Practical Time Management With Andrew Hartman

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

Take Back Time | Andrew Hartman | Time Management

 

We often overschedule ourselves with work to feel productive. However, this is not the right approach to time management and usually leads to burnout. Andrew Hartman of Time Boss is here to help reinvent your work lifestyle and take better control of your daily schedule. Joining Penny Zenker, he discusses the importance of having reset moments and buffer times in your work routine, giving you time to breathe, rethink, and refocus yourself. Andrew also talks about the concept of treating others the way you treat yourself, which is vital in unlocking a more purposeful professional persona.

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Practical Time Management With Andrew Hartman

Andrew Hartman is here with me. He’s the Founder of Time Boss, an organization that helps leaders and their teams reinvent their relationship with time to get more done with less stress and anxiety. Andrew founded Time Boss after burning out several times and even losing his sense of smell for a season. He has taken all that he’s learned over the years to build a system to help business leaders and their teams avoid the same mistakes and chaos. He is a fractional COO with many years of experience supporting the launch of software and technology startups. We have a lot in common, Andrew. Welcome to the show.

Thank you so much, Penny. I’m glad to be here.

Burnout

You lost your sense of smell. You didn’t have COVID.

This is the mid-2000s before COVID. I was on a grind for a long time. I’m working long hours, sleeping terribly, and lost in stress, fear, and anxiety. I could have told you it was coming. These are hot flashes. I was overwhelmed by the work that was in front of me. One day, I woke up and didn’t smell anything. That lasted for six months. The body will do weird things when you’re stressed out.

Take Back Time | Andrew Hartman | Time Management

Time Management: The body will start doing weird things when you are stressed out.

 

Part of what happens is you start to shut down. You couldn’t sleep. With hot flashes, I get them for another reason. I read somewhere that stress is stored in our cells. Why these things happen is it shuts down and builds up.

Your body will do interesting things to get your attention. If we held our breath here for the next 3 or 4 minutes, we would pass out. Our body would be like, “I’m taking over. We’re going to start breathing again.” For me, it was my body saying, “You can’t sleep. You got to take care of yourself, work out, and do these things.” I was grinding so hard for these things that I cared about. I wanted to contribute and do well. I was doing it in a way that was unsustainable and driving me and my teams into the ground.

What keeps us in that place? You were there. You could have seen it coming. Why are we not noticing and doing anything about it? This is a common thing. Sixty percent of people are experiencing burnout symptoms.

I’ve read numbers that are even higher. It’s unbelievable. I grew up in a great family. Mom and Dad loved me. I had great bosses coming out of school. Nobody taught me how to manage time. No one taught me what to do when I had more to do than I had time to do. We have some hardwired things in us that when we hit stress, we start shoveling faster. We try to get out of it.

What’s challenging there is anxiety becomes this drug that feeds us. If my house is on fire and I put out that fire, I’m going to feel good about myself. Metaphorically, we feel like our house is constantly on fire. We point ourselves to the hottest fire. As soon as we put it out, we get a dopamine hit. We looked to the right, and there was another fire. We feel like heroes and nobody. We have had strokes our entire life. We got attaboys and attagirls our entire lives for putting out fires, for hustling, for getting after it, and all these things that had nothing to say to what to do when there are more things to do than we have time to do.

When we hit stress, we start shoveling faster. We just try to get out of it, and anxiety becomes an addicting drug that feeds us. Click To Tweet

That is the experience of the modern knowledge worker. There is no widget and manufacturing floor for a knowledge worker. They don’t clock out at 5:00 PM, leave the machine at the office, go home, and couldn’t even do work if they wanted to. We live in a world where we can work all the time. There will always be more to do. We could always make our products and companies better. We can always be a better parent or whatever these things are that we want to contribute to. If you don’t have a way to think about that, it’s going to be overwhelming. You’re going to get lost.

You care deeply, especially for those people who care deeply. They know that there’s better. They don’t know how to deal with that and shut down.

That’s what it was for me. At points, I would care at a high level about the contribution or whatever the company I was working for. I cared deeply about its impact. At other points, I cared about the person next to me, and I kept going because I wanted them to keep going. If you don’t have a way to think about that work, pause, and reset moments where you are evaluating all the things coming at you and have ways to think about it to set up your future self to be successful, you’re going to get overwhelmed.

Recent Moments

If we give something language, it creates a heightened awareness for it. How would you say people go about taking these reset moments? What does it mean to you based on your many years of experience with this?

If you think about it, let’s start with the opposite of how most people operate. Most people operate in real-time. They are carrying this two-week sonic boom of tasks, expectations, and calendar events. Maybe I should, and what if I did that? I forgot to do that. They have this cacophony of things going on in their head that they’re carrying through life. That’s their typical experience. If you ask them if they could do something, they’re like, “I can’t get to it for a couple of weeks.” They feel like they’re drowning. They assume, in a couple of weeks, they’ll be able to figure it out.

What they’re doing is they’re constantly punting to their future self to figure it out. They do not have a reset moment to pause, reflect, plan, and consider their future self and what their future self might need. Their future self is showing up and hoping for the best. It’s the same song set with different verses tomorrow and the after.

They’re bogging their future self down because they keep loading things on.

The way I encourage people to think about this is imagine if you have an employee that you care about. You’re not going to pun that person and hope they figure it out. You’re going to give them clear expectations and make sure that their work is right-sized. You’re going to give them a clear definition of done. This is what we’re driving towards. You’re going to give them permission to protect their time and ignore things that are non-priority. You’re going to set that person up to be successful. This employee is on your payroll or your company’s payroll, and you want to make good use of their investment. It’s only rational for you to do that.

We’ll do that all day long for an employee on our team. We won’t do that for ourselves. That’s where the language of Time Boss comes from. You are the boss of your future self. As a knowledge worker, you are setting up your future self to be successful in the same way you would set up an employee on your team. A lot of the habits that we do in delegation are delegating to our future selves. Reset moments in my world.

Take Back Time | Andrew Hartman | Time Management

Time Management: You are the boss of your future self. As a knowledge worker, you are setting up yourself to be successful in the same way you would set up an employee on your team.

 

One of the things that we use as a key habit is a weekly planning meeting. It’s simple. It’s doing the work to get clear on all the work to be done, right-sizing it to the capacity of your future self, what they can get done next week, making sure they have a realistic plan, and dealing with all the things that don’t fit, which is where we typically go sideways.

We made a plan and looked at all the things that didn’t fit in the plan. We’re like, “We’ll hope for the best. Maybe we’ll get to them.” We end up drowning in stress and anxiety in that process. We don’t commit. In my mind, that is a reset moment. It’s that purposeful pause where I’m considering the needs of my future self, and I’m giving them a plan that they can make happen over the next seven days. It’s incredibly powerful when people wrap their heads around that habit.

I want to go back and say it would be nice if managers and leaders had the time and took the time to make sure that they right-size things and they made expectations clear for their staff. They want to, but they also feel like they don’t have time to do that. We’re seeing a lot of that. In a study I saw, 60% of people don’t feel they have a clear direction.

Priority List

Whether it’s for someone else or yourself, I love the idea of what you’re saying. We tend to do more and care more for others than we do for ourselves. I love that you’re saying that we need to do it for our team, but we also need to do it for ourselves. You’ve got this weekly planning meeting that we’d have for ourselves to make sure that we’re doing the right things we need to do now. How do you deal with those things that aren’t a right fit? When you say there are these things that we’re going to right-size it, maybe you’ve got some strategies. How do we determine what we do and what we don’t do or what we push off? What do we do with those other things?

At the end of the day, it’s math. If you think about it, most people have an emotional relationship or their expectations of the work they have to do. The first thing I encourage people to do is get it to a list. If you’ve ever read Getting Things Done, this is a classic getting things done. Get it out of your head. Get it into the system.

Get your goals out of your head and get them into your system. Click To Tweet

Once we do that and we can see it all, you can see all the things that are going to compete. If I choose next week that I’m gonna work 40 hours, 60 hours, or however long I choose to work that I’m willing to give to this area of my life, everything that happens within that time’s going to compete. My first recommendation for people is to get it out of their heads and get it onto a list. Once it’s on a list, you do the prioritization.

This is where most people pun at their future selves. They don’t like thinking about the trade-offs. They punch their future self to figure it out. The reality is your future self is going to figure it out. At 8:00 AM on Monday, when you show up to work, you’re going to do something. You’re going to reveal the actual priority, or your perception of the priority when you show up at 8:00 AM, or my strong suggestion to people doing work on behalf of their future self is to do the work in that weekly meeting to feel the trade-offs and priorities, and stack rank those items in order. What order should I do these in? What is their actual priority?

What are the criteria? How do I do that? That’s easier said than done. I see my list, and everything on that list is a priority. I’m sure you hear this too. This is what people say.

You have to have a rubric for prioritization or make one up truly. For people who don’t feel like they have a clear direction, that 60% you’re talking about, you may need to make your best guess of how to move this business forward. Let’s assume we’re focused on some type of income-generating opportunity for the entrepreneur who works at a business.

Let’s say it’s a service business.

I hear my boss talking about the sales numbers a lot. I’m going to take a look at this list of items. I’m going to say, “What is going to enable sales at a higher level?” You can do a number of things there. One, it could be your gut, like stack rank one versus two. This one is going to have a higher enablement on sales. Two, you can run an easy framework like something like ICE. If you Google it, it’s a simple framework to use. It’s a ranking system where you’re looking at the hypothesized impact of the item. How hard is it to do the work? How much time is it going to take for me to do the thing? How likely do I think it’ll have an impact if I’m successful? It’s a simple way to prioritize. You can simply apply it.

If you have clarity or you have a boss who’s said, “This is how we’re going to win together.” You’re running something like EOS, Pinnacle, or Scaling Up, where you have a clear rock or quarterly goal that you’re driving towards. I’m suggesting people feel empowered, as professionals, to say, “How do the items that are on my list contribute to these larger goals? Which is going to have the greatest impact over the next seven days and rank accordingly?

I want to make sure that included in that reset moment is getting connected with that higher objective. Everything has to relate to the higher objective. Where people sometimes get amiss, and I love your feedback on this, is they focus on the work and the tasks versus the objective. That’s where it becomes too much because they’re not focused on the objective. They’re doing all these other things that are unnecessary or don’t lead anywhere. If you focus on adding more tasks and working, you’re going to be busy versus focusing on the objective to help you complete and reach your objective.

Where people get tripped up is the experience of life in this moment. Our only job is to have a meaningful conversation with each other. It’d be inappropriate for me to pull up my phone and start checking it so I can start replying to emails here on my computer in front of me. It’s our job to be present. If fundamentally, we believe if we do one thing at a time, we’ll have the highest impact of success, people are like, “Yeah, I get that. I’m doing this task. I’m making this task happen.” To your point, you have to be able to oscillate between the high-level goal and the discrete task here, which is going to help me move it forward.

Whether that’s going in the description of a task in your task management system and typing in the value or somehow flagging it to the higher level goal it’s connected to, you want to maintain that context. When it comes time to make things happen, you want to be clearly defined on what is the definition of this done on this task for me to drive it to completion.

Blocking Out Distractions

When you’re clear, do the thing and block everything out. How do you that? There are a lot of distractions. Do you have some tips on how people can block some of those distractions?

Finishing that weekly planning process, once you get clear on your priorities, your job is to manufacture those down to discrete tasks. What are the 1 to 4-hour tasks that will help me drive whatever this thing is? If my goal is to hire a sales director because I’m trying to advance some sales goals I’m trying to drive, the first discreet task under hiring a sales director might be writing a job description.

The secondary discreet task might be to get feedback on the job description from my team. What you’re trying to do is to get clear and do the work to break it down where those discrete tasks then become items that you block on your calendar for when that thing comes up. At 8:00 AM, when it comes up and says, “Write the job description.” That’s my job. I’ve been the boss of my future self to make that thing happen.

A lot of people calendar block. They block off their calendar for tasks. Most people go sideways as they dramatically overschedule themselves. They schedule every minute of the day because it feels good. It feels like I’m in control. My strong suggestion to people when they’re getting started is to only block 60% of their day, which means you’re leaving 40% of your day available. I call that 40% time whirlwind. What’s interesting about that, Penny is when you give yourself a realistic buffer, you are much more likely to stay committed to the items you put on your calendar because you know you will have time later on in the day to handle those additional items.

We become better at redirecting people into that whirlwind time. We become better at negotiating. Hear that request. I’d love to help you. Could I help you out at 2:00 PM this afternoon? Yeah, no problem. Let’s do that. Every once in a while, a client or your boss is going to call, and it’s on fire. You need to drop whatever you’re doing to do it.

Let’s say at 8:00 AM, I sat down to write the job description. My number one client calls, and their website is down. I need to solve it right now, or who knows what the issue is. I can take that task I planned for 8:00 AM and slide it into my whirlwind. I have a buffer ready, and it allows me to contend with reality. When you have a realistic plan, you are likely to commit to that plan.

I like what you’re saying because it’s almost like your plan is to not plan. There’s a certain portion left open, which is to plan some of your reactive time. It’s leaving that buffer space like you’re saying. If we overbook ourselves, we’re not in control. We are creating the issue that we’re trying to avoid, which is being out of control. That makes total sense. How did you come up with 40%? Is that from experience?

It’s from experience. The way that I recommend is the more control you have over your time, the less whirlwind time you need. You have some people. Solopreneurs run content-based, client-based, or software-based businesses, and they don’t have anyone reaching out. They have a ton of control of their time. They don’t need 60%. They don’t need a 40% whirlwind.

If you are a customer support agent where your job is to be available, you have no strategic time. Your strategic time is being available. You shouldn’t even plan for it. It’s finding the right mix and what’s powerful when you look at your relationship with time as a set of habits. Each week, I have a reset moment or a weekly planning meeting where I reflect on this past week, make tiny adjustments and plan again for next week. I can find the right amount of whirlwind time to program into my week.

Mine is 20% time. It’s not 40%. I found that that’s what I need. That’s my highest sustainable pace. That’s the fastest that I can go without stress, fear, anxiety, or being a whip at my heels, but peace, freedom, and connectedness are what’s driving me to contribute to things that I care about. I have to keep that 20% buffer, or it doesn’t happen. I start feeling that franticness. I start feeling like, “I got to stay ahead.” I don’t want that. I don’t think that’s helpful. It doesn’t help me make the greatest impact I can make.

It starts to create anxiety. That’s an interesting concept because I don’t look at it like that. I have a little bit much going on myself right now. My first thing is to step back and see where I can decommit. If it’s not important for this week, I can put it into my future self because I know what my deliverables are this week. How can I batch it more effectively? If I think about it, I like that idea. I need more time. It depends on what you’re trying to do. I need more creative time. I need more flexibility in my time. If something takes longer, I can let it go longer. That 40% would be good for me

Time Boss is not for people in low gear. It’s for people who want to contribute. It’s for people who are up to something but want to do it with peace, freedom, and connectedness. Whirlwind is not like my get-out-jail-free card. Whirlwind is my way of dealing with reality. What’s powerful is if I hit whirlwind and I don’t need it, let’s say there are no things that have taken over my day, I’ve top of my email box, or whatever I’m going to use whirlwind time for, I can reach into whatever I schedule for tomorrow, pull it into now and start working on it. I start telling myself a magical story about my priorities. It’s that I’m ahead, and I’m not behind. Most people’s functional experience of life is that they’re behind schedule and late.

You talked about creative work. You bring a different self to creative work when you have the emotional space to be fully present in that task. The pain is the weekly planning meeting. When we map to reality, and we feel all the weight of things that don’t fit right, that’s when we feel the trade-offs. It’s an emotional experience.

Take Back Time | Andrew Hartman | Time Management

Time Management: Most people are running behind schedule in their life. You bring a different self to work when you have the emotional space to be fully present all the time.

 

If we can do the work to take care of those things, whether we’re deferring them, delegating them, digitizing them, maybe if they’re not that important, we delete them, and if we can do that work and we can right-size our expectations to what’s possible next week when we show up to do that work, we can be fully present to it. I love your language of reset moment. Most of us don’t take purposeful pauses to do that work. We miss out on the opportunity for our future selves to experience that freedom.

Closing Words

I’ve been enjoying this conversation. I looked up, and I was like, “We’re tight with time here.” Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you wanted to make sure that you got across to the group?

I want to rein for us to look at our relationship at times as a set of habits that we lean into. James Clear talks about how we fall to the level of our systems. We don’t rise to the level of our goals. If you are white-knuckling your way through life, that is detrimental to you, and you’re going to fail. If you have a set of habits, you can lean into recursive reset moments. If you come back to a reset moment every Friday to plan for your future self, you create infinite emergent opportunities for yourself on a go-forward basis if you can lean into that habit.

If you have a set of positive habits to lean into and have recursive reset moments, you create infinite emerging opportunities that allow you to move forward. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for sharing. How do people get ahold of you and hear more about what you’re doing with leaders and helping them be their time boss for their future selves?

We’ve got a masterclass available. It’s a 90-minute overview of the full-time boss model. If someone’s a self-implementer, it’s a great way to get connected. They go to the website, TimeBoss.us/masterclass. They can grab that. LinkedIn is a great place to connect. LinkedIn is a one-degree course that corrects every day. It’s a tiny little insight someone can take and apply to their world every single day.

Thank you so much for being here, Andrew. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much, Penny. It’s great to be here.

Thank you all for being here. You can be your own time boss. I love this concept of treating others and yourself the way that you would treat others, thinking more purposefully about your future self, and managing your time in that way. Here you have recursive reset moments. I talk about the reset moments that build as part of a feedback loop to help you create a reset mindset. That’s what we’re talking about here.

Time Boss has a reset mindset, enabling you to have the agility you need in this changing environment and your own changing priorities from day to day, from week to week. Go check out the masterclass that Andrew is offering and see how you can be a better time boss for yourself. We’ll see you in the next episode.

 

Important Links

 

About Andrew Hartman

Take Back Time | Andrew Hartman | Time ManagementHi I’m Andrew Hartman. I’m a Fractional COO and the Founder of Time Boss, a system I developed to help leaders who find themselves in what I call Time Prison make an escape to become a Time Boss and take back control of their time.

Time Boss currently consists of small group coaching cohorts, team and executive coaching and digital courses.

I lead every Time Boss Group, and I do all the 1×1 coaching, because I believe in this work deeply, and I get the deepest joy from helping people make peaceful progress in their life.

I believe that each of us has a part to play. Each of us has a unique contribution that the world needs. Time Boss helps us prioritize that unique contribution, while maintaining our peace and mental health. It empowers us to find our highest sustainable pace, and make as much impact as possible, for as long as possible.

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