other time together, the weekend, our holidays?
Of all of the things I learned on time management and how to prepare, this was the most valuable and the most impactful. Again, I no longer have that commute, instead a walk across the back yard. As I write this, I’m thinking about how I want to be when my wife walks in after her long commute. How I want to great her? How will we spend our evening together? How will we prepare for our weekend, doing the things we want to together? Or just enjoying being together.