Did you know that there is an emotional process that you go through as you learn to manage your time more effectively? I teach the five keys to get five hours back in your week. The five steps are the entire "how" of mastering your time. However, my clients and employees to whom I teach the process continue to believe there is more. They are sure I am holding back the secret to successful time management.
Let me say up front that there is no secret. If you create your ideal calendar, consolidate your to-do lists, choose your priorities, clarify and calendar your results, and commit and execute your plan, you will master your time by default. For more detail on each step in the process, see the blogs in the "Five Keys to Get 5 Hours Back" series.
Before I discovered the power of coaching, I couldn't understand why people had trouble following the steps and sustaining such a simple and effective process. Then my coaching certification process opened up my mind to our thoughts' true power over emotions, and thereby our actions.
As I continued to work with more students on the "Five Keys" process, I noticed a clear progression through a series of emotions. The reason clients were struggling was not only natural; it was a requirement to master the process. The problem was they would quit in emotional stages 1, 3, or 5. Those stages are uncomfortable. Many of us believe that discomfort means something has gone wrong. In reality, discomfort is the price of success, as my coach, Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School, likes to say. In outlining the emotional progression, I hope to keep you in the learning process long enough to find success.
1) Disbelief - Most people start here, although some skip straight to emotional stage 2, excitement. Many of my clients have been unsuccessful in managing their time in the past, consider themselves procrastinators, or believe that planning eliminates spontaneity and freedom. Brains with these beliefs will look for evidence that solving their issues with time cannot be that easy. They want the process to be more overwhelming since they always experienced scheduling, projects, and task lists that way. Or perhaps, they believe the process just won't work for them; other people have the skill to organize time, and they were born without it. At this point, they decide I am holding back the real answer. As a coach, I work with the clients on each limiting disbelief, and we come up with evidence to the contrary and reinforce the compelling reasons they want to manage their schedules and lives.
2) Excitement - After we work through the limiting beliefs that create disbelief, my clients start to get excited. They are ready to jump in and take control of their schedules. Now they believe the system works. They understand why it is easy, and they are prepared to go all in. Generally, they will buy a new planner and a nice pen, download an app to store their task list, and come to the next session ready to get serious about planning. This phase, while fun, doesn't last very long and isn't very productive.
3) Frustration- Next, my clients look at their existing commitments and realize that nothing on their schedule reflects their ideal calendar. They consolidated the task list, and it goes on for pages. They identified their priorities and their days are so full they can't squeeze them in. Or, they planned their perfect day, and there were so many interruptions, they didn't get anything done they had planned. Most people want to quit here. They see it as evidence that their initial disbelief was accurate. They cannot do this. They believe they are fundamentally broken, and this is just one more system that doesn't work. As a coach, we spend a lot of time here. We evaluate each obstacle and overcome them, one pain point at a time until the system starts to work.
4) Confidence - In this stage, things start to click into place. We are past weeks that were scheduled when we began our work, and the space for the ideal calendar is showing up. My clients start getting wins where their days go as planned. They are learning how much overflow time they need in their days and how to control disruptions. They are mastering the process and seeing results.
5) Inadequacy - All of a sudden, they are doing the things they planned. Free time is opening up in their days. They are not rushing from meeting to meeting. They are showing up prepared and capable - and it feels empty. It turns out many of the things that seemed vital in the earlier stages don't light them up and engage their passions. They are getting clear on what is important to them and what they are uniquely qualified to do, and it is not what they have been fretting over for years. They realize the rushing around and putting our fires gave them a sense of importance that is missing now. As a coach, this is my favorite stage. The real magic happens here. We get to re-dream and figure out where, deep down, they want to spend their time. We do it from a place of certainty since the clutter of their old life has been set aside. It is beautiful. Clients that do the work to get this far are never the same. They can't go back because they now clearly see what they mean to do with their one precious life. Witnessing this phase is why I do this work.
5) Empowered - My clients have evolved to the future selves they didn't believe in at the beginning of the process. They are bold and sure of themselves. They understand the process of managing their time and the freedom of being themselves, unapologetically. They spend their time wisely on the places in the world where they can make the most significant difference. When their lives change, they can re-prioritize and create the lives they want in the new phase.
This emotional ride is why a simple solution seems too easy in the beginning. The mechanics of taking control of your time and your life are simple. Execution requires a commitment to move through all the stages of learning time management. Your brain will throw up obstacles, blind spots, and evidence it won't work. A coach can be an invaluable resource to give you a perspective that may not be readily available to you. However, an awareness of the process can help anyone working solo to keep going through the discomfort to ultimate success.