Last Thursday and Friday we hosted our 2nd Rockstar Retreat of 2013. Hands-down our favorite thing about the retreat is the people who attend. This particular retreat is full of rockstars (hence the clever name), which means they exhibit a rare sense of ownership, engagement, focus, and resilience. They’re all front row sitters and they participate at 110%.
So it’s no surprise that they have a lot of “aha moments” in a 2-day immersive retreat that is focused on personal and professional development. Each person has their own specific insights, but the number one epiphany we hear in our final debrief around the “campfire” (actually a room with a table full of candles…yes, it is pretty cool) is this:
“I have more control than I thought I did.”
Whether you’re talking about your health & wellbeing, motivation, effectiveness, or influence, you have more control than you think you do. Other people can affect your thoughts, actions, and even your schedule. But, in the end, you are the one who either takes control or gives it up.
The simplest example is your calendar. Who controls your time? Sure, your boss schedules mandatory meetings, your kids’ soccer schedule is out of your control, and Church is always on Sunday mornings. But everyone I know has big open spaces on their calendar. Like HUGE chunks of time that is unspoken for at the beginning of each work week. Who controls that time?
If you don’t control it, someone else will. And they do every week, don’t they? Because you let them. Because you haven’t taken control.
It’s strangely coincidental that all those “fires” at work only flare up when you have nothing scheduled on your calendar, huh? They never seem to happen when you have a meeting scheduled with your CEO.
Here are the four most powerful things you can do to take back control your time:
1. Block your time. You have to make time to do the most important work of all: YOURS. How much time do you need to get your work done? Schedule that time on your calendar and treat it like you would treat a meeting with your CEO. It’s that important. Sacred, even.
2. Protect your time. You may need to close your door or go work at Starbucks in order to let people know, “Hey, I’m workin’ here! Come back later!” I have a friend who used to work in an open studio space that had no doors. He simply put a giant yellow dot on the back of his chair that let people know when he needed uninterrupted focus time. People actually respected the dot! VERY IMPORTANT: Communicate this ahead of time to your staff, your boss, and anyone else who may need to know. You can’t just disappear to Starbucks one day. They may think you quit and replace you before you get back.
3. Learn to say no with confidence. I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it a thousand more times. It is one of the most powerful tools in any rockstar’s toolbox. Here’s the trick: if you do the first two things on this list (especially #1), this becomes so much easier to do. When you treat your time as sacred and protect it, you can confidently say “I don’t have the time you need right now.” Of course, you may need to say it a little more diplomatically to your boss.
4. Leave some open time, just not too much. Blocking all of your time can actually make you feel less in control than blocking none of your time. You need some open time so you can flex a bit, reschedule when needed, and handle “walk-ins”. If you have an “open door policy” in your office, you have to leave the door open sometimes. The key is to not have too much open time because too much open time is like a large attic: somehow it fills up with crap all by itself when you’re not looking.
I’m always excited when people realize that they are more in control than they thought they were. And when they take the steps to take back control of their time, it really can be life-changing.
By the way, our next Rockstar Retreat is January 16-17, 2014 and several seats are already spoken for. If you have a rockstar team member that you’d like to send, check out the details at www.RockstarRetreat.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.