How to Be a Time Lord

calendar-backgroundA while back I decided to shift my focus from “time management” to “time ownership.” I didn’t want to be a manager, shifting around other people’s resources, I wanted instead to own my time. I created my own “Maker Time” schedule, which blocked out four hours of work time in each of five categories first thing in the morning:

  1. Blogday
  2. Bookday
  3. Bizday
  4. Danceday
  5. Pod(cast)day

Guess what? It didn’t work so well.

The Vulnerable Priority

I found myself rarely actually spending the time working on the specific projects. The idea behind Blogday, for example, was to write all three weekly posts for this blog and schedule them. Danceday was meant to reconnect me with my love of the performing arts, reconnecting with fellow performers and teachers and using it to build a stronger connection for my Gray Miller Creative business.

Instead, I would do my Monday blog post on Monday morning (so far so good!) but then get put into email mode, or decide it was a good morning for a workout. I also had a large project (planning a convention in Austin Texas) drop into my lap, which was great – but which is a hydra of tasks, and there suddenly was always something else that needed focus. While I had decided that each day would have an important priority, I was not letting it actually be that – instead, I was letting the urgent things take precedence.

Focus Fatigue

Worse were the days when I did put in the full four hours of focus – because it was hard. Usually I would get a lot done, but I was pretty much useless for the rest of the day. Somehow the effort left me with the capacity for nothing more than watching TV. It was Decision Fatigue writ large, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to convince myself that I didn’t have it.

While reading through The One Thing by Gary Keller he mentioned the idea of “protecting” your time-blocks. That concept triggered a part of the whole Time-Lord metaphor that hadn’t really occurred to me. The duty of a Lord – at least in a Medieval context – was not just feasting and continuing the repression inherent in the system. It was also to protect the domain – from threats both foreign and domestic, to mix metaphors slightly.

Suddenly I realized that was what I’d missed. While setting up the boundaries of Maker Time was useful, I needed to patrol and protect those borders with a Trump-like zeal. Not only from external “urgent” distractions – I also needed to find ways to allow myself the internal resilience to not have that amount of focus ruin the rest of my day.

The Alliance of Guardians

It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve enlisted the help of a few techniques and reinforcements as I work towards a better guardianship of my time. I still haven’t gotten complete focus during those four hours – but what I have been doing is at least three pomodoro sessions per day focused on whatever subject is the priority. Using the “25 minutes on/5 minutes off” method has kept me from burning out, and I’m building up to a planned five pomodoro session per morning.

I’ve also asked Natasha, my partner, to help with the focus. Not on the Maker Time – not yet – but first, as an experiment, with my morning rituals. I wanted to do them every morning – yoga, meditation, journaling, deep reading – for a week straight, and more than that it was a week while I have been traveling. Usually I can keep the habit consistent when I’m at home, but on the road it’s pretty damn difficult. I told Natasha I needed her to help me remember to do them first thing in the morning, and among other motivations I authorized the use of full ice buckets to get me out of bed if necessary.

The result? I’m glad to say today is day seven of an uninterrupted streak of Morning Ritual.

The practice of time management is one thing – time lordship takes a veritable Tardis-full of tools and probably a companion or two to get to the places you want to go. I suggest you take a look at your own time, and see if there’s any areas that need a little more protection than others. Let us know how you shore up the bulwarks and what you do with your own Maker time!

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