Patnaude Coaching

Defender of your Universe, but how about your Time?


All this talk about reflection time has gotten me thinking. I hear from clients over and over about how they are so busy, they can’t carve out time for reflection. Or how they will put something on their calendar to block off time for various things. Inevitably it’s the first block of time to get sacrificed when the demands get too heavy. You may be the Defender of your Universe, but how about your time? Let’s talk about what’s happening, and what you can do about it. If you’re willing.

The Detrimental Daily Rhythm

Task, task, task. Meeting, meeting, meeting. Task, meeting, task, meeting. We could make up a new morse code with this. The rhythm of many leaders’ days is nothing but a cadence of tasks and meetings. I know several leaders, all women coincidentally, who will end up working straight through the day without breaks or eating anything because of the demands.

I need to eat.

When we get caught in this thinking that there “isn’t time” to take care of our basic needs (like eating) during the workday, that’s self-sacrificing. While some people wear this form of martyrdom as a badge of honor, that doesn’t apply to any of these women. They are embarrassed about it. That’s an even stronger indication that it’s self-sacrifice.

Self-sacrifice leads to a mentality that our worth comes from the tasks we complete. This is where the Defender of the Universe complex can creep in. We must do All The Things. But what never shows up on that list is time for us to reflect, plan, rest, eat, or regroup.

What can you do about it?

Take small steps. Giant leaps never work in this situation. You’ll pull a hamstring.

  1. Do a Time Study. How can you identify where the biggest problems and biggest opportunities lie if you don’t track what you’re doing? It doesn’t have to be complicated. There are free apps that help, or you can use a good old-fashioned notebook. Track how you spend your time for a solid week. Two is even better.
  2. Look for the Opportunities. Where can you be more efficient? What meetings do you not really need to attend? What can you delegate? Who can you ask for support on clarifying priorities to manage workload? Where can you make space for reflection?
  3. Work on your Mindset. A recent study highlighted by Forbes shows how damaging the lack of proper breaks is to our health. But what’s your thinking about it? Do you think you are worthy of taking a lunch break? What about being worthy of having your schedule respected? Or being able to defend your time when you’ve set it aside to reflect, plan, or just get some work done? Being able to make any sort of change must begin with having the mindset that you deserve it.
  4. Take One Small Step. What’s one thing you can tackle this week?

Defend your Time, not just your Universe.

The analogy of the airplane’s oxygen mask is appropriate here.

You must put on your own mask before you can assist anyone else.

We must be willing to ground ourselves by putting some guardrails on our time before we can give our best.

Come on. It’s time for lunch.

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