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Take control of your schedule

This time of year many of us find that there are not enough hours in a day to get everything done that we need to. Regrettably the holidays are a time of stress for many rather than a time to slow down, relax and appreciate our blessings and the love of friends and family.

A good friend told me a few years ago that everything in life is a choice. When anything happens to us we (and we alone) choose how to react to it. We can rejoice, we can get angry, we can get stressed, we can ignore something etc. We also choose how to organize our day, what we will work on, how we will prioritize, and what we will put off until tomorrow.

We then deal with the consequences of the choices we have made.

My best days are the ones where I have made time to think through events in advance to plan the day and get control of my schedule. Many times I am successful but there are the days that everything seems to be going wrong. I’m human.

The following piece was written by Michael Stanier, an author and the 2006 Canadian Coach of the Year. Michael runs the company Box of Crayons and publishes the newsletter Outside the Lines. He has been a valuable source of inspiration for me over the years.

The piece “For Love or Money? – Figuring out what really matters to you” may help you prioritize tasks and help you choose what to do today, what to delay until tomorrow, what to ask for assistance on and possibly what to ignore altogether.


Until next time – All the best!



For love or money…
My work with organizations, teams and individuals is about helping them do less Good Work and more Great Work.

Easy to say of course, but much harder to actually do.
At the heart of the challenge for us as individuals is that none of us live in a bubble, free of demands of the people and institutions around us. As John Donne wrote over 400 years ago, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main….”

And we’re all so busy that it’s hard to step back and figure out what really matters.
So how do you manage the competing demands of your boss, your family, your clients, your peers, your friends – against what you want just for yourself?

Draw a map
Before you decide on a course of action, it can be useful to step back and get a new perspective on what’s going on.

It’s like hitting the pause button, a brief stop before our customary rush to the “do! do! do!” which dominates most of our lives.

Here’s one of my favourite “maps” to help you see things differently.
Draw a 2 x 2 matrix (a box with a vertical cross in it, so it’s two boxes wide and two boxes high).

Along the bottom put “what I want to do” (with one box “high” and one box “low”). This is the “love” part.

Up the side put “what they want me to do” (again with one box “high” and one box “low”). This is often the “money” part, as the “they” are often the source of payment (in money or in appreciation).

Who are your “they”?
This “they” will be different for each of us.
It might be your family, it might be your boss’s boss, it might be your clients, it might be someone else.

But do get a specific person in mind – it will make this exercise much easier.
And of course, you can do a number of different maps, each with a different person.
How do you spend your week?

Now is your chance to map out how you spend your week.
Map out all your activities on this matrix. The more detailed you can make it, the more useful it will be for you.
So capture the meetings you go to, the regular activities you have to complete, the one-off activities you need to do, the administration you do to run your life or your job … in short, everything you can think of.

Are things getting clearer?
This exercise can be useful in three ways.
1. You need to get clear about what you want to do. Unless you know what you love, how can you make it a priority?
2. You need to get clear about what others think is important. So you get to stand in their shoes a little. And what is often most useful about this exercise is that you find things you had assumed were highly important aren’t as important as you thought.
3. You get to decide what you want to do differently as a result of this map

So now, what will you do?

Each quadrant suggests a different type of action…
1. You Care [high]/They Care [high]==> Keep on keepin’ on! This is work you and they think is important … so try and increase what’s in this quadrant.

2. You Care [low]/They Care [high]==> This is work that needs to be done, but you just need to find ways to spend less time doing it yourself. Can you delegate it? Do it in a more efficient way? Find a way to eliminate parts of what must be done?

3. You Care [high]/They Care [low]==> For many of us, this is work that’s hardest to do, as it’s low on everyone else’s list of priorities. So how can you carve out some time for yourself? How much time are you willing to give yourself to do it?

4. You Care [low]/They Care [low]==> You’re probably doing this out of habit or momentum. Stop. Really, just stop. Or at the very least, figure out what is the minimum level of doing this, and do it at that level.

A copy of the chart can be found at http://www.possibilityvirus.com/blog/2007/12/13/for-love-or-money-matrix/

Michael Bungay Stanier is a professional keynote speaker, the author of the best selling coaching tool, Get Unstuck & Get Going …on the stuff that matters and the creator of Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun and The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding. A certified coach and Rhodes Scholar, he works with teams and organizations to help them do less Good Work and more Great Work.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Michael January 10, 2008, 9:54 am

    Roland – thanks for the kind words!


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