When we have work to do which requires our full attention and concentration it can be a good idea to sometimes reserve time to be alone (with the door shut and the phone turned off).
But many of us have the tendency to cancel the alone-time we have reserved as soon as, for instance, someone asks us to attend a meeting that particular morning. We remove the note “Alone-time” in the calendar and attend the meeting. What we had intended to do during this time is instead done during a few late nights, which is not always neither convenient nor pleasant, and perhaps the result is not of the highest quality either.
What if we valued the time we have set aside to be alone more and stood by our decision to keep that time-slot free from other engagements? Wouldn’t this make our work more peaceful and enjoyable?
Perhaps this particular change of habit does not come easy. Don’t worry, help is on the way.
Here are four tips to help you stick to your plan and the time you have set aside for yourself (and your tasks).
- Book something that is difficult to cancel.
Hire some kind of expert who will help you during the reserved time or book a conference-room in a hotel. No matter what you do, you will be much less inclined to cancel an external engagement on short notice if it will cost you, and it will thereby be easier to stick to your original plan.
- Make the consequences of continuously cancelling the reserved alone-time explicitly clear to yourself.
One probable consequence is that you do what others want from you before what you had intended to do or are responsible for doing. You tend to solve the short-term problems before dealing with the more extensive long-term challenges.
To clarify the immediate and future benefits of prioritizing differently you can for instance take an empty sheet of paper and write “Undisturbed time alone is important to me since …” and so on. Continue listing as many reasons (“since…”) as you can think of. Save the paper where it is easily accessible to you whenever you need some reassurance that it is OK and even desirable to work alone from time to time.
- Create a threshold to cancelling the scheduled time which is higher than your tendency to dismiss your own importance.
Give yourself a punishment or fine of some kind when you cancel time to work alone. Decide that you will give X amount of money to a charity organization every time you cancel on yourself. Or, let a cancellation result in 50 push-ups right where you stand. It is OK to cancel, but it will cost you – either financially or in physical effort.
- Tell your colleagues that you are conscious of how you sometimes tend to ignore your own planning as soon as they ask you to do something else.
Ask them to help you in your aspiration to prioritize better and more accurately by being attentive to if you come to the rescue too quickly when asked to help. “Please ask me if I really have time and do not actually have something else and more important to do right now.”
Make room for yourself and hence make room for more opportunities
If you strive to work alone once in a while you will get more of your important and long-run tasks done with better foresight than today. You will feel less stressed and more satisfied, which is a whole lot more pleasant.
Your business will benefit from your more conscious and systematic prioritization, rather than having you get caught up in all those small in-the-spur-of-the-moment-tasks you have been focusing on completing.
What’s your method?
How do you make sure to keep those precious hours of alone-time free from engagements even when your calendar is fully booked and you keep receiving requests for new meetings? A penny for your thoughts.