Guest Post by Maya Khanna Le Roy, MBA, RCC

As we head into the fall of 2020, we face many choices.  From how we go back to the office, to how to approach decisions about social circles and friends – in 2020, fall is about more than the changing leaves and the smell of school supplies.

Among all of these changes, you’ve no doubt noticed how the pandemic has turned the whole-time equation on its head. In the early days of COVID, time suddenly felt longer, stretched by the frightening novelty of being cooped up at home while a terrifying virus spread across the globe.

We collectively stopped running around. Stillness descended on the playgrounds, office towers and coffee shops became vacant. The bedroom became the office.

Nothing felt “normal.”

A study from the UK, found that during the lockdown, over 80% of survey participants experienced a distortion of time.

Life put non-essential workers on the sidelines. Hours dissipated. Days felt painfully long and then months flew by.

And yet this pause, for many of us, made it possible to start to identify what lies beneath the busyness of the everyday.

In our forced time out, we had the opportunity to reflect on how busy our lives had become, and to question if busyness is actually in support of our goals.

Now, as we accustom ourselves to the pandemic epoch and settle in for what could be a long haul of COVID-related restrictions, things may be beginning to feel more routine.  

The pace of life is ticking back up.

The pings and dings have found us again. The to-do lists are growing.

And while most of us crave a return to pre-pandemic times, a fundamental truth about time is this: we can’t go backward.

But there’s another choice.

We can make the pandemic an inflection point for positive change in our lives and workplaces. We can choose to use the lessons we’ve learned to consider what’s important and worth making space for, and intentionally design our time to support of bigger goals.

Ordinarily, this kind of positive change takes work. Not unlike a sport, learning how to design and own your time is about building muscle memory, learning what works for you, and finding tools to build space and clarity into your day, week and year.

But maybe—just maybe—the pandemic provided all of us with a crash course in creating this space. Stillness to notice what we want to fill our time with. Slowness to notice what contributes to a bad day vs. a good one. How it feels to get to those “to-do’s” done that have been hanging on our mental lists for months.

There are so many things that will not be going back to “normal” this fall. Will the way you design your time be one of them?

As complicated as this moment is, there is enormous potential for it to improve your approach to time.  

Here are three places to start.

Ask yourself – how do I want my time to feel?

Words such as “spacious”, “organized” or “varied” come up often when I am working on Time Design with clients. Pausing to identify the feeling you are seeking helps us see beyond singular activities and connect to the bigger picture of what we are working to create. One of my clients recently said, “The reason this work is so important is that it’s the day-to-day practice of my ambition.”

Consider timing.

Building awareness of your circadian rhythm is helpful when planning your time (as Daniel Pink writes about in WHEN).  When you pair this awareness with an understanding of what activities energize or deplete you, you get a powerful recipe for optimizing your day. It isn’t about feeling constrained by the things you have to do; it’s about finding creative ways to improve the way you work.

Reflect on your learnings about your time and the pandemic.

Take 5 minutes before your next zoom call to jot down a few thoughts – What have you started doing that you want to keep? What are you happy to let go of? Do you have insights as to what makes your week run smoothly?

As cooler evenings descend upon us, I encourage you to seize this moment to consider your choices around your time – will you bring back your old approach, or will you embrace the opportunity to design your days in a new way?

Thank you for taking time to read this. By sharing this here, I seek to bring awareness to how we are approaching our time and how we are living it everyday.  

I’d love to hear what you are making space for and what you’d like me to write about when it comes to Time Design.

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Maya Khanna Le Roy is the founder of MKLC is a coaching and strategy firm, that helps individuals and organizations get clear and make space for important work. To start approaching your time strategically, you can take a step and download your complimentary Time Workbook.