When’s the last time you took time away from the day-to-day to work on something that matters to you?
Something meaty that would be an investment in your future. Things like developing the strategy for your business, getting clarity on the next step in your career, or planning out your priorities for the next 6 months?
Often, these are the things in the “important but not urgent” category, and we let them get crowded out by urgent tasks… whether or not they’re important.
While it’s easy to get trapped on the treadmill of getting tasks done and keeping up with new requests, it’s a mistake if you want to get ahead in your career.
The more you’re chained to the desk, the narrower your opportunity set becomes. When you’re constantly in “keep your head down and crank out work” mode, it puts you at risk of being pigeon-holed as the go-to person for those tasks, whether or not you want to do them. You’re also more likely to miss the big picture strategic trends that could move the needle for your business and your career.
When you allow the day-to-day tasks to drive your direction, you may be veering way off-course without knowing it.
Instead, make sure you’re making the time to think, reflect, and invest in yourself.
If you find it hard to do this, here are five things you can do to create the time and mind space to step away from the daily grind to invest in yourself.
Question your assumptions
Ask yourself why you can’t take an hour a week, or a day a quarter, or even 15 minutes a morning to think about the important but not urgent. What would need to be true for you to make that time happen?
I recently took two days out for a virtual mastermind event with other entrepreneurs to work on our businesses (instead of working in our businesses). Initially, I had been assuming that I’d be losing 10 hours of productive work time.
But once I looked at it objectively, I realized that my team would drive our initiatives during my time “off the grid”. In the end, it was totally worth the investment. Not only did my business keep running, I also came away with a key strategic insight that will multiply my results.
What assumptions are you making about your commitments and how does that keep you from taking the time to invest in yourself?
Schedule it in
If there’s something that would make a difference in your career and life, the key is to schedule it in. And to make sure it sticks, enlist people to help you protect that time.
According to Suzy Welch, that’s what top CEOs do – they schedule in a protected hour once a week and their assistant makes sure it’s sacrosanct.
Think about what would happen if you were suddenly ill or had to take care of a family emergency. Wouldn’t you just go and do it? Of course you would. And would the place fall apart when you took that time out? Of course not.
So your planned absence from the day-to-day grind would cause even less of a problem. And if your current work setup is so precarious that it relies entirely on your presence to work, then you’ve set things up irresponsibly. It’s time to build in some backup.
What do you want to schedule in and who could help you guard that time slot?
Set up your systems
This brings us to the importance of setting up your systems to run without you and making use of your resources to free you up to invest in yourself.
Maybe you have an assistant or team members who would love to do some of those tasks that have become routine for you. Or perhaps you could create a template for the most common emails you tend to send.
How could you streamline your processes, perhaps by creating checklists, video instructions and the like so things run more efficiently? Should you be negotiating for an additional team member, or delegating more to the ones you have?
Prepare to be laser focused
When it comes to working on tasks, I’ve found that every minute I spend on preparation saves me time later. It also helps me get the task done more effectively. Before I sit down to do something, I write down my intention and the specific action steps that I plan to take. Even down to things like “find XYZ file” or “clear my mindset”.
That way, I can be laser focused on getting the main task done when I sit down to do it.
What kind of preparation would help you be more efficient and effective in doing your work?
Worrying wastes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Personally, I know I spend way too much time feeling anxious about how things are going to turn out, and that keeps me from getting started right away. And it takes me longer to get something done than it should.
It’s like having too many apps or tabs open on your laptop, which slows things down.
How could you reduce or even eliminate the worry factor?
Whether it’s meditation, talking to someone you trust, or getting up and moving, it’s worth finding what works for you and doing it.
So whether you want to improve your business results, advance your career or learn a new skill, it’s important that you invest in yourself.
It’s time to elevate yourself in your own eyes and make your development a priority.
What’s the investment you most want to make, and what’s the next step you can take to make it reality?
Leave a comment and let me know.