The Most Important Way to Use Your Calendar

Nothing works unless you do.” — Maya Angelou

Right now, most managers are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and worried. And they don’t just want those feelings to go away. They want something better to replace them.

Those same managers want to feel happy about their work, to have good relationships with the people around them, and to be successful.

My guess is, you want those same things.

And you know that the key to being a great manager (and getting all those great things that you want) is coaching yourself.

The fun part of self-coaching is exploring thoughts, feelings, and values. It’s true, few managers put any effort into doing any kind of self-analysis or deep reflection. It takes time, energy, and practice.

But there’s something even more important. It’s a step so vital that without it, all of the other aspects of self-coaching won’t do a thing to help you become better. And most managers say they want to get better, but they don’t ever make any real progress because they miss this step.

Want to know what it is? I’ll tell you in a minute.

First, a little brain science.

Believe it or not, language experts have found that every single language on earth throughout all history has only been used to answer 6 different questions. Apparently, as complex as our brains are, they’re only wired to focus on those 6 different topics.

The 6 different questions we are wired to answer are: Who? Why? How? What? Where? When?

Each of these questions is given attention by one of three different areas of our brain — the prefrontal cortex (most complex), the limbic area (more complex), and the brain stem (most basic).

Often, my clients love to talk about the prefrontal cortex questions, like, “Who do you want to be?” and “Why is this so important to you?” We often talk about missions and values. And we deal with lots of “How” questions too. “How are you feeling? How would you like to be feeling?”

But every session — I mean every single session — ends with the most basic, concrete answers to the questions of What? Why? When?

And here’s the reason. If any of us is going to make any improvement, it’s not going to be because we imagined what the superhero version of ourselves looks like. It’s not because we felt stressed and decided we wanted to feel calm.

Those are parts of the process.

But the only thing that really makes change possible is Action. If we don’t DO something different, we will never change the results we’re getting. Right?

And when it comes to that, I’ve found a little secret that I’d like to share with you.

After doing hundreds of coaching sessions with clients and with myself, each of those sessions has ended with discussing the new action the client will agree to take. And more often than not, my client commits to scheduling that action in their calendar or doing it after an event that’s already scheduled in their calendar.

Here’s the important thing to remember: if you’re going to become better, you have to do something different. And if you don’t lock down and commit to when you’re going to take the new action, it’s probably not going to happen.

As managers, we have a ton to do. Most of us use our calendars to stay organized. We know, if it’s not in our calendar, it’s not going to happen. So, the new actions that we need to take to become better need to be scheduled, just like all of the other important events in our life.

Like the quote at the top of this post, nothing will change if you don’t work at it. And all important work gets scheduled. 

If becoming even better is going to work for you, the actions that will get you there have to be scheduled.

I know you’ve got a lot of appointments in your calendar. Make sure the things you need to do to become better are scheduled too. After all, when it comes to getting what you want out of your work and career, it’s those appointments that may be the most important.

If you’re ready to take your self-coaching to the next level, check out my newest product for managers here:

Set aside some private time to write-out your responses to the exercise below. Turn off your phone and computer notifications or put your devices away completely. Find a place where you can spend a few minutes without being interrupted.

As simply as possible, what do you want to be experiencing more of in your work?

What might be the easiest step you can take to move in that direction?

Where will you be when you take that step?

When will you commit to taking that step?

Get out your calendar and schedule the time that you committed to yourself that you would take that new action. Set your intention right now on keeping that appointment no matter what.


Nate Sleger is a career manager, management coach, and author of The Manager’s Self-Coaching Guide. His course Show Up At Work Like A Superhero has been taken by hundreds of managers worldwide. He currently lives and works in Wisconsin, USA.

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