Let's say you've scheduled with yourself to work on an important project.
The "appointment" passes, and you didn't work on it like you planned to.
The three most common reactions:
1. Ignoring the fact that it came and pass.
2. Self-blame for having failed to follow your calendar.
3. Or, if you did keep the appointment, you suffered through it.
None of these are healthy responses. Let's talk about each, and then I'll share my recommendations...
Ignoring appointments with yourself:
Each time you schedule to work on something, but then you ignore it when the time comes, you are practicing self-disrespect.
You know the project matters, and you planned to do it at this time. It's a subtle commitment or promise to yourself... which you then break. You wouldn't schedule with a client, and then just ignore the appointment, right?
Wake up to this fact:
You are your most important client.
Nobody else's career, health, relationships, life, has a more significant effect on your ability to experience life to its fullest, to fulfill your mission, to serve the world with your unique and valuable experiences. You are your most important client. The next time you schedule with yourself, remember this.
How you treat your own promises to yourself, your own schedule, is either building your self-confidence and self-worth, or eroding it.
Bring to mind a very important client in your business right now, someone you highly esteem. If you are making an appointment with them, you'd be thoughtful about their schedule right? You would come up with a time that works for you both. And then you'd prepare (mentally and logistically) for that appointment, and then show up to give your best.
Make a decision that starting today, you will treat yourself like your most important client.
Your own calendar is like the schedule of your highly-esteemed client. Give it the respect it deserves. When you make an appointment with yourself, look at it as important as any other client you have.
Yes, you are welcome to move your own appointment around a bit if you need to, but to cancel it again and again is disrespectful to your own sense of self-esteem.
And, if you keep pushing back the work on that project, you'll either never do it, or you'll do it at the very last minute and miss out on the benefits of gradually working on it, letting your subconscious bring you better ideas.
So don't schedule with yourself so casually.
Another common response:
Blaming yourself for failing to follow your calendar.
The next time this happens, I encourage you to:
Take a few deep breaths.
Yes, you should acknowledge that you missed an appointment with yourself -- the most important client in your business.
However, imagine that another important client has apologized to you for having missed an appointment. Do you criticize or berate them? No, you would still treat them with respect. Then, together you would figure out how to schedule the next appointment at a time that is going to work better for them, to be more spacious, and less stressful to be on time for the appointment with you.
Similarly, when you fail to follow your calendar, be gentle, and then get curious.
Don’t ask self-blaming questions. Instead, ask “What’s something I can do differently next time, to make it more likely that I’ll keep a self-made appointment?”
* Make your calendar more spacious -- don’t bunch up appointments and expect to be able to keep all of them. Put more buffer time between appointments.
* Schedule a shorter appointment to work on the project, so that it feels more doable. For example, schedule a 30 minute block, not a 2-hour block.
* Or it might work better for you the other way -- maybe you need to schedule a longer appointment, not 30 minutes so that it’s easy to miss, but a 2-hour appointment to work on the project so it feels more spacious to you. But the key is -- start your work at the time you committed to. Treat your appointment like you would any other client. You show up on time.
* Maybe you’re feeling intimidated by the project. If so, you need to start your appointment with an energy/emotional-upliftment practice that works for you. I do what I call an energy reboot.
* Also, at the beginning of the appointment, write down the very doable steps to make progress on the project, so that you don’t feel so anxious about it. Then just calmly and joyfully start taking those steps.
If you have a habit of missing appointments with yourself, this means you need to make each appointment a bigger deal: start with 1 appointment with yourself per working day. Practice keeping that daily appointment with yourself, then add more as you develop this valuable muscle of keeping self-made promises, using your calendar as a tool.
Suffering through the appointment with yourself...
Let’s say you have successfully shown up for your self-made appointment.
And yet, you suffer through that hour-long slog of crawling your way through the project.
This is going to make it far less likely that you’ll keep future appointments with yourself, unless you relish self-punishment!
Imagine that you made a client session very unpleasant for them. They suffer through it. Of course they’re less likely to want more appointments with you!
Instead, make the hour with yourself enjoyable.
1. Put on some pleasant music or ambient noise that won’t distract you.
2. Light a candle or do other aromatherapy e.g. essential oils
3. As mentioned before, make the project less intimidating and more enjoyable for you by writing down what the next doable steps are. We often give ourself anxiety by looking at the project as a whole. It’s like looking at a huge staircase and imagining how hard it is to climb, forgetting that we can simply take it step by step, and rest whenever we need to.
4. Do the “pomodoro technique” of working for 25 minutes focused, then a 5 minute break. Here’s a free online timer to help you with this.
Keep the faith that it is possible for you to use your calendar for self-made appointments to work on important projects.
I used to not be able to do this. And then I practiced, got curious, and practiced some more, using the techniques I shared above. As a result, I now produce far more work than I ever used to, because I schedule to do it.
"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp." --Somerset Maugham (one of the highest-paid authors of all time)
Ultimately, you need to be a student of your own energy and productivity. Learn how to schedule with yourself, and keep practicing and tweaking, until you are also able to be creative even within a schedule.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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