Schedule Time for Yourself … and Hide!

Make More Time

This month’s topic in my Executive Mentoring Group is Make More Time.

The goal here is to create 2 or more hours a week for yourself to have time to think, plan, work on strategic priorities — or get a little life back!

Time to Think…

The most important thing you can do as a leader is to make sure that you have time to think.

You need uninterrupted time to think big thoughts…to plan, to work on your most important ideas, and to confront your toughest problems.

If your reaction is “That would be a dream, but that’s impossible”, please read on…

Because quality time to think is something you need to require for yourself and make happen.

If you don’t have time to think, you can never rise above the reactive chaos, to put yourself in a position to improve things — or to scale the business.

One of the ideas I share in the Make More Time Executive Playbook is to just take some time back.

What I mean by “take some time back” is to actually schedule it … and then…HIDE.

The hiding part is important, because if you don’t hide, the activity will know where to find you.

But what if I can’t hide?

I got some feedback from people who said, “But I can’t hide.”

Reasons ranged from open office space, to micromanaging bosses, to peer expectations.

The idea of hiding may seem difficult, or you might get some pushback the first time you try it, but it’s important to move in this direction even if it seems awkward, or is not accepted or possible in your environment.

It’s up to you…

Remember, no one other than you has any motivation to make you less busy.

And it’s never an easy, automatic thing to block time and expect it to remain unchallenged. But if you want to secure time for yourself, you need to schedule it, and you need to protect it.

3 ideas to help you get started

1. Break Patterns

What you are after is a new pattern of how you work. You boss and others are used to seeing you work on a particular schedule.

Find a way to break that schedule.

For instance, don’t try to change the world all at once at the beginning. Simply say you have a personal appointment off site close to home so you won’t be in until noon that day, but will be working before your appointment. No one will argue with that.

Then a couple of weeks later, let you boss know how incredibly effective that morning was, and that you plan to work off site one morning next week to complete a project — something that your boss really cares about.

You have then broken the old pattern and opened up the door for a new pattern. It’s not an official policy, but you have proved this is an effective way of working and the world did not come to an end.

2. Negotiate

If others are not going to be happy with your new work schedule, don’t accept it as impossible — negotiate.

Don’t just ask for time away in a vague way, have a strategy, and a specific business proposal.

Don’t say, “I want to work at home 2 mornings per week”. Instead, discuss projects or programs that are clearly a priority to your boss and team.

Show a specific work schedule where you will be unavailable for other things as you complete those projects.

Make it clear that without dedicated time, it will not get done, and you want to remove risk from the program by scheduling some dedicated time. Let people know you will be unavailable during those times as you complete that work.

If you show the payoff for the business, and then you deliver the results, people will accept it, even if it’s awkward or difficult af first.

Train People how to Treat You

This brings me to the last point.

Maybe it’s not about a specific project, but you want to protect a time of day when you can work. And it is not reasonable that you are out of the office to do it.

Here is where you can start to train people how to treat you.

If you let people interrupt you all the time, they will interrupt you all the time.

But if you draw boundaries, you can create different behaviors.

For example, if you are in the office and you want 8-10am to be your working time, you can tell people, “Please don’t interrupt me between 8-10.” But if you don’t hide, that’s not likely to work the first time.

That might be your working time, but for others that might be a time when they are walking around with coffee, wanting to talk.

But if your response is, “You know that 8-10 is my working time, is this so urgent that we can’t talk about it at 10am?

If you say that every time, people will get used to that response, and it will form a new habit.

Other ideas here I’ve seen people do successfully are to set your email auto-responder to say, “I check email each day at noon and 4pm. If you have something that can’t wait, please call me.”

No one is going to protect your time for you.

Others only benefit from your willingness to be interrupted.

Sometimes you need to swim upstream to get the protected working time that you need, but not only is it worth it, it’s essential to your success.

Join us in the effort to Make More Time

It’s not too late to get in on the Executive Playbook for Make More Time with a FREE Trial Membership.

This is one of many Executive Playbooks in my Executive Mentoring Group.

You can preview the Make More Time Playbook and watch short videos of the key ideas included.

I created my Executive Mentoring Group so that I could share the most important insights and practical, concrete actions for advancing your career (without sacrificing your sanity).

It includes lots of pracitcal resources and also opportunities each month to get direct mentoring from me.

You can find links to join on the Make More Time page, or you can start your Free Trial here.

Patty Azzarello

Patty is available to speak at your company, annual meeting, or customer event. She can also deliver a custom workshop on Leadership or Strategy Execution for your leadership team. Contact Patty.

Or if you would like some personal help on your own professional development, check out her Executive Mentoring Group. It’s filled with insights, resources and support to build your executive confidence, advance your career, and includes direct mentoring from Patty.


patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

"You're too nice to be an executive"
Conversation Starters for Networking Events (Even for Introverts)