In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how to create priorities and set a schedule to accomplish them. However, neither of those goals can be achieved until you understand what is most important to you. To set the right priorities, you first need to define what you value in life. A productive schedule reflects your priorities, which should be driven by your core values.
Aligning your schedule with your principles helps you to remove risk from your organization and accelerate positive growth. In this article, we will explore how to define your values and discuss developing a purpose-driven time management strategy. You will learn how honoring your values can help you to balance your schedule and, ultimately, be a more effective leader.
Define Your Values
Before we discuss how to identify your values and translate them into actions, let’s start by considering what values are and why understanding them is critical. A value is any principle that you deeply believe in. It describes what is really important to you in business and in life.
Your values should guide the way you spend your time and energy. If the way you live your daily life aligns with your values, you will probably be content. When that doesn’t happen, you likely will feel conflicted, stressed or restless. Living life in accordance with your values ensures that you are working toward meaningful goals and helps you to find more fulfillment in your day-to-day activities.
While you may be tempted to believe that most people share a common set of values, you need to drill down to identify the values that inspire you personally to create a more purpose-driven schedule. For example, if you value empathy, you can realign your calendar to provide more opportunities to connect with and understand others. You may add one-on-one meetings with your staff or make time for weekly check-in calls with key clients.
Identifying what is most important to you provides the clarity and focus that you need to establish priorities. Like your company’s mission statement, your values guide your decisions about what relationships, activities and resources matter. So how do you identify your core values and translate them into guiding principles?
Examining your past will provide some clues. When you look back, what achievements or activities stand out as the most meaningful? What accomplishments make you proud? In contrast, you may also want to consider what you wish you had done differently or times that you disappointed yourself. Look for common themes in these experiences that describe what you need to be fulfilled.
You will likely find that some of your core values are related. For example, accountability, responsiveness and responsibility have a lot of overlap; they all involve fulfilling your obligations. To be actionable, your final list should contain no more than 10 distinct values, so group similar concepts together using the terms that are most meaningful to you.
Next, explore the meaning of each value you identified. What is compelling or inspiring about the concepts that you chose? Using your list, create concise vision statements that summarize what each value means to you. These statements should focus on behaviors and speak to your strengths. For example, someone who identified the values honesty, courage and candor may write, “Communicate openly and authentically.”
Review your vision statements and ask yourself if they accurately represent the way that you want to live. When you read the list, does it reflect your personal values or the values that others believe you should hold? Does the language inspire you? If something doesn’t resonate with you, keep adjusting the list until it does. Remember these values should serve as a personal mission statement that guides your choices.
Create A Respectful Schedule
Your daily agenda is where you translate your values into actions. To create a schedule that works for you, be mindful of some common mistakes. Your preplanned schedule should be realistic for your life and personality. Avoid underestimating how long tasks will take or filling every minute of your day with activities. On the other hand, you should translate your daily to-do list into scheduled tasks; otherwise, they may never get done.
Start by penciling in the activities that are most important. While some of your days may be devoted to your commitments to others, think about how you can define your values and incorporate them each day. Someone who values lifelong learning should include time to practice new skills, attend a webinar or read some articles. Your priorities should always have a place on your calendar.
Some people create a scheduling template to provide a foundation to build upon each week. For example, if you manage contractors, perhaps you would block off time on your calendar to speak to them each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This approach creates a routine and helps you to be more proactive with your scheduling.
While there are many different ways to organize your schedule, the most productive one will be the method that you can implement consistently. Perhaps scheduling your meetings for the minimum possible duration works for your team, while someone else may find that this rushes their conversations. Some people thrive by blocking off time to do a certain type of work, while others outline exactly what tasks they plan to do in each block.
Like your values, your schedule should be personal. Consider your way of working as well as most productive times and work around them. If you have the flexibility, schedule activities that require the most concentration when you will be most alert.
To determine whether your current scheduling approach is working for you, think about the way you feel most days. A well-managed schedule enables you to work toward your key priorities in a manner that feels focused and efficient.
Take Time To Value Yourself
Don’t fall for the common productivity fallacy that working more is the key to achieving more. If you continually push yourself to the limit, you will find yourself working less efficiently, taking longer to complete projects, forgetting tasks or making more mistakes. You may be trying to do too much if you often feel frustrated, burned out, restless or stuck.
Rather than pushing through when you feel overwhelmed, you need to find more opportunities to relax and reset. Making time for yourself and your priorities outside of work is essential to being productive. Incorporate both long and short periods of downtime into your schedule.
A short break can reset your brain and help you to refocus. If you are having difficulty concentrating, try taking a few minutes to do something fun instead. Get up and take a walk. Return a personal phone call. By doing something else, you use different parts of your brain, which can help you to approach the task in a new way when you return to it.
The same principles also apply to longer breaks. In research studies, participants who maintained some work-free time each week reported being more satisfied and more productive even though their workloads didn’t change. Regular personal time gives you an opportunity to recharge and is essential to sustaining healthy relationships with family and friends. If you regularly work during your off hours, aim to disconnect at least one day a week.
Sometimes you need to take a longer break to really step unplug from your job. However, if you’re like most American workers, you didn’t use all of your paid time off (PTO) last year. Taking vacation days, especially if you actually use them to travel, benefits your brain by exposing you to different situations and environments. Unfortunately, these positive effects only last so long, so regular breaks are essential to maximize those benefits. Consider using some PTO every other month or scheduling more vacation days this year.
Lead By Example
As a leader, your actions influence your company’s culture and set an example for others. Identifying your personal values and honoring them in your schedule encourages your team members to do the same. If you are a people manager, talk to your employees about the importance of aligning values, priorities and actions. You can encourage your organization to be more purpose-driven by demonstrating values-based scheduling.