Mentoring may not always be at the top of your mind. But, scheduling free time isn’t a luxury, it’s necessary. After all, taking a break from your grueling schedule makes you happier, encourages self-care, boosts your creativity, and gives you something to look forward to. Most importantly, when you find time for mentoring, you choose the opportunity to recharge and expand your horizons.
However, if you want to experience these benefits, then you must spend it wisely. I know that you want to binge-watch the new season of your favorite show on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. But, that’s definitely not the most productive use of your time. Instead, you should spend your time meditating, learning, doing something creative, getting organized, and giving back.
Personally, I think that giving back is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time. Whether if it’s through volunteering, offering to help someone or teaching, there’s nothing as rewarding. And, as an added perk, it can also help you professionally by giving you a chance to network and sharpen your skills.
But, one of the most meaningful ways that I’ve given back is by mentoring others. Why do I believe this? Mentoring has opened the door to gain new perspectives and ideas, develop my emotional intelligence, and learn more about myself and my company. Most importantly, because I’ve helped others, I feel great about myself.
While there’s no mistake that being a mentor is worth exploring, there’s one potential snag. How can you fit this into your already busy schedule?
Well, here are nine ways that you can find the time for mentoring.
Rethink your definition of mentorship.
Being a mentor doesn’t just mean meeting with your protege every week to have a one-on-one discussion for years to come. There are short-term mentorships where your advice is only needed for a couple of weeks or months. Moreover, there are groups, networking, and reverse mentoring opportunities. And, don’t overlook virtual meetings where you would meet via phone, email, or webcam as opposed to face-to-face.
The point is, find which way to mentor works best for you. When making this decision, consider the objectives and goals that you and your mentee want to achieve. You may be able to accomplish these in less time then you thought. And, pick a method that’s most comfortable for you. If you’re more of an introvert, then a one-on-one is more effective than a group setting.
Make the commitment — and follow-through with it.
Think about an event you’ve received for a friend’s party. If you didn’t mark the event down in your calendar, then how likely are you going to attend? Were you really all that interested in participating in the first place? If not, then you weren’t all that attached to going.
When you commit, you will carve out the time for it. The next step is to follow through with your pledge.
Because this is something that a lot of us have trouble with, here are some pointers I found useful over on Simple Living Daily:
- Take ownership and accept the responsibility to take action.
- Don’t overcommit yourself. Instead, focus on the vital few.
- Be specific about what you want to achieve.
- Take baby steps, like maybe meeting with your mentee once a month instead of weekly.
- Acknowledge that you’re stuck with your commitment so that you feel good about yourself. As a result, this will motivate you to repeat this behavior.
Be realistic with your time.
You don’t have to apply this to mentoring. You should practice this in all areas of your life so that you can adequately manage your time. For example, if you underestimate how long it takes you to complete your morning work, and it carries over into the afternoon, then that’s going to throw your entire schedule off.
If you want to be more realistic with your time, then you first need to track it. The longer you do this, the more accurate of a picture you’ll have. But, even if you track your time for a week can help you stop under-or-overestimating tasks. It can also help you identify where you’re wasting your time so that you can stop engaging in this unhealthy habit.
Block out a specific time.
Another benefit of tracking your time? You can finally see where you have availability on your calendar. So, if you notice that your Friday afternoons are usually pretty light, then that may be the best time to meet with your protege. You could then create this entry once and make it a recurring event so that you know that every Friday at 3 P.M. is reserved for mentoring.
If you don’t know when your mentee is free, then share your calendar with them. Set aside a block of time on several different days. Your mentee can then quickly find an open slot as opposed to going back and forth.
Even better, if you’re using a great tool like Calendar can then quickly add the event and sync it with any Google, Apple, or Outlook Calendars. You can also specify if the event is remote or in-person. If it’s in-person, then you can add an address so that the other party now has directions.
“You can’t mentor everyone,” writes Laura Vanderkam. “So, go ahead and place your bets on the most promising people.” Placing your bets on the most promising people is something Sheryl Sandberg discussed in her book, Lean In.
According to Sandberg, smart mentors “select proteges based on performance and potential.” Because of this, she believes that we should stop telling young people, “Get a mentor and you will excel. Instead, according to her, “we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’”
Get innovative with your time.
As I’ve previously alluded to, mentorship doesn’t mean you have to meet with your mentee one-on-one in a formal setting. You can meet with your mentee whenever you prefer.
For example, you could check-in through with them through text while traveling. You could also invite a mentee to join you on your afternoon walk, a casual social event you’re hosting, or to an industry function that you’re attending.
Create and distribute mentoring references.
Have you noticed that your protege(s) ask the same questions? Do they share common concerns and problems? If so, you could create mentoring references. These could include Word docs, FAQ pages, Wikis, or instructional videos. You may even want to refer them to other sources like books, blogs, podcasts, or other experts.
At first, this may seem like an easy way out. But it’s the opposite. By making these resources available, you can help them whenever they need it. More importantly, it saves you a ton of time since you don’t have to answer every question that they need to be answered consistently.
Delegate tasks to your protege.
Don’t mistake this for passing off your work to someone else. Instead, only delegate tasks where they show talent, interest, or possess the skills that you don’t. Besides freeing-up some of your valuable time, it can also help you gain fresh insights and perspectives.
I know that this may still sound like you’re taking advantage of them. But, remember, mentoring is a two-way street. If a person is willing to help you out, then there’s nothing wrong with taking them up on their offer.
If you’re not all in, refer them to someone else.
“A successful mentor relationship is one where you enter with your eyes wide open to your commitment,” Odette Barry, PR agency owner, told Thrive Global. “If you’re in, go all in. Don’t say yes, and then struggle to find the time and energy to do it well.”
If you don’t feel that it’s a good fit, or that you genuinely don’t have the time to be a mentor, then be upfront with the person and part ways. The last thing that you want is to be disrespectful of their time, as well as yours.
But, if you don’t want to leave them empty-handed, then refer them to someone else. Preferably, this (someone else) would be an individual that you trust and are sure could be the mentor they’ve been looking for.