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Are you always fighting fires instead of investing in fire prevention?

July 22, 2021 / in Brain Food / by

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This week, I want to give credit to Chris Lema for my topic. I’ve been reading his content for a couple of years now and in January he shared a fantastic resource of blog starter topics that you can find here. One of those ended up being the title for this week’s blog post and video.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of reacting to everything that comes at you on a daily basis. I’ve gotten stuck in this trap countless times in my career. I would wake up, suit up and show up every day and try to cross off everything off the list that came my way as quickly as possible. And one of the biggest problems I’ve had to figure out happened because of that mentality.

The Calendar Trap

One of the biggest traps that snared me was how I managed my calendar. I like helping people, so my knee jerk reaction when getting an email or phone call from someone needing help was to schedule them as soon as possible. I didn’t pay attention to what else was happening on a given day. I was simply looking for the next open gap where I could schedule the work do be done.

Your first thought may be, “Wow. That sounds like good customer service to me.” And for sure… it is. The problem is the long term affect that scheduling this way can have. The end result is that during a busy season, your calendar will get so full that most of your days are fully scheduled. And if the needs persist, the problem grows. I’ve been in the situation where I have no time for coffee, lunch or even a workout between 7am and 6pm because I’ve booked myself solid for 2-3 weeks straight.

How do you feel when there is no Wiggle Room?

On the one hand, revenue is great when you’re booked with billable work.

On the other hand, there’s no wiggle room. And that applies to your personal life as well as your professional life. When you’re booked all day, it leaves no room for a last minute coffee meeting. No room for lunch with a friend who happens to be in town. There’s no time for your brain to take a break and recharge, so your creativity and productivity dwindle as the day goes on. And then you have to fit in replying to emails, phone calls and doing accounting after dinner. Consistently working late to try and keep up. Going to bed exhausted even though there are things to celebrate that you accomplished in your productive day.

You wake up and start the same process all over again. If you stack enough days together like this, life can start to feel like you’re on autopilot. This is not a good thing for you, or anyone around you.

What’s the Solution?

Finding and keeping balance takes work, just like a marriage. I’ve mentioned before that I block at least one half day a week on my calendar that doesn’t get moved. During that time, I can do whatever I want, as long as it isn’t work. It has to be something I enjoy (like reading, playing a video game, going for a bike ride, meeting with a friend, listening to music, watching a movie, etc.) This time is something I hold on to and look forward to during packed weeks.

I’ve also been trying to limit my client working sessions to half days. I either do a morning session or an afternoon session. This simple practice gives me the flexibility to go to lunch, stay longer with a client that needs more time, do errands, etc. I still end up working a full day most of the time. But it feels much better than running from thing to thing with no wiggle room. And now, I take a good, hard look when scheduling new work. What else is going on that day? What does the day before or after look like? I’m always trying to keep the balance.

The way I used to manage my calendar was like creating small fires in my path for weeks on end. I’ve found that maintaining a better balance with my schedule is like investing in fire prevention. Are you fighting fires all the time in your world? Maybe this is a good reminder to invest in your own fire prevention methods.

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