Often people working from home or running their own businesses are faced with creating a structure for their days that allows them to be productive. In these days of self-quarantining, many people are finding themselves in this same situation. So how do you find a rhythm that provides a balance of the things that are important to you and still lets you enjoy your days?
If you are Left-Brain/Linear in your approach to time management, you’re probably already thinking, “No problem! I already had my schedule created and posted the first day! Nothing makes me feel better than knowing exactly what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it! I just don’t get why everyone doesn’t get on track and get organized like this!”
If this describes you, you might want to just stop reading here, because this blog post is really for the rest of us – the Right-Brain/Globals. But you are absolutely welcome to keep reading if you’d like a peek behind the curtain as to why the rest of us don’t schedule our days that way and to see what works better for us.
If you did not identify with the organizer described above, your approach to time management is probably from a Right Brain/Global (RBG) perspective, and you may have struggled off and on or even steadily through your life with finding a way to organize your days that felt productive, but didn’t make you want to harm yourself or others. And like many RBGs, you may have been shamed about this. We can talk about why this happens later; let’s get to the part where you release the guilt and feel more productive than ever!
Still not sure if you are a Right-Brain Global? Let’s see. You might be an RBG if you like:
· Toys instead of Tools (like a fun colorful pencil instead of the standard #2)
· Surprises and flexibility instead of routine
· Changing things up, not doing things the same way every time
· When things feel like fun and not “work”
· To be doing a lot of things at once (not fully completing one thing before beginning the next)
Sound like you? Good news!! I’m not about to tell you how to make long-term and short-term goals and that all you really need is just some good old-fashioned discipline! That is just not the case. Contrary to what you may have been told, there’s nothing wrong with any of the preferences listed above. We are simply not often taught how to work with these tendencies and not against them. In fact, if there are any LBL organizers still reading, some are clutching their chests and wondering how on earth I could be spewing such blasphemy to already weak and feeble organizers. More good news: I’ve been an educator working with students on time management for 30 years (yes, I’m that old), and I’m sharing a different approach because it works. When we learn that we can work with these traits, it’s a real game changer. When we work against them, we continue to struggle.
So, let’s start with a shift in thinking. Instead of “fixing” or “eliminating” our preferences, let’s focus on how we can include them and make them our superpowers. Why is this important? Because what fuels any kind of organizer is energy. When we use strategies that bring us energy, we keep doing them. When we try to use strategies that bring us no energy, feel tedious or suck the life right out of us, we will not keep doing them. It’s as simple as that. And what energizes RBGs is fun, change and flexibility. LBLs, on the other hand, are energized by repetition, predictability and structure.
So, it’s a little more work to be a RBG because we need to keep changing things up to keep ourselves engaged. But that’s okay, because we like creating! You’ve probably had several time management strategies that worked for a while – and since they didn’t keep working, you assumed they were not for you. Pull those babies back out and put them back into rotation. Unlike LBLs, “once you find a system that works for you, you’re set!” does not apply to us. We must constantly re-invent the wheel (this is exhausting for LBLs, but totally energizing to us!) So, don’t feel guilty. It’s not a flaw, your creativity is your superpower!
So, what works for RBGs? Here are several suggestions. Try what speaks to you or gives you a great idea of something of your own to do! When you find some things you like, pick at least 3 systems or strategies and have them at the ready to rotate in when you tire of one or simply notice you’ve stopped using it. No guilt. Celebrate this as part of you and simply move on to the next technique.
· Anything that worked for even a little while in the past that you liked
· Unless you have multiple appointments in a day, usually planners without a bunch of times are better, but most importantly, don’t pick randomly – find a format that supports your style
· Find planners that are fun for you
· Use writing implements that you enjoy using – it makes the whole process more fun and inviting – a lot of RBGs love color and texture
· Most RBGs like to make lists without specific times
· Create your own format (I’ve included an example below of one of mine) – to avoid having to make a list every day and to track how often you’re actually doing the things that are most important to you to try to get into each day, create a checklist of things you’d like to accomplish each day.
· Now, of course, we have wonderful reminders and lists we can use on our phones and a multitude of apps, but I don’t know about these because I’m old
· Each night before you go to sleep, make a list of the 6 Most Important Things you need to do the next day. No times (unless it is a specific appointment) or priority. Just capture them while they’re fresh in your mind, so you can hit the ground running the next day
So why haven’t we heard this before? Why haven’t we read it in the multitude of time management books on the market?
Think about who’s writing all the time management books. Yes! Left-Brain/Linears. “Hey guys, it’s easy to organize your time. Just break it down like us and never change it!! It’s great! Oh, and you just need to have more discipline. It’s you that needs to change, not our system that clearly works.” And then we wonder why that doesn’t work for us. And often feel bad about it. But who would write a book for RBGs? And what would that even look like? “Hey guys, here are several ideas, but your hybrid ideas will probably work best for you. Oh, and you’re going to need several ideas, because you’re going to get tired of them after a while (or lose your planner under the couch and forget you ever owned it until you find it next spring when you move the couch to change up your seating arrangement because you were bored with the way it was) and need to rotate to other things.” That book would truly be daunting, but one author took the challenge and wrote one of the best books I’ve seen on the topic. This book is called Time Management for Unmanageable People by Ann McGee-Cooper. Highly recommend checking it out along with other wonderful and helpful articles she has written.
I hope this has been helpful! If you have questions or would like to share strategies that work for you as an RBG, I would love to hear them!