On Sunday I did my first proper Facebook live for my business. I’ve been meaning to do one for a while now and finally took action (maybe last week’s blog unstuck me). The live, SHINE: How to take back control, was all about time management and launched my new Shine coaching programme. This week I want to expand on some of the themes in my live as not having enough time, and time management, comes up so often when I’m coaching and, as you will see, has been an issue for me in my leadership career.
My core tendency is to be an Obliger – I will meet outer expectations, often at the expense of inner expectations, so please keep that in mind as you read all of this.
My first proper experiences of management and leadership was in an organisation that had a long hours culture, which is within another organisation (the National Health Service) which has a history of expecting a lot from its staff. I was keen to prove that I was a Chief Executive in the making. I was given multiple roles and departments to manage, all of which were demanding, and had a role model who was at work until 19:30 or 20:00 every night and then did more work at home. I rarely had lunch, didn’t eat proper meals in the evening, didn’t have much time between meetings to do things and was always on the go. Even when I didn’t have time without meetings, I knew that it was important to be visible, to ‘walk the floor’ so I was out talking with staff and making sure that I supported them. It was exhausting. The pattern that was laid down for me was that a successful manager put in the hours, was selfless and worked very hard, without breaks.
Fast forward a few years and I was a new mother, just returning to work, and I was determined to prove that I was still up to the job. I didn’t want anyone to think that being a mother had made me less committed or valuable as a leader. I also wanted to be a great mother. So, I would take my daughter to nursery at 8 am, work all day, be the last parent to pick up my child from nursery at 6 pm (and quite regularly had to call on my mother to pick her up as I was running late), do the parent stuff, get her off to bed and then get back to work. The organisation had less of a long hours culture but the job was just as busy and the pattern was well and truly embedded for me.
Any of this sound familiar?
Over subsequent roles, the pattern I’d laid down and external expectations, kept making sure that I was busy, too busy – because important people are always very busy. I made sure that I gave my time and attention to others and stepped up when things needed to be done; that’s what leaders do isn’t it?
Interestingly though, whilst I had high standards and expectations of others, I was always very understanding if they had school events to attend, family occasions to be at etc. and I always encouraged them to go home at a sensible time and not to work too hard. It was a case of do what I say and not what I do.
I’d tried to use time management tools but the problem was that this took time and that was the one thing that I didn’t have. I felt like they were just telling me how useless I was at time management because I couldn’t get them to work for me.
Needless to say, it all got too much for me. The stress and pressure that I was putting myself under was impossible to cope with long term and I started to experience real anxiety. It seeped into my home life, making me withdraw from social activities because I was simply overwhelmed and all I wanted to do when I wasn’t working was hide. I began to notice that I wasn’t performing as well as I expected at work (note I say as well as I expected because in most areas no one else noticed although I did drop a few balls – quite unlike me). I knew I couldn’t continue without becoming quite ill.
So, I’ve been changing things.
Yes, I’m starting to use some conventional time management tools again but the biggest change I’ve made is to stop being so busy. Easier said than done? Not really but you do need to start from a position of strength (no Imposter Syndrome lurking) and to really take charge. There will be lots of things that you’re doing that you don’t need to do; there will, trust me. There will be lots of things that people are giving you to do because you always say yes and you always get it done. There will be lots of things that you choose to do because you want to be amazing and perfect, like me you want to be Wonder Woman; stop it, no one is perfect and it’s damaging you.
In my new programme, SHINE: How to take back control, get balance in your life and still be a highly effective leader, I work with you to get you to a place where you can do all of this and more. Drawing on my own personal experience and from the collective wisdom of a lot of people that have done and studied this, I will support you to take back control. You will be less busy, but more effective, and you’ll know what you have to do to maintain this. I’ve made the change; I’m doing it now. I’m still doing things that are important and, don’t get me wrong, I still have demanding periods but now they pass, and I get through them knowing they will pass, because I am in control.