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TO-DO lists are typically looked at with angst. We detest the very sight of them. They are distressing and endless! However, for most of us, to-do lists are also indispensable. They keep us on track and ensure we do get things done. If you want your TO-DO list to be a productive tool, though, you need to keep it manageable.
The question then becomes: How do you trim your TO-DO list?
The wrong thing to put on your list
If you want to tame your TO-DO list, you must remove repetitive items. When you stop entering tasks on your list that you complete on a regular basis, you will see your list shrink dramatically. Culling your list in this way makes your TO-DO list become your welcome friend rather than fearful foe.
Removing the routine items
Cyclical tasks happen on a cycle. For example, you might prepare a program schedule every week and review your budget once a month. These intermittent, but regular items do not belong on your to-do list. Routine items should instead be entered into your schedule.
Book appointments with yourself
Most leaders only use their agenda for meetings and appointments with others. They may list other things they need to do during the day in their agenda, but only as bulleted points. What I am suggesting instead is that you enter routine items into a time slot in your schedule with a beginning and ending time. The routine task should be entered into your schedule as an appointment with yourself.
The dreaded monthly stats task
Let me give you an example. Many managers need to do monthly statistics and quarterly reports. This means that every month you pull together a bunch of charts, forms, and spreadsheets. Laying them all out on your desk, you compile data into a report that goes off to the powers that be.
For most leaders, this data compilation is not a fun task. Leaders put it off and delay doing it until the last moment. I venture to guess that most leaders tend to get it done by either staying late or finishing it on the weekend.
This chore gets done on a manager’s own time because the manager never placed it a priority. Oh, I know they may put it at the top of their TO-DO list! But that didn’t mean it came before other fires needing put out. Since the monthly statistical collection wasn’t put in as an appointment, it did not get completed during the regular daytime hours.
Move it from TO-DO list to your agenda
These kinds of routine things need to put into your agenda. You need to schedule a regular appointment with yourself to get done the things that need to get repeatedly done.
Set it up as an appointment
But what if something more important comes up?
If something else comes up and you can’t do the task during that time, then you need to rebook the time.
If you erase it, then you must replace it.
Rebook it if you can't do it
That means if you cannot do the work when you said you were going to then you must find another time slot in your calendar to replace it with. Again, routine tasks should not be something that you then take home with you for homework.
A manageable looking TO-DO list
What this leaves is a manageable TO-DO list for you to prioritize. It won’t be quite as scary to look at the items left. When you have 20 minutes of time, you can scan the list and see what can be done.
Remember to schedule routine tasks
Keeping your TO-DO list to a manageable size requires you to be mindful of what you enter on to it. Schedule routine items into your agenda. That way regularly occurring tasks will get done on time. This will also leave your TO-DO list smaller, more inviting to scan and way easier to keep up with.
How many items did you move from your TO-DO list to your schedule? Does your TO-DO list look more manageable now?
Lengthy To-Do lists are paralyzing!
The endless list of tasks, all which seem important, blurs in front of us. Flabbergasted at the daunting chore of prioritizing, we play it safe. Many of us then default into checking email one more time. By averting the cursed To-Do list repeatedly, we not only get further behind but more and more disheartened.
It's the norm for most of us
Ask any leader and you’ll likely hear a similar response.
Stop fighting with your To-Do list
Rather than your To-Do list being your foe, let me show you how it can be your valuable assistant. By prioritizing your To-Do list into some semblance of order, it can become a tool working for you, instead of a threat against you. Last week I walked you through a weekly planning session that had you develop a list of tasks for the upcoming week. Take the list you made and prioritize it by asking yourself the following 3 questions.
3 Questions to ask when prioritizing your To-Do list
Make use of the questions
Use these 3 questions to prioritize your weekly To-Do list and your accompanying schedule. Look at what you realistically needs to get done this week and move it to the top of your list. The rest can stay on the list perhaps and get it done if you truly have the time. But make sure the top priorities get done first. How do you do that? You get done the priories items by then moving prioritizing your daily To Do’s.
3- minute daily prioritizing
At the beginning of each day, spend three minutes identifying the top three priority To Do items for that day. Yes, only three!
It isn’t that you can only do those three things, rather those are the 3 mandatory things you must get done.
Make a separate sticky note, highlight the To-Do’s, or in some way identify that they are your top three items for the day. Then, ensure that these things get done to the best of your ability before 11 AM.
If you truly want to be more productive and successful at getting done the most important things, get your top three done every day. When you do, you will find things move forward much quicker for you.
Putting it all together
Remember to look at last week’s post on planning. In it, I walk you through the steps in how to pull out all of the To-Do’s items for in a weekly planning session. Each week, take your list and line it up against the following considerations:
Follow the plan and find your friend
Use these questions to help you create a weekly To-Do list that assists you. Your To-Do list becomes your friendly reminder of what is truly important. Use it to guide you each day, to pull out your top three To-Do items you need to focus on. Follow these steps and your peers will be wondering how suddenly you are accomplishing so much!
Question: What were your top 3 To-Do items for today?
Do you find each week you intend to get a lot done, but mournfully realize that when Friday hits you’ve barely touched your own to do list? Instead, you accomplished a lot of things that other people added to your to-do list. In the process of reacting to everyone else’s demands you didn’t get the assignments done, you wanted to. Miserably, you note that some of the unfinished items on your list were crucial tasks to move important projects forward that were truly important to you and your team.
Trust me, you are not the only one who feels like this at the end of your week.
Too much reacting rather than responding
Leaders spend more time acting on requests from others than completing their own priority tasks. The sense of urgency to solve everyone else's problems leaves a manager feeling as though they spend their days chasing fires and never getting anywhere. If you want to get off that hamster wheel and do more of your essential work, then you will need to be more intentional about what you are doing with your time rather than reactionary.
Critical to begin with planning
It is critical that you start each week by planning your week. Before you get caught up in chasing everybody else’s plans and agenda for you, you must reorient yourself to what are priorities for you. By setting aside time each week to lay out what you want your week to look like, you will have better control of what actually happens.
Get your head out of the sand
Weekly planning sessions allow you to pull your head out of the sand. While it is important to put your head down and get work done at times, a leader's critical function is to lift their head (and their organization’s head) up and get a bigger picture view repeatedly. Weekly planning time is this head up, expansive view of the bigger picture. This time allows the leader to put things into perspective for them and their organization.
Weekly planning allows you to get projects, plans, and tasks into focus again. From this outlook, you can choose how to respond to your week rather than frantically reacting to whatever shows up in your inbox, at your door or on your desk. Creating a habit of weekly planning puts you back in control and moving forward, rather than running around and around.
3 Steps to creating a weekly planning habit
1) Schedule a weekly time slot into your agenda
First set aside time each week to do your planning. Schedule it into your agenda and stick to it. Depending on your level of responsibilities and your style, you will need 20 minutes to an hour.
Dealing with the big list of items
You should now have a list of things you want to tackle in the upcoming week. For some of you, this might feel a bit overwhelming. For others, it might be refreshing. One way to look at it is that you now have everything out of your brain and in one place. There will be less of a chance of forgetting things or having things lost in the shuffle.
Dumping everything onto this list, from this big picture perspective is in itself, helpful. It creates a roadmap for your week. This plan also you to set boundaries with others when they are trying to take your time. You can align their request up, with what remains on your to-do list for the week. From there that you can make an informed choice rather of what to do than react to what’s thrown at you.
3) Creating your plan
From this list of action items, create your plan for the week.
Make weekly planning your priority
Setting aside time to plan your week puts you on track to having a more productive week. Choose when you want to do this, then schedule planning time weekly into your agenda. During the identified time review your annual goals, quarterly projects, the previous week appointments and upcoming week’s schedule. From this analysis create a list of tasks you want to accomplish. Stay tuned next week, for how to then, prioritize that list.
QUESTION: While this all sounds great, I'd love to hear your objections to doing this each week. What might get in the way? How would you work around that? Make a comment below.
Leaders are taking their people someplace. Do you know where you are going? Are you clear on the direction you are taking your team? Now might be a good time to figure that out.
Lessons from Steven Covey
Years ago, I listened to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on tape. Back then Steven Covey was the go-to person for leadership development. His work on creating your personal vision has stuck with me. What he said was this:
A personal mission statement is based on habit 2 of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People called begin with the end in mind.
Get clear on your vision
I strongly suggest that you spend time figuring out your vision before you get into strategic planning with your larger organization. You as an individual leader need to know that your vision is about.
However, it is when you get clear on your individual vision that you start to really take ownership of your work and create more enjoyment in your work.
6 steps to complete your personal vision
Step # 1 – Identify the company’s goals
Jot down a few rough notes about the direction the company is going.
This doesn’t have to be completely accurate and detailed. It’s not what is typed in the tombs of the management documents. It’s kind of a summary of what you know officially combined with what your gut tells you.
Set this summary of the company’s vision aside.
Let it go out of your mind for a bit. You will come back to it, but for now, ignore it.
Step # 2 – Identify your long term vision
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect.
Imagine the perfect scenario for a few minutes and notice what is happening, what’s working well and how you are doing your job.
Write down your own vision. This is your own mission critical. This can be in paragraph form or point form.
Step # 3 - Find alignment
How is your vision aligned with the company’s vision?
Now it’s time to pull back in the vision of the organization. How does it align with yours?
If there is no alignment, that certainly tells you something, like perhaps it’s time to find a new job. If so, read more here.
If you can find points of alignment, it’s time to spend some time there.
Step # 4 - Create your 1-year vision
Look at your one-year vision.
Start to bring your vision in closer. In the next year, if you stay with this organization and continue to do the work you are doing, what is it that you see you being able to do in a year?
Again, close your eyes and visualize it.
See it visually.
Record some of the specifics of that vision.
Step # 5 – Develop the plan
What takes you closer to that vision and what takes you away from it? What do you need to do to more closely align with that vision? Start to develop specific tasks and strategies you need to do to move towards that vision.
Write down your vision and your plan.
Consider this for
Step # 6 – Review your vision and plan weekly
Take your plan and write it down in a summary format. It’s important for this next part to have it on one page. It might be a
Put its someplace you can access it easily. It might be on your desk, in your day timer or a file on your phone.
Come back to this vision weekly
This step is the most critical. Create a routine where you purposefully spend time connecting to your vision weekly.
That might be scheduling an appointment with yourself each Monday to spend 10 minutes reviewing it. The key is that you want to intentionally re-connect to your vision each week.
During this time, determine how in line you are with your vision. This is a time to decide where you need to course correct. What activities, conversations or tasks do you need to do more of or let go of to get you back on track?
Creating your vision intentionally gets you there way quicker
When you commit to setting aside 2-hours to develop a personal vision for your role in the company and then commit to reviewing that vision weekly, your leadership will excel. You’ll find more enjoyment in your job and will notice more success in your overall team’s performance. Connect to the future and create your path to get there. It’s called Intentional Leaders
The Webinar Topics
Are you a manager or a leader? Here is the simple question to help you see: Are you trying to move things forward or are you trying to stabilize them?
We need to both manage and lead
Likely you do both, but at different times. The challenge is that we get caught in managing. We spend most of our time, heads down just trying to survive. More often and we need to manage less and lead more. Here are the differences and 3 strategies to help you lean to leading your team more often.
Manage try to steady things
If, at that moment, you are trying to stabilize things, keep them in line, and follow procedures, then you are managing.
Here is what managing looks like:
When you wear the manager’s hat, you are;
Managers get stuff done
Managers are maintaining order and consistency. They are keeping things status quo. In essence, they are getting the work done.
Leaders are moving things forward
Shifting into leadership mode means that instead maintaining status quo, you’re now looking to challenge the status quo. You are looking to get out of the steady, sure place and find more movement forward. Leaders focus on change, movement, and growth.
This is what leadership looks like
Putting on your leadership hat has you do these activities:
Leaders develop others and the company
Leaders motivate, inspire, and energized team members to grow, develop to be all they can be. In doing so, this also creates the space for the company to be all it can be. Leaders help individuals and team to reach their full potential.
We are better at one or the other role usually
Most of us find it easier to do one or the other of these roles. We need to both manage and to lead so that we can effectively run an organization. Is important to get clear on the distinction of the difference between a leader and manager and know when we need to shift between the two.
Only leading or managing gets you into trouble
When we sit on one side of the other too long, it creates a void. Yes, we need to stabilize for a moment, but we also need to keep moving. Staying still too long makes us stagnant. On the other hand always racing forward can lead to no foundation with which build on. Only focusing on the future can create chaos and essentially you spin out of control.
Leaders need to know how to shift back-and-forth
Leaders need to switch back and forth from their manager hat to their leadership hat. Your strength may be in seeing the future potential of an employee, and so you focus on that during their performance review. You talk to them about their goals and help them decide what training they need to take over the next year. To shift, you may also need to have a conversation with them about them being late with paperwork. That conversation manages the day-to-day challenges and serves to stabilize their work and how that affects the rest of the team.
Don’t gets stuck in managing
I have noticed that many of us, regardless of whether it is our strength or not, tend to focus on getting stuff done in the here and now. That work is what is in front of us. It is the squeaky wheel demanding our attention. On the surface level, it appears to be what we are supposed to be doing. But if we stay only here, we are missing a much bigger picture that also needs to attention.
Add more leading time
I challenge you to incorporate more leading if your day-to-day work. When you can set your sights farther down the road, you can look up and gain perspective.
Here are three ways you can be a leader on a day-to-day basis
Practice leading more often
When you get clearer on demonstrating leadership more often, you will develop your team to be stronger, more independent and more engaged. In doing so, you will find your organization more cohesive and will advance quicker towards the goals set out in your visioning processes. Learn to shift back and forth between managing and leading, but heighten your desire to lead more often.
What strategy will you apply in your role as leader and what do you want to achieve by doing that?
Stop striving for work-life balance. It doesn’t exist. Nor should it. Balance is nothing more than societies way of laying guilt on working women
Cindy was seeing her kids for less than an hour a day
She arrived home and had only a brief time with them before she apologetically tucked them into to bed. Each night, she vowed silently to change things. It was the same promise she’d whispered to herself for months. But work needed her.
Cindy tried to make up for it on weekends
She found herself, however, exhausted and with little patience left. The majority of what she had for energy, focus and compassion were used up in the day-to-day grind at the office. Cindy craved balance. She wanted to divide her time between work and home and not have them interfere with each other. Yet she could never find a way to do that.
Work-Life Balance doesn't work
That is because there isn’t a way. If you, like Cindy, have wondered how to better juggle everything to find more harmony in your days, you are not alone.
Women are tugged at constantly
Working women, especially leaders, feel pulled in all directions. It’s not just work and kids. You also know you need to put some attention to your health and well-being. Likely you have some community groups that you feel a responsibility to. Your marriage, parents, and the renovation projects all scream for their share of your priceless time.
Dividing things equally is impossible
The point is that it is impossible to equally divide your calendar and your energy to each task or area in your life. You can’t spend 1.75 hours with your kids, 8 hours at work and…you get the point. There are weeks that you must work more than 40 hours, in fact, a lot more. Just the same, there are times when your family requires more attention.
How do you find more alignment without the guilt?
The answer has been presented in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They call it counter balancing. There are a couple of key things to know about this strategy.
Priories are the things we need to focus on. Everything else needs to be put on the back burner when we are focusing on that priority. This recognizes that we can’t answer the phone, when we are working on a report has been ranked at the top of your list. It also means we shouldn’t be reading emails at the supper table.
Prioritizing goes deeper than that
In our work days, we chase everyone else’s priorities. Often our own meaningful work never gets done. For example, many indicate relationships are key. Yet, we may plan to talk to an employee for days but never get to that conversation.
Prioritizing isn’t about ordering the tasks on our to-do list
It is about looking within and determining why we do our work. It is about looking at the bigger picture and having a vision for how to get there. Another great resource on how to do this is the book Essentialism by Greg McKowen.
Lean way out
Counterbalancing recognizes we can’t always walk along a path that is straight. There is no state of being completely balanced. We are constantly in motion. The approach is to sway back and forth. We will need to lean heavily into work some days. Other times life will draw us strongly into it.
Let yourself lean
When you allow yourself to lean in or out fully you will find more enjoyment and meaning in what you are doing. Imagine being on a beautiful Caribbean holiday, and checking email. That sucks, right? Now image being on that same beach completely shut off from work and simply soaking up the sun. You would find a more gratifying experience.
Stop feeling guilty
The same is true in projects at work. If you are feeling guilty about missing supper, you aren’t completely focused on the task at hand. Therefore you won’t be doing your best work and it’s going to take longer.
It takes a bit of getting used to
Keller and Papasan acknowledge it can be bumpy. When we put our focused attention on a priority, it means we are going to lean away from other things.
When you put time and attention towards these priorities, naturally it’s going to take the focus away from other things. This will put things out of balance, which is okay if done so for the right amount of time.
Engage in Counterbalancing
The key is for the right amount of time. Leaning way out isn’t bad. In addition to a particular work project, perhaps your health and your family are also priorities. If you stay at the office until 6 pm, it’s not the end of the world. Counterbalancing the long day is when you head to the gym after. You further counterbalance when you immerse yourself in reading to your child at bedtime, fully present to him and the story…cell phone in a totally different room.
Think of counterbalancing as your umbrella
Tightrope walkers carry something the to counterbalance them. They have a weight that pulls them back the other way. Your weight is your other priorities. It might be your health or family. By identifying it as a priority and then giving fully there too, you will find more of the sway back and forth, just as anyone who appears truly balanced is doing.
When you are out of balance, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I currently focusing on my priorities or someone else’s?
If you are focusing on someone else’s, can you stop? Yes, you have a job to do. But are you doing someone else’s work because they didn’t do it? Are you chasing stats that you have sent already? Are you solving a problem that staff can solve themselves? Are you having a conversation that, if left alone for a couple of hours might become a non-issue? If so, step back, pivot and move towards your priorities.
2) What can I do that will counterbalance the effort, time and energy put in here, to pull me back towards my other key priorities in life?
We each have an internal bucket that only has so much within it. Everything continually dips out of that bucket. Conversations drain us. Work exhausted us. Chasing appointments, kids activities and a mile long to-do list depletes our reserves. What puts back into your bucket? It might be a massage, reading a book, having coffee with a friend or quality time with your family. Do something to put back into your bucket.
Counterbalancing can save your life
Getting really good as swaying back and forth will be the trick to being able to "do it all". But you must not get stuck on one side for too long. Know all of your priorities. Ensure that you acknowledge your umbrella there to support you.
Rather than the freaking out...I'm gonna lose it soon awkward dance you do, you will find the more controlled and comfortable sway back and forth. And while it may look to the naked eye that you are in balance, you will know you just got really good at counterbalancing.
Take a moment to write down your top 3 priorities in life and your top 3 priorities at work. Put the list of priorities somewhere that you can see them often. When you are out of balance, look to them to get back on track.
If you have been at your job for a while, let’s say about 10 years, you should be an expert. The question is, what have you become an expert at?
My training changed over the years
I worked in my field for over 24 years. As a Child and Youth Care Worker, the first part of my career was doing frontline work with youth and families. It wasn’t long before I moved into introductory supervisory positions and then, following that, into managing programs and staff over a large geographical area. I certainly learned a lot over my career.
Initially, I learned a lot about discipline
As a Family Support Worker, I was teaching parenting skills, so I needed to help those parents manage their kids. I studied material on I messages, reflective listening and natural and logical consequences. I added to my repertoire skills in teaching adults so that I could accelerate the learning for the distressed parents I was supporting.
Next, I studied management skills
It wasn’t long however, before I was experimenting with Excel, trying to grasp time sheets and acquiring skills to run staff meetings. I pursued the finer art of not only how to find things in policy manuals but how to write a new policy when needed. Later in my career, I discovered the craft of writing proposals.
I was doing a lot of practice of getting along with others
A theme through all of this was that I was learning about relationships. In my 9-5 work, but also as a wife, mother and community member, I was learning to manage relationships. Many times I certainly was not very good at handling interactions though. It was a process of self-discovery, skill attainment and patience. A number of my eventual insights about effective relationships came through trial and error.
I was becoming an expert in leading.
All of my experience, training and practice was about leading myself, leading others, leading programs and leading in a community. It is now what I know and do well, in fact, very well. I have become what you might call, masterful at leading. Not only do I do it daily in all aspects of my life, I coach others to excel at leadership. I love it and continue to work hard at excelling at it.
Being an expert should matter a lot to you too
See, here is the thing; my guess is that you want to make a difference. I suspect that you’re tired of getting home at the end of the day and feeling exhausted and drained. I hear the frustration from people about looking back over their day and being sadly aware that they achieved nothing of significance. It was another day of putting out fires and dealing with office politics.
Meaning and significance comes from doing something worth doing
If you want to feel like you are doing something worthwhile each day, it’s important to get clear on what you need to do to achieve that. It’s essential then to become very skilled at it. You will want to be adept, savvy and brilliant, at what matters most, so that you can make the difference you want to. When you do, you still may come home at the end of the day tired, but it will be with a bit of a smile on your face, knowing that your energy exertion was for a good cause!
What is an expert?
Studies have been done that show was that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. It takes 10,000 hours to invest into learning to be an amazing concert pianist, a star athlete or a stellar computer programmer. 10,000 hours equates to about two hours and 45 minutes a day for 10 years. That’s a lot of practice.
You are already practicing every day
You put it in at least 2 to 3 hours a day of time into your craft. Yes, your job as a craft. Yes, you are becoming a master at what you do. If you keep going along this path, you’ll be really good at something, you just may not have chosen what you’re going to be really good at. As I said earlier, if you aren’t careful, you will be a master at dancing in office drama.
Be intentional about what you are becoming a master at
You must get really clear on what is you want to achieve over time. Is it to become an exceptional social worker? Is it to be the expert in a certain disability? Do you want to be a master at managing others or leading others? Do you want the expert at program growth and development? Where do you want to excel? Where do you want to be seen as a leader in your field?
Three steps to becoming an expert
1) Decide what you want to be an expert in.
Take some time to look at the aspects of your job that you really enjoy. Look back to peak moments that you have had in your career. Also, look at what gives you the most fulfillment and enjoy. Imagine it’s 10 years from now, what do you want to be spending most of your time doing? By getting clear on what it is that you want to be focusing on you will find more opportunities to do that.
2) Consider what it will take to become that kind of an expert
When you look at what is it that you want to become an expert in, then take some time to consider what formal and informal training you will need to do that. Is there of course you can take, a book you can read or are there videos on the Internet that you could watch that might help you? Also, consider what practice you will need to do. Just like learning to play a sport and running drills, the skills that you’re mastering as a professional we’ll also require practice. Consider where you will need to get that practice. For example, you might want to join Toastmasters so that you can practice your public speaking skills.
3) Take the first steps to following the plan
Once you’ve determined what you want to master and what you will need to do to master that, then determine the steps that you will need to follow. It might be read a book, take a course or join a community group. Perhaps the next step might be asking your organization to fund training. The first step might also be reorganizing your day to find time to do it. Figure out the next step and don't delay in taking it!
Become the master, expert or respected leader in your field
We are all practicing every day to become something. We are all working hard to learn hone, to excel at certain skills. If we are not careful what we are honing is overwhelmed, boredom and getting caught up in office politics. Are you going to spend the next 10 years becoming more masterful have not enjoying life? Or will you spend the next 10 years following your passion, your heart and learning to do more of what you love and a really good at? If you choose the second option, I dare you to take one giant leap today towards becoming an expert at that.
What are you becoming an expert at and what do you need to do to get there?
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Choices you make every day, choices that turn into words and behaviours, profoundly impact your team at work, but maybe more importantly, your kids at home. Have you given much thought lately to the subconscious messages you are giving your kids about work and life? Might I suggest, that it’s time you did.
We created a tradition
Yesterday as I sat down at the supper table, I remarked, “When did my kids get to be grown ups?” It was our regular Sunday Night Supper. That means that whoever can, and wants to make it, comes home for supper and dessert. We typically only have dessert on Sundays. Yesterday it was my 3 oldest children along with some significant others. It was an opportunity for me to look around the table and even surprise myself at how they’ve grown up or maybe how I've survived parenthood.
This tradition was created by choice
All of the kids (I have 4) don’t always come home for supper on Sundays. They do have other things they choose to do. But it’s a regular occurrence to require the leaf in the table on Sundays to accommodate the extras. This Sunday routine did not happen by chance. My husband and I have cultivated it. We had supper later some nights when one of the kids was still working. Other times, we had to go pick a child up to make sure they'd be home. We did what it took, to make sure that we were all together as a family for supper once a week.
My kids now believe in Sunday Night Suppers
Why do my kids return home? Free food perhaps plays a large role. But beyond that, there has been an instilled value of family. By my husband and I putting our own time aside for the last 20+ years to make Sunday supper special, and everyone senses how important that is. Newcomers to our family quickly catch on. My kids find value in it and express that value in their own words and ways. My husband and I always have done our best to be home on Sunday’s for supper. If we have to travel or be a work otherwise, there was a recognition that it is rare and not our first choice.
Traditions are part of creating a legacy for your children
Having family traditions is one way of leaving a legacy for our children. Think back to your own family traditions. Many traditions are around holidays, but there are also tons of other “that’s just the way we did it” kinds of things. For example, we usually went to church on Sundays as a child. We were active in extracurricular activities. We put our earned money in a bank account. Those actions, gave me messages about life. The way my parents raised me, and the way your parents raised you, has left a legacy.
What is the legacy you are now leaving for your children?
What is legacy really anyway?
Legacy is the way people approach work and life,
as a result of having come into contact with you.
Galford and Maruca
That is true in organizations and it is true with your children. The way your children do approach work and life and how they will in the future,is profoundly impacted by your actions, your behaviours and the words you choose to use today.
Consider the conversations at home that you have about your work.
Our kids learn a lot unconsciously. It's not like you sit them down at the table and say "Honey, my work is hard. I don't like it. But I must do it to pay the bills". However, consider what your children hear you say to your spouse about your work. What do they overhear you say on the phone, perhaps to your employees? What are the messages they get about your work or work in general?
Kids are real good observers
It's not only what they hear, it's also what they see. Consider what your children observe in your behaviours and actions and what messages that gives them. For example, what do they pick up from:
This isn't to make you feel guilty
Lord knows I neglected my children more times than I care to remember. I dropped them off in their pj's at the sitters early in the morning without breakfast, so that I could catch a plane to a management meeting, more than once. The point is, in your heart of hearts, what do you want. This isn't about keeping up with the other Mom's. It's about what how you truly want to parent and the lasting impact you want to have.
Take a moment to consider the legacy you want to leave
Often when we take a moment to consider this, we realize that we may not be giving quite the message we intended. You may consider it’s time for a bit of adjustments.
Try this exercise to get clear
Take a moment to sit down and consider the legacy that you want to leave behind.
Imagine it's 10 or 20 years from now and your children are leaders in an organization. Imagine they are great leaders and awesome parents. See what kind of a leader they will be. Visualize the impact they have on the people around them. Notice in your mind their relationship with their own family.
Then come back to now. If you want to leave that legacy with your children, what do you need to do now to create that impact? Remember legacy is the way people approach work and life as a result of having come into contact with you. Your kids are in contact with you or have the potential to be each and every day. How will your contact today influence their approach to life when they are grown?
Question: Where do you need to course correct to get your desired impact on your children?
Are you lying when you say your family is the most important thing to you? Probably not. However your actions do speak louder than words. Even though you say your family is the most important thing to you, for many people, the time and energy you spend at work, says work is #1. Work-life balance leans precariously to the work side all too often.
I used to put work first
Looking back over my years as a leader in an organization, I spent many late nights and weekends at the office. Additionally, you would have usually found me at my kitchen table on alternating Sunday afternoons working on payroll. The truth was, if I weren’t at work physically, my mind would be there. I wasn't always the best role model for wellness in the work place.
I still struggle to balance my time and energy
Although family has always been my #1 value, I haven’t always demonstrated that it was. I won’t lie to you; even today I have to work hard at not letting work slip into the #1 time and energy space of my life.
When a deadline is looming or someone pushes me to do something, it's easy to find myself putting my best self into work, leaving very little left for the rest of my life.
I am not alone
Among desires such as freedom, honesty, health and success, family is cited as one of the top 5 most important things on many people’s lists of what are key priorities in their lives. Like me, you probably very much want to spend time with your family. You want them to be a higher priority than work. You want to be able to focus on quality time with your family. Yet strangely, my actions, and perhaps yours, often show otherwise.
Many of us struggle to find the time and energy to put family first
The problem is, by the time you get home most days you have very little energy left for your family. You often say, “as soon as I get through this busy time…” or “I’m putting the time in now so that we will have time later”. The problem is, later never comes.
When you are with your family, it's not quality time
You run the kids to their extracurricular activities while you finish phone calls. You quickly check emails while you try to get supper on the table. You glance up from the computer as you talk to your kids about their schoolwork. As you wind down your night, you check your emails, in bed, beside your spouse, who incidentally may be doing the same thing. Is this the quality family time that you envisioned? My guess is not so much!
Take an honest look back, is it quality time?
Look back. Can you honestly say over the last 6 months that you feel you met your vision of how much quality time you would like to focus on with your family? If you can answer yes to that, congratulations! My assumption is that you are the minority. Most of us look back over the last 6 months, me included, and say, ummm…not quite.
It's time for a change
My goal moving forward is to have more quality time with my family. If you are in that boat too, here are some ways to increase your quality time with your family.
4 Ways to increase your quality time with your family
Nothing is worth more than this day
If you give this day, this time and this energy to work, you can’t get it back to spend with your family. It is gone. It takes concentrated effort to keep bringing your focus back to family when the demands of work are so incredibly strong. It is worth it though, because you already know that your family is #1.
Question: Which of these suggestions will you implement this week and how will you do that? Share your intention below as you will be more likely to follow through if you do.
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.