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“Identifying roles gives a sense of the wholeness of quality life – that life is more than just a job, or a family, or a particular relationship. It’s all of these together.” Stephen R Covey

It’s automatic, as a rule. When someone asks us a question seeking information about us (after name, etc.) we routinely respond with a job title. At a professional shindig we’ll say who we work for, and if the person we’re with is already a colleague in our big organisation we’ll narrow it down a bit more with the name of our department. We identify ourselves very much with that professional role.

From a time management perspective this ‘professional’ mind-set often results in us organising our time on a work-based electronic system – sometimes enforced, occasionally not so. And because we don’t (want to) organise our whole lives on a work-based planner like Outlook, we can’t effectively organise ourselves with it at all.

But a job is only one of our numerous roles, and it is not necessarily the one that is most important. And organising your time only in respect of a professional role means that the other roles – family, social, community – don’t get the appropriate focus that they deserve.

That’s one reason why you ought to be organising on a weekly, rather than a daily basis. Organising on a daily basis often means waking up and immediately going into crisis mode about ‘the day’ at the precise moment that new crises are arising ‘now’. You’re trying to consider what you need for a meeting, how to travel, about another project plan, etc., just as the kids declare they need something for first lesson, there isn’t any breakfast cereal and you have a flat tyre on the car. (That really is a bad day, described for effect. Only happened to me once.)

On the other hand, organising weekly around roles means that the day is pretty much already sorted and organised and any new crises can be approached with calm. You don’t need to plan ‘today’ because it was planned days ago – so the cereal/lesson/tyre issues don’t cram your head with ‘more’, just with ‘new’. There’s room in your head to cope.

What’s more, planning around roles means that as you are planning, you’re also aware of how roles interconnect and (therefore) how multiple role-needs can be dealt with in coterminous time periods. In other words, multi-tasking, but only in the sense that one event can have two important outcomes. To use Covey’s own example, the ‘self-renewal’ role and the ‘family’ role could be worked on together to create an exercise/sports session with a member of the family. A ‘management’ and ‘training’ role combination could be mentoring of a staff member while ‘managing by walking around’. For me it is often a business conference accompanied by the wife. She gets to shop and I get to not shop. Bargain!

Gandhi said that we are not one person in one moment and another person at another time. We are ‘one indivisible whole’ person. We are what we are all of the time, it’s just our roles that may change in any given moment. Our focus may change but we don’t change ourselves.

Charles Hobbs, in ‘TimePower’, emphasised the need for us to carry/use ONE planning system into which everything was planned, referenced and stored. I’m inclined to agree with that approach – one person, one system, everything in one place. Information Technology provides caveats about storage and security, but the planning, in my view, should be in one system even if the ‘reference’ has to be secured somewhere else.

How do you do yours?

Go HERE for my book on the subject of time management. Although it is aimed at police officers I assure you its content can be wholly applied to any profession and to any LIFE.

TMP Cover 2014