Protect Your Schedule, Time and Attention

Protect Your Schedule, Time and Attention 150 150 Neen James

Are you constantly competing with others over your schedule? Do you feel inundated by a barrage of interruptions and distractions each day that leaves you feeling as if you worked like a crazy person all day and accomplished nothing as a result?

In my new book, Attention Pays, I outline strategies for busy professionals to protect their time and attention from being fritted away by anyone and anything asking for it.

Here are seven strategies you can being implementing today to take control of your schedule and permit you the time necessary to leverage your attention to accomplish more each day.

Create a personal daily strategic 15-minute appointment – Take this time to determine your top three non-negotiable activities you must complete before you sleep tonight. Several years ago, I challenged an executive leadership team at Comcast to invest 15 minutes of their attention every day in a strategic appointment. They say awesome results, become the highest performing team in their region. Their shared increased focus allowed them to prioritize completion of strategic objectives and invest in their people’s development instead of being distracted by everyday busyness.

Schedule your morning routine – We outlined this routine in Chapter 3 of my new book, Attention Pays. It’s critical that you get this on your calendar so that phone calls or meetings don’t encroach on this important time.

Assign certain activities to specific days of the week – This system has you group regular activities together to maximize productivity and minimize distractions. Will it work seamlessly with every week in the same way? no, but with a system, your team or assistant can schedule meetings on designated days. We worked with a financial services executive to design her ideal week. here is what hers looked like. Yours, of course, will be different:

  • Monday: Meet with team members, senior leadership, and her boss in the office.
  • Tuesday to Thursday: Industry and vendor networking events, client appointments, presentation preparation, and travel. These days were spent outside the office and included a work-from-home day.
  • Friday: As she enjoyed being home for weekends, any meetings were local and never scheduled to finish later than 5pm. If no meetings were scheduled, she focused on strategizing for the upcoming week and catching up on administrative work.

Schedule no talk days – My best friend manages multiple companies, raises my two beautiful God-daughters, volunteers in her community, and enjoys working with her clients. She discovered that on days she doesn’t talk to anyone, she’s massively productive. So, she started scheduling no-talk days – days with no appointments, which are dedicated to strategy and achieving goals. As an extrovert, I found this strategy especially helpful. Could you do this once a quarter to make more progress toward your bigger goals?

Schedule service days – I allocate one day a month on my calendar for pro bono assistance to people in my industry who need help. could you add a service day to your calendar?

Time block – Schedule space in your calendar for strategy, email review, meetings, social media engagement, and personal time.

Create visual recognition systems – Use color-coding to simplify your life. My calendar uses a variety of colors to show speaking, travel, consulting, personal appointments, and administration and business development.

Block out personal time in advance and honor the appointment with yourself as you would a client or employee.

Pick up a copy of Attention Pays to learn more about creating an extraordinary life by ‘unplugging’ from the constant barrage of disruptions and ‘plugging in’ to the tools, strategies, and mindsets that allows you to harness your attention to reach your highest potential.

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