By Natasha Foreman Bryant, MBA

As I get older and more mature I am realizing that although I should give myself more “breaks” and be less obsessed about fitting everything in every single day, I also need to have more structure in my professional life if I want any semblance of “balance” in all areas of my life. I’m a night owl who knows that I need to go to bed earlier so that I can gain more daylight working hours to be with the rest of the world, but I thrive after 6pm, so I struggle with going to bed before 2am and then popping up with energy several hours later like most people. Hey, I’m still a work in progress being molded into a better person, woman, wife, mommy (to my dog), professional, entrepreneur, and business owner. Cut me some slack. [Smile]

I have unwritten (until now) “scheduling rules” or what I like to call my “game plan” that I try to follow each week to help with my productivity and efficacy. It’s not rigid, because life happens, but I try my best to stick with it. If I need to call an audible, I will. What’s amazing is that it becomes very clear, very fast, when I steer off this path. Check it out…

Monday
Mondays are my “jump right in” and pick up from the weekend day. With the backlog of emails, phone calls, and incomplete tasks from the week before, I’m really not jumping at the chance to sit in meetings on Monday, unless they are time-sensitive and extremely urgent. I’m more of the thinking: let’s assess where we are, get things completed or caught up, and then we’re ready for the week ahead. Grind. Grind. Grind. I will share more of my thinking here in another post.

On Monday, I may also take the time to run urgent errands that I didn’t get the opportunity to run over the weekend. This is an occasional thing, or if we’re expecting unpredictable weather (like the madness when Atlanta was shut down last week due to nasty ice on the streets and highways). I’m grateful that I ran errands on Monday, because Tuesday and Wednesday I wasn’t leaving my house. Make sense?

Tuesday
Tuesdays I schedule in meetings and errands around my day. I can breathe a little (just a little) easier on Tuesdays because I have a better outlook for the week, and have a greater opportunity to make adjustments if something pops up out of no where. Which as you know, happens.

Wednesday and Thursday
I’m pacing things by Wednesday and Thursday, and making sure that I’m not losing momentum or my mind! My schedule is free for meetings. If I freak out on Thursday then that let’s me know that I “dropped the ball” somewhere between Monday and Wednesday, and I better recover quickly so that I’m not building a much larger tower of tasks for Friday and the weekend.

Friday
Friday I’m (hopefully) rolling in steady and trying to see what I can get accomplished before 7pm. I try my best to be done by 7pm so that the rest of my evening is devoted to my family. Whatever I don’t get finished or at least caught up with, I push over to the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday
These are my touch up and recover days. The days I double back on tasks, flag and/or respond to emails that I missed, and I prepare myself for Monday and the upcoming week. These are also the days where I may put in more hours working on projects because the rest of the world is relaxing for the most part, the phones aren’t ringing off the hook, I most likely haven’t agreed to a meeting, and I have less distractions.

Exceptions to the “Rule”
Now there are times when this weekly breakdown gets all screwy and my productivity and effectiveness are in the dumps. Thank goodness for my supportive husband who also serves as my sounding board, and personal chief of accountability—-he lovingly helps me refocus and get back on track—most of the time he doesn’t even know that he helped me through a slump. Sssh don’t tell him!

There’s an additional exception to the “rule” that I will share in another post.

At the end of the day my reality is this: I’m a wife to one of the most hard-working and passionate men in the world, mother (to our adorable dog), community leader, professional, entrepreneur, business owner, Stella & Dot Lead Stylist (I just had to throw that in), and a PhD student (who can’t wait to be done with this maddening process). I’m trying to find a way to make sense of things, fit all that I can in each day, without flipping out and acting like a crazed cartoon character.

Yes, go ahead and take a moment to visualize that please!

So my game plan may change when an audible is called, but I work hard to quickly get back in the swing of things. As I focus on growing my Foreman & Associates team I also have to think about their strengths, and whether or not they can fit into and work with my “game plan”.

Your Schedule/Game Plan
How does your weekly schedule (game plan) resemble or differ from mine? How do you know when you have fallen down the rabbit hole of “uh oh I messed up”? Is your weekly framework more rigid or flexible than mine? What type of structure works best for you to leverage your strengths?

When do you schedule most of your meetings with clients? Employees? Prospective clients? Is there a pattern? If you have employees, does their “game plan” resemble yours or in what ways is it vastly different?

Share your comments and feedback. Hopefully we can all learn something from each other, and about ourselves, through this interaction.

~Natasha

Natasha Foreman Bryant is the CEO and Managing Consultant for Foreman & Associates, LLC, a business management consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more about her company, and the services that they provide, please visit: http://foremanandassociates.co To learn more about Stella & Dot and their product offerings, visit Natasha’s website: http://stelladot.com/nfb

Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

I just read a very interesting article by Sabina Nawaz, written for the Harvard Business Review that encourages executives, managers, and other professionals to take two hours per week out of our insanely busy schedules to create our own personal ‘white noise space’, separate from the ‘noise’ of mobile devices, iPads, iPods, tablets, video games, laptops, computers, telephones, television, radio, and the like. Instead, Nawaz suggests that for two hours each and every week we should be taking a relaxing walk, drive or bike ride; or sitting in a comfortable location and doing absolutely nothing but thinking and reflecting; allowing our minds to totally dump all thoughts and ideas where we can quickly write them down in a journal or notepad (plain ole’ pen/pencil and paper, no electronic devices).

This is similar to a method that I have used over the years and have suggested to my clients and mentees; but I use ‘alone time’ to ‘idea-dump’ or ‘stress-dump’ on paper everything that is in my head; but it has never been a requirement to do so in the absolute silence of non-silence, and without any distractions from electronic devices, etc. Nawaz’s method expands upon my thinking, eliminates all possible distractions (except whatever could pop up while driving in our car or riding a bike) and measures the results from doing so on a regular and consistent basis. She has shown the positive outcomes of creating and building our our white noise space.

Nawaz suggests that in our constantly moving and changing lives we can be so overly consumed with deadlines, projects, and closing deals that we may miss or overlook a great idea or concept that can be used strategically in our business, simply because we don’t take a few moments consistently each week to take in the non-silence of silence, and allow our minds to do what they were created to do…process, strategize, and create. She also suggests that by building this white noise space to think, we can also find ways to creatively free ourselves for our personal lives so that we can spend this time with family and friends, whom we oftentimes neglect because of work commitments.

She makes note of when in 2004, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave a performance of the modern classic 4′ 33″ by John Cage, a composition that was made famous for “its counterintuitive focus on the sounds of music not being played.” John Cage, “…believed that true silence did not exist; he wanted people to pay attention to what was all around them, to recalibrate their perceptions of sound and silence. He wanted them to hear in a new way,” Nawaz wrote.

I agree with Nawaz that in business we rarely take time out to let our minds wander and breathe. We think that the only time we can ‘allow’ ourselves this moment of freedom is when we sleep, and if you’re only sleeping 3-5 hours per day yet up ripping and running 19-21 hours, that’s a great portion of your day being spent in high stress, high intensity environments where you don’t make the time to “wander around the edges of seemingly intractable problems.” Nawaz suggests that, “Building white space in your week lets you hear and think in a new way.”

I believe that it is something worth trying, especially since it has been proven effective with other managers, executives, and business leaders Nawaz highlighted in her article. So I’m going to give it a try for several weeks and see what changes I notice in my stress levels, clarity, business, and in my personal life. It takes my idea and stress ‘dumping’ to a higher level of thinking. So I’m inspired.

I recommend that you read Nawaz’s article in its entirety then share your thoughts: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/07/this_space_intentionally_left.html

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman and Foreman & Associates, LLC. Some Rights Reserved.