Do you remember at school when sports teams used to get picked and the sporty people would get picked first, then the medium sporty people. Finally there would be a couple of kids left, mortified at being last pick because they had two left feet silently begging with their eyes “pick me, pick me, puh-lease don’t let me be last”. It’s the same principle on reality shows like The Apprentice. You can hear the collective groan when the team that gets last pick gets the really argumentative, disruptive, stroppy one. The team that gets the first pick is usually romps home to victory.
I was thinking about this principle of the advantage going with the first pick this week with a client. A really busy mum of 3 juggling a whole heap of responsibilities, becoming a teesy bit resentful that she was not getting time to spend on her own things. That the weeks would fly by and she would be no further forward, time vanishing in a whirl of commitments that would just crop up. She said she spent all week thinking “it’s okay, I’ll get to my stuff when it’s less busy at the weekend”, and then the whole weekend thinking “it’s okay, I’ll get to my stuff when it’s less busy during the week”. So the weeks slip by and the things that are important to her (learning a new language, starting her own business, making her pilates class) never happen.
Here is the thing. Your time is your most valuable resource. And you have control of it. Yes you do. If you hand the decision of first picking your time to others with stuff that just “crops up” then you will only get the dregs of time that are left at the end, so your stuff won’t happen. This is exactly what had happened with my client. She was getting last pick of her own time. It’s YOUR time, so surely you should get FIRST pick, not last?
A great exercise is to get a blank week to view diary and design your “ideal week”. Put in everything that is important to you as first pick. So, the pilates class goes in, block out 3 hours every Thursday evening for working on your business. Put in all the other things that happen to keep life running, time for the grocery shop or the picking up the kids from school, date night, whatever. Try and batch your time for errands so it doesn’t break into two mornings, or evenings. Shuffle it round so you have the ideal week for you, so you get first pick of your time and can put in the things that are long term, big picture important to you.
Electronic diaries ( eg. Google calendar) are SO much better for this than the old fashion paper ones. By putting in recurring appointments (some with yourself, eg “work on my new business”, or “go for a run”) you can block out time once a week for months ahead. You can colour code the things that are non-negotiable. Your first picks.
“Usually the things you feel you “should” do are coming from someone else’s agenda rather than yours”
Then whatever time you have left is the last pick, and that’s open for other people and stuff that “crops up”. That’s what all the little random requests get to choose from. The random coffee date, or the unexpected “could you just go pick that thing up”, or the other dozen tiny choices that inevitably pop up during the week. Those things have to slot into the spaces that are left, or they don’t happen. Usually those things, the things you feel you “should” do are coming from someone else’s agenda rather than yours anyway. When you have a very clearly mapped out diary it becomes a much easier choice to say “no sorry, I won’t be able to make that”, or “sure, but it will have to be Monday afternoon” so it doesn’t trump the decisions you have already made as your first choice picks. This is about honouring your long term commitment to yourself and how you want your life to be.
When you take first pick of your time, a miraculous thing happens. Overwhelm starts to recede. You stop waiting for a “less busy time when I will have time for me”. You take the time because you have planned it and had first pick. Sure you can change it if there is a real exception, but more often than not you stick with the first choice pick of your time that you made. Life then starts to go in the direction you intended, those goals and dreams actually become real.
Action Step: go design your ideal week in an online calendar today. Have first pick of your time.
Action Step: Let me know how this tip of having “first pick” of your time is useful in the comments below!