It’s 10:30 AM and your day's already falling apart.
Sure you had a plan, a to-do list, mostly carried forward from yesterday. But interruptions, emails, and colleagues needing “just a minute” hijacked any semblance of what you thought your day would look like.
It’s déjà vu, in the worst way.
Experts have been writing, blogging, making videos, and teaching about time management for decades. It’s all good stuff. But, the story you tell yourself is where the real change starts. This is how your story might sound:
- You rush in five minutes late to a meeting and then remind yourself you’re always running late.
- You justify getting the proposal in at the last minute because, after all, you’re a procrastinator.
- After work, you skip going to the gym because you think there’ll be more time tomorrow.
- Instead of delegating the task, you do it yourself, thinking it will be faster and better this way.
These are all stories - fiction you’ve made up. Not only did you make up the story, now you look for evidence to prove it’s true.
- Running late? Yup, you think, I’m the kind of person that always runs late.
- Missed another workout? No worries, you think, there’ll be more time tomorrow.
The first step to change is to admit you need to change.
Admit You Make Up Stories
Admit it - you make up stories. We all do. Making up stories is not a bad thing. Believing all your stories are true, now that’s a bad thing.
As Martin Seligman, the widely acclaimed father of positive psychology, discovered in his research at the University of Pennsylvania both optimists and pessimists believe they are right and continually seek evidence to confirm their beliefs. In other words, if you believe you’re a procrastinator, you are!
When you have the same problem reappearing over and over, it’s a clue you have a story that doesn’t serve you. Always running late, allowing clutter, constantly checking email, you’re driven by stories that show up as the behavior you don’t want. Once you admit you’ve made up stories, it’s time to change your story.
Change Your Story
Changing your story isn’t hard, you just need to ask a better question.
Your brain loves questions, and if you start asking better questions, it has to answer. If you are always running late? Ask yourself “What’s one thing I can do that will get me on time to meetings?” Feeling overwhelmed? Ask yourself “What’s one thing I can do right now to feel more in control?” About to skip the workout you planned? Ask yourself “What’s the first step I have to take to get closer to the workout?” and after that, “Okay, now that I have my gear, what’s the next step I need to take?” and so on. Once you get into a practice of asking better questions, you can catch yourself and change your actions in an instant.
As William R. Klemm, Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, “Belief changes attitude, and attitude changes performance.”
Next, you have to make your new story stick.
Make It Stick
Success is a great catalyst for change. If you change a pattern, notice it, soak it up, and recognize that you made it happen. The more you recognize you made change happen, the more capable you are to make more changes happen.
When your to-do list gets too long, and your emails start taking over, it means it is time for a change. Following these three steps will allow you to map out your time and be in better control, allowing you to do the things that need to be done.