Recently, I wrote an article titled, Leaders Who Juggle Well, based on one of the six personas of a thriving leader, the “Proactive and Productive Juggler”. This persona includes behaviors such as creating worktime clarity and sacred space, calendar management, prioritization, operating proactively, and leveraging cross-functional collaboration. Every day with a client that includes a conversation about one of these topics snaps me back into focus on my own juggling skills. Being proactive and productive requires constant attention to what matters and the ability to filter out what no longer serves. It also helps to plan for Parkinson’s Law.
Most people are familiar with Parkinson’s Law, or one of its variations, even if you have never heard of it. Parkinson’s Law was initially more related to time and work and is generally understood to be that “work expands to fill the time which is available for completion.” (Bauer, 2015) Kids finish papers the night before they are due and performance reviews are completed just in time. Variations to the principle include, “The more money you earn the more money you spend,” or “The bigger the available space, the more junk it can hold.” It makes me contemplate expansion and contraction. I’ve moved many times, the most challenging from a big house in Montana, to a modest townhouse in Southern California. The antique vanity I got at eighteen did not make the cut. Extra dishes, linens, and lamps were left behind. All art and family pictures made the trip. I have expanded our lives into whatever space we have lived in. Several times we started with a contraction or downsizing and found we would eventually fill every nook and cranny in our home with things that bring us joy.
How can this principle assist you in becoming more productive? First, you reframe what is on your plate by how much time is needed as opposed to how much time you have. Second, you block exactly that time with clear details of the expectations during the time block. You do not put “BLOCK” in your calendar, you note exactly what you will accomplish (EX: “draft of article to Lisa,” which indicates I will write the draft and send it to my colleague during this time block.) Refer back to the previous article I mentioned for more details on calendar blocking.
I have operated this way for decades in my home life and work life. People often ask me how I get so much accomplished. I have shared my processes and techniques and discovered that not everyone who asks puts them into action. Why is that? Do they not really want to improve? Is this a super-power only a few people have? No and no! I believe it hinges on two factors, lack of accommodation for Parkinson’s Law, and undervaluing of inner wisdom.
Here is how to fix both factors:
1) Plan for Parkinson’s Law. This is easier than you think and involves a bit of trickery. I believe in trickery if it is self-inflicted.
a. Set artificial time constraints – plan to do “x” in the time that is needed, not in the time frame that is allowed or given.
b. Block this time specifically on your calendar.
c. Honor the block and if it is compromised, re-block the time.
d. Celebrate what you accomplish in each specific block of time!
e. Recalibrate if you find your time estimates are off.
2) Hone your inner wisdom. Commit to a couple of basic practices that will take you closer to your inner knowing.
a. Presence - Spend 2-5 minutes centering yourself before you start each task, and each time you pivot from one task to another. Sit quietly, take a few deep breaths. Set the intention for what you desire to accomplish during your next area of focus.
b. Movement – Establish several times a day to MOVE. When transitioning between tasks is ideal. Depending on the time you can carve, you might: walk outside, do 20 pushups, run through sun salutations yoga moves (4 mins)…whatever will clear your mind and allow you to move on to the next area of focus.
c. Energetic Hygiene – Clear your energy, in just seconds you can clear the energy you are holding from one event, meeting/call, interaction, or concentration and be prepared to move onto the next area of focus. Simple Qigong moves, snapping your fingers all around your body, or even tapping will set you up to begin your next task with fresh energy.
Join us on April 22nd at noon PST to pull this all together! Lisa Solis DeLong and I will walk you through the steps toward supporting your inner balance to better serve your outer challenges. You will experience:
How to change your energy in the moment to serve competing demands.
How to proactively integrate presence daily to enhance productivity.
Whether leading yourself or others, we can show you how integrating more productive and proactive practices can lead to more grace, ease and joy.
The Thriving Leader Collaborative Team hosts multiple retreats that expand on the six personas of a thriving leader and how they are served by attention to the six pillars of inner balance. Dip your toe in and join us for a 45 min call - The Joy of Leadership Experience. Sign up today and we will see you online, April 22nd at noon PST.