As a Professional Certified Coach for Accountants, time management is one of my zones of genius. There is nothing I like better than showing accountants how to manage their time better so that they can create more time for the things and the people they love.
Time is one of our most precious assets as a busy accountant and mom. As you are well aware, we have 24 hours in a day that are typically divided among working, taking care of our family, and trying to squeeze in some sleep.
I’m not sure if I’ve shared this already, but when I coach clients on better time management, I strongly encourage them to use a paper calendar instead of solely using technology. I recommend this for various reasons.
One of the main reasons is that the act of writing triggers a different part of our brain that makes it easier to process and remember. Another reason is that our dependence on technology is often unhealthy and can add to the stress and overwhelm we experience.
I recently looked back at my paper calendar for the past year and was enlightened by what I saw and how I chose to use my time. Taking a step back and reflecting on how I spent my time this past year got me thinking about all of you, the accountant moms that listen to this podcast.
How many of you could benefit from looking at the impact of your choices when it comes to how you spend your time? How many of you feel like there’s never enough time, that time is in short supply, and that there’s nothing you can do about it?
How many of you don’t even calendar your time? You’re just running your life from a never-ending to-do list and trying to keep your head above water.
Would you like to get more done in less time? Would you like to create more time for the things and the people you love? Would you like more time for yourself?
Would you like to finally have some semblance of work-life balance, whatever that means to you? Are there goals you’d like to achieve, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time?
Whether you realize it or not, your calendar tells me a lot – some of it good, and some of it not so good. That’s why it’s important to understand not only what your calendar says about you but also what you can do to have much more control over your time.
This week I’m going to discuss what your calendar tells me and how to use your calendar to better manage your time and your life.
What your calendar tells me
The interesting thing about calendars is that while the Gregorian calendar is now used worldwide for secular purposes, various medieval or ancient calendars remain in regional use for religious or social purposes. We all use the Gregorian calendar in our daily lives, but certain groups still use things like the Julian calendar, the Hebrew calendar, the Islamic calendar, various Hindu calendars, etc.
The history of the calendar itself tells us a lot about how humans have tried to make sense of time, have some control over it, and make it possible to mark certain important dates each year. It’s also fascinating that the calendar we use today is the product of centuries of fighting.
If you think about it, we just download a calendar app onto our phone or order a calendar from Staples, not knowing what went into things like the choice of the days of each month or why the months are placed in the order they’re in. I just find it interesting to learn the history of things we use so often and take for granted.
But as far as it goes with your calendar, here’s what I most want you to understand – your calendar, or lack of one, tells me a lot about you, your relationship with time, and what you value. In fact, it tells me more than you probably want it to tell me.
I was just working with some female entrepreneurs on The Balanced Accountant Time Management Program, and I explained to them that if you are not calendaring something or someone, then it is not a priority. In other words, if I don’t see it on your calendar, you don’t value it as much as you say you do or believe you do, whether it’s a person, an activity, or a thing.
This was hard for them to hear, but it was also a big wake-up call. As female entrepreneurs, they were focusing their calendars on running their businesses and thought that time for their kids, their spouses, and themselves would just fill up their free time.
But here’s the thing – they were feeling overwhelmed with their businesses and weren’t taking charge of the time they wanted for their kids, their spouses, and themselves. They were feeling guilty while they were working because they were thinking about their lack of time with their family, and they were feeling distracted while they were spending time with their family because they were thinking about their business.
The truth is that how you spend your time is a choice and your calendar is a reflection of the way you choose to spend your time. Therefore, your calendar tells me what you consciously and unconsciously prioritize, even if it’s not what you say you want to.
The hard truth is that if I don’t see time with your kids calendared because you just assume it will happen, you’re going to be frustrated when other things take precedence, and you’re left with hardly any time spent with your kids. Or if I don’t see time blocked off for you and your spouse, what that tells me is that you hope to spend time with them, but you’re not willing to commit to it no matter what.
As I shared in podcast episode #194 – Hope Is Not A Time Management Strategy – you cannot hope to get things done or spend time with the things and the people you love and actually guarantee it happens. Being hopeful when it comes to time management is not at all helpful.
If you’ve ever done an exercise to discover your top 5 values, as we do with all new franchisees, you know how important it is to get clear on what you value the most. You need to get clear about the words that represent what’s important to you and how those words can make it easier to manage your life.
It might be difficult to hear, but if your values aren’t represented in your calendar, you’re not truly valuing them. Think about it this way – if time is your most precious asset, then deliberately choosing to spend some of your time on what you say you value is incredibly important.
As you’ve probably experienced, time has a way of slipping through our fingers. Therefore, the best way to honor what you say you value is to deliberately block time for those things, otherwise, those values and priorities are just pretty sentiments.
If you’d like your calendar to truly represent who you are and what’s important to you, let’s discuss how to use your calendar to better manage your time and your life.
How to use your calendar to better manage your time and your life
In researching this topic, I found a helpful article that suggested that the first step is to set aside 30 minutes, look at a month’s worth of your time, and make some observations.
Here are some questions I suggest you begin asking yourself:
How full are your days?
Where are you spending the majority of your time?
Are you saying Yes when you want to say No?
Do you allow yourself time to focus on important deliverables requiring your best brain power?
Do you leave white space for unexpected things?
What are your priorities, and do you schedule time for them?
Do you schedule a time to plan your time?
Do you allow time at the end of the work day to wrap things up, so you’re not bringing work home, physically or mentally?
Are you kind to the future version of yourself that has to do what you put on the calendar?
Do you have time boundaries?
This exercise is not for you to beat yourself up; it’s to create an awareness of what your calendar currently says about you. The truth is that you have so much more control over your time than you realize, especially when you take a “look in the mirror” (aka, your calendar) to see the choices you’ve been making up until now.
After doing this exercise, can you see why you probably feel burnout? When you don’t make conscious choices about your time, you give up control of your time, especially to other people and things.
So if I were to look at your calendar, what would it tell me about you? Are your priorities and goals aligned with where you spend your time?
This exercise will help you gain so many insights that will enable you to become more deliberate with your time and align your calendar to your priorities. The truth is that your life is a culmination of behaviors and habits, and until you intentionally create new habits around calendaring your time, you’ll rarely feel like your time was well spent.
It’s important to understand that better time management doesn’t just happen – you need to be more intentional with your time. You need to get clear about what’s important to you and have that reflected in your calendar.
The CPA MOMS Planner that we created specifically to tie to The Balanced Accountant Program helps you do just that. At the top of each week, I encourage the users to write their top 3 values and schedule those first.
When I say to schedule time for your values and priorities, I’m not saying it has to be a percentage of your time. What I’m saying is that it has to be ON your calendar; it has to be represented visually on your calendar.
For example, scheduling 15 minutes to read to your children could be the time you’re able to calendar for Tuesday nights. Research has shown that it truly is about quality and not quantity when it comes to time with your children, which means it’s not how much time is calendared; it’s the fact that it IS calendared.
Here’s the key when it comes to managing your time – whatever is on your calendar for a particular block of time is the only thing you’re allowed to focus on. I want you to see each block of time as a separate permission slip to focus on that and only that.
For example, if you’ve calendared working on XYZ tax return, you only have permission to focus on the XYZ tax return, not on what the kids might be doing at school, whether your husband took out the garbage, or why your mother didn’t return your phone call. Your calendar not only allows you to be deliberate with your priorities but also to be completely focused on that priority for that calendared amount of time.
This is how you get more done in less time and reduce distractions and mom guilt. For example, if your family is a priority and you’ve calendared time for them, you then give yourself the gift of guilt-free time to focus on them when you’re with them; and if your priority is to get a particular project done for work and you’ve calendared time for it, you then give yourself the gift of distraction-free time with that project when you’re at work.
The truth is that your calendar tells a story, and hopefully, you’ll now be able to write a much better story. What I most want for you is to have a better sense of control over your time, to stop people pleasing, to set time boundaries, and to calendar non-negotiable time for your priorities.
And the last thing your calendar tells me is whether you value yourself. Are you calendaring time for yourself? If you don’t make yourself a priority, who will?
Hopefully, this time next year when we take a look at your calendar it will tell me a different story. Begin to be more deliberate with your time and you’ll be amazed at how much your relationship with time improves.
Whether you realize it or not, your calendar tells me a lot – some of it good, and some of it not so good.
That’s why it’s important to understand not only what your calendar says about you but also what you can do to have much more control over your time.
Your calendar tells me what you consciously and unconsciously prioritize, even if it’s not what you say you want to.