Off the Clock Summer in September challenge day 2: Free up space

Many people walk around with this unspoken belief: the busier you are, the more important you are. If your schedule is crammed, that’s a sign that the demand for your time is high.

I agree that the demand for important people’s time is often astronomical. But it does not follow that these important people must pack their schedules as a result.

Indeed, I’ve found that some people who could be incredibly busy elect not to be. They use the power they have over their schedules to create white space. They do this because they know that open space invites opportunity in a way a cluttered calendar can’t. When you linger in good conversations, you come up with new projects and possibilities. When you have time to think deep thoughts…you think deep, world-changing thoughts!

I saw evidence of this phenomenon when Inc. magazine asked me to look at the schedules of several high profile entrepreneurs for one of their 2017 issues. These entrepreneurs all recorded their schedules on November 29, 2016. I track my time as well, so I likewise had a record of November 29, 2016. Curiously enough, I worked longer hours on that day than most of these folks being featured in Inc magazine because they were so very important.

There is no way that the demand for my time is higher than the demand for their time. A cluttered calendar is not evidence of importance.

So let’s chuck that idea, and let’s explore this one: Open space has many upsides. Knowing that you have time to think and plan and explore can change your perception of time. You start to see time as abundant. You can actually feel relaxed. You feel a bit like you’re sitting on the beach, even in the midst of a work day.

This brings us to day 2 of the Summer in September challenge, which is all about keeping the summer vibe going into the school year. Today’s challenge is to free up space.

Take a few moments today to look at your calendar for the upcoming week. Look at what is already on your calendar, in both your professional and personal life. Ask yourself a few questions about it:

1. What do I really not want to do? Does it absolutely have to be done? (If you are going to cancel something, much better to do it far ahead of time, so everyone can make other plans.)

2. What can I minimize? Maybe somebody asked for 60 minutes, but cannot produce an agenda justifying all 60 minutes. Maybe the matter could be handled in a quick phone call you can make right now. Maybe an in-person meeting could become virtual, saving travel time.

3. What can be combined? Are you meeting with the same people more than once? Why? If there’s a solid reason, great. If not, shift things around.

4. What can be moved? One meeting, sitting in the middle of an otherwise open block of time, can chop up an entire day. This can be true for personal commitments too. We’ve tried hard to keep all weekend kid activities to Saturday morning, to keep the rest of the weekend open.

5. What can someone else do? You do not have to do all the driving, all the errands, all the chores. At work, delegating is often about nurturing other people’s talents. Who would be a good candidate to take on some of the tasks you’re currently handling?

Start small. See if you can free up an hour in the next week. If that’s easily achieved by picking low-hanging fruit, see if you can get to two hours. And then…don’t just give those two hours away! Don’t say yes to things just because you’re available. Sometimes nothing is better than something.

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