"T" time is me timeIs it just me or did things go from zero to sixty right after Labor Day? Overnight we left the lazy days of August behind and jumped into a big pile of Fall activities. Our days are full of planning meetings, budget discussions, project updates, and even a few lingering mid-year reviews. This is when my executive coaching clients tell me “I don’t have time to think!”

This month I want to share one of my favorite tips for staying poised and present throughout the work day.  I call it “T minus Ten.”

“T” is the Time that you need to get yourself ready for your next meeting or even the next day. “Ten” is the ten minutes you’re going to give to yourself in order to get ready. So, If you have an important meeting scheduled at 11:00 today, then your first “T minus ten” is at 10:50. This means that at 10:50, you STOP working on anything unrelated to the upcoming meeting and START thinking about how you can add the most value at the 11:00 meeting. Avoid the temptation to get sucked into that stack of emails — they’ll be there when you get back. To be fully prepared and present at the 11:00 meeting, you need to invest a few minutes reviewing your notes, preparing comments or questions —  whatever you need to feel really ready. Then you can dial in to the call or walk over to the meeting feeling poised and ready.

You can give the gift of “T minus 10” to the people around you by ending your meetings ten minutes before the “scheduled” end time. Hey, just because our calendars are pre-programmed to block 60 minutes doesn’t mean we have to fill the entire 60 minutes! (Did you know that most one-hour TV dramas only have about 43 minutes of programming? Guess where the rest of the time goes? Right! Something unrelated to the program…think about it.) When it’s your meeting, you can start to close the meeting at “T minus 15.”  In other words, devote the last  5 minutes of the meeting to summarizing important points, outlining next steps, and answering final questions. Then out the door by “T minus 10.” People will love you for this — even junior high students get ten minutes to change classes! And during that ten minutes, you have time to think about what’s next. Time to think…imagine!

My favorite “T minus Ten” is at the end of the work day.  About ten minutes before I leave the office for the day, Iclock close my email inbox and open my calendar for tomorrow so that I can organize all my folders, notes, etc. for the next day. I do a quick mental check that I’m ready for each meeting or call, and I physically organize the top of my desk so it is tidy and welcoming for the next morning.  You may not need to do this, but I feel more calm and centered when I start a busy day with a neat desk.  If you’re a “pile person” that’s fine.  “T minus 10” isn’t just for neatniks!

I’ve shared this tip with many of my coaching clients over the years and all of them have found value in this practice. It’s not always easy to find ten minutes, but if you can you will experience a significant difference in your ability to stay poised and present throughout the day. Let me know how it works for you!