Summer is officially over. Kids are back at school finishing the end of their 3rd week. Time to get back writing the blog. I have missed it, but with the busy schedules of the summer it was a nice break. One of my goals this summer was to be outside as much as possible, and taking a break from the chains of my laptop was a big help in making that happen.
I am refreshed after three months. I have overcome my lack of ideas which was plaguing me in June. I have created a mental list of “breakthrough” content and I can’t wait to pour it onto the screen. Oh wait, when I open the WordPress template this morning, and try to figure out where to start, nothing. Nothing at all. How can this be? Where did all of those late night ideas go, or the ones I had while on the mountain bike trail this summer. Lost in the land of writers block. Nothing.
So, the only place for me to start is by reminding myself why I do this. Here are my top five reasons why I blog. Let’s hope that this helps me remember that I do love it.
- It makes me grateful for what I have in my life. When writing, I often step back and think about all of the good things around me. When I am going at 100mph daily, it is so easy to overlook the all of the good around me.
- It allows me a vehicle for creative expression. I have an amazing team at work, and because they are so great, I don’t get to play in the work as much. Good problem to have, but the blog becomes necessary.
- It is something that I do for me. Given my job, my kids, my husband my family and my friends filling up the time in my life, I rarely do things just for me. I am realizing this may be a little ironic assuming that someone out there is probably reading this.
- It allows me to think further out than just about today. Often in reflecting about what to write, I take a longer view of life than normal. When writing, I am not worried about today or tomorrows schedule but instead focusing on something in the future.
- It helps me to open up. I was reading an article today about 5 Habits That Are Destroying Your Ability To Lead. The first one of these is about “Isolating Yourself.” Isolation as a leader can take many forms – from physical to mental to emotional. I never intend to isolate myself from my team, but sometimes schedule makes it happen. I find that when I write, it helps me become ready to be open with my team and takes some of my personal walls down.
So, it is worth it. It is worth the writers block and the frustration associated with ideas not flowing. It is worth directing my small amount of personal time this direction. At least, that is my conclusion for now. Stay tuned as I am sure that over the next few weeks as I get back in the swing of things, you may find me writing a blog titled the “5 things I Hate About Blogging”. But, for now, my commitment is to stick with it!
I have been doing a little study of the way I run my calendar and how it correlates to my productivity and my energy level. For the last eight weeks, I have been making notes throughout the week on my calendar relative to my feeling of productivity, how much energy I leave the office with to bring home to my family, and how effective I feel like I am as a coach and leader of my team. This week I looked back at the notes, and my calendar the days I took the notes, and decided to see what I could learn.
Some interesting facts:
- I average 45 meetings per week. Roughly 70% of these appointments are one to one coaching/status meetings with individuals, primarily in my marketing and sales team.
- Although this pace sounds like it would drive most people crazy, it doesn’t stress me out. It does stress my assistant out (who has to work to squeeze it all in). This makes me chuckle because although I know maintaining the calendar is stressful, it shouldn’t stress her out more than me. I am the one who actually has to live it!!
- The highest number of meetings within a single week over the last eight weeks was 56 (ugh!). And, that was the worst week of the bunch. I ended up getting sick that week. Don’t know if it was due to my over scheduling and lack of energy, or my kids bringing home daycare germs (or likely some combo of the two). The thing I can say is that I don’t want another week like this any time soon.
- The weeks that I have around 35 meetings or less, I feel like I am at least twice as effective in helping my team and feel generally happier with my life at home with my family.
- If I add 30-90 minute breaks throughout the day (between meetings) it helps me a ton in replenishing my energy and creativity. The best weeks are those where I have a Friday that has at least 2-3 hours of open time to clean up from the week, and a Monday morning with at least an hour of schedule planning time to prep myself.
- Confirmed….it does take a lot of energy!
One of the more interesting observations during this not-so-scientific study was about how my calendar gives a good lens into my priorities. My time is allocated on my work calendar where I place my priorities. In the first two weeks of my study, I realized that I was spending too much time in technology meetings. Although technology is important, and marketing technology is ever changing, did I really need 5+ hours a week regarding this topic? Easy answer = no. So, I adjusted my calendar (and thus my priorities) and changed it to about 1-2 hours a week. I know that this may seem like a simple realization, but sometimes we get so busy “doing” the calendar that we lose site of “planning” our time.
On the bright side, I learned that I am pretty good at this, likely by necessity. Ever since I have had kids, my ability to accomplish things in the time windows that I have (such as this 15 minutes I have to finish this blog post!), has ramped significantly. There is simply more to do than there is time, so I must be productive and decisive. I actively review my calendar daily looking ahead 3-5 days to make sure my time is scheduled where I want it to be, and where it can produce the most effective results. I know that this may sound pretty obvious, but so many people on my team (and others I work with), don’t do this effectively. Because of this lack of planning their time, they get sucked into things on their calendar that have low return on time (ROT – should I brand this?).
So for tonight, as I prep for the week ahead, changing my calendar around to create those 30 minute windows of time in my calendar to build energy and creativity, I figured I would share this with all of you. I hope that it helps someone else become a little more effective, or at least not stress about what lies ahead.
It has been a rough week. I counted today the number of meetings on my calendar in the last three days and it was enough to scare anyone. Answer: 20 in three work days. I have another 18 left to accomplish in the next two days. Add onto to this, my little two year old has a double ear infection which led to one night of about 4 hours of sleep. This is also week two of my new workout regimen of CrossFit which is a bit intimidating just by itself.
This is what it means to have it all! Actually, I think it is more like a test of my ability to maintain my energy level. I have always prided myself in having high energy, and dedicating it to whatever I am doing. That said, the last few years have tested me beyond anything I have ever experienced. I have won some weeks and lost some weeks. This week definitely feels like it is stacking up to one that I have lost, so I thought maybe sitting down and writing down a few things that have worked in the past to rebuild my energy would maybe help me to make it a little better.
- Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
- Workout 3-4 times per week, even if it is for 20 minutes.
- Close my office door and take a deep breath at least a few times a day.
- Make a short list each morning (maximum of 1-2 things) in my head on my drive down the canyon of the things I am going to accomplish today and get them done!
- Play with my kids as much as possible and let their endless energy empower me.
- Try to learn something new every day.
- Keep at least 90 minutes of free time on my work calendar.
- Say no to involving myself in at least one things each day.
There is no secret sauce in this, but what I can tell you is that this week I am on track for only about two of these things. Maybe that is why feel like I am holding on for dear life. Let’s use this as my moment of learning for today!
Today at work, I had a hard meeting. While the objective of the meeting was good, and while the person I was meeting with is one of the nicest people that I know and very well intentioned, it was one of the harder encounters that I have had in a long time. This evening, after I got my kids to bed and I am here alone watching stupid television shows on my iPad while typing this blog post….I have been spending some time digesting why I felt like I did.
I think it comes down to one primary thing. The person I met with didn’t ask questions. He led the meeting with an agenda of things to communicate to me based on the perceptions and thoughts that he had about the effectiveness of my team. While helpful in the long run, because he has a lot of great ideas and advice, it made me feel a lot like my opinion didn’t matter. There was a rare moment in what was a long conversation where he asked me what I thought, how I was feeling and what I think we should do, or any question for that matter. It was primarily a one-way conversation.
As I think of how I want to be both as a marketing leader and as a mom, wife, friend, person, this stands out to me as a great learning experience. I want to know how my team, how my kids are thinking about things so that they can share their perspective – and not just broadcast things and communicate things one direction. Easier said than done, but I am hoping that living through today helps me commit to that in my life no matter what the setting.