Hey there, March is Time Management month, so I’ll be focusing on this subject a little more than I usually do so that you can figure out ways to get back to the top of your priority list!
Time is Money
Now what if I asked you how you spent your last 24 hours? Would you be able to produce receipts and show me how you spent your time?
We’ve all heard the saying “time is money”. If you’ve ever worked a job with an hourly rate, you understand this direct relationship. It’s an important lesson. Thinking of your time and assigning it a monetary value makes it more tangible.
Unfortunately, for some of us, that’s not enough for us to be wiser in how we spend our time. Some fall into the “there’s always tomorrow” trap, assuming they’ll have more time to get things done.
Time Management Doesn’t Exist!
Yup I said it! We all say time management as if we can control, change or increase the amount of time that we have. It’s a false idea that sets us up for the failure because it focuses us on the wrong thing.
The truth is, there are only 24 hours in a day (or you can think of it as 86,400 seconds a day!). Each day, your time allowance is replenished. You can’t carry over from the day before and you can’t use up what you haven’t yet been given from tomorrow.
You can’t stretch it, save it, buy more or even lose it. We don’t technically get more time tomorrow, we just start a new day. Once you’ve spent your time, it’s gone.
There is no way to pause, stop or control time. So, you can’t manage it. The only thing you can control or manage is what you do with your time. Once you focus on your activities, it’s easier for you to make decisions about where you spend your time.
So Where Does Your Time “Go”?
The average person sleeps 26 years in their lifetime. Hopefully breaking that up into 7-8 hours a night at a time. Aside from sleep, our time is spent working, running errands for our family, hopefully getting some exercise in and other leisure activities.
We have made an art form of cramming our schedules full of all sorts of activities and yet we are surprised that we have trouble fitting it all in.
If you’ve ever spent the day running around busy, but nothing got checked off your to-do list, it’s time to get off the hamster wheel.
Our schedules are full of clutter and it’s only when we clear some of it out, that we can focus on what matters.
Track Your Receipts
Start by keeping a log of what you spend your time on—hour by hour. You only have to do this for a couple of days to get a good idea of the choices you are making with your time.
You can use your phone’s calendar and just create an “appointment” after the fact of the things you did during the past hour. Track how many hours you slept, got ready for bed, got ready for work, spend commuting, surfing on social media and yes, actually working. When you are at work, track how much time you spend on projects, in meetings, going to and from meetings, lunch and rest room breaks. Track the ENTIRE DAY.
It will be annoying and I know you’ll call me a few names, but the answers will be revealing.
Urgent vs. Important
Looking back at your time log, how much of what you did was planned? How much of it was forced on your schedule? How much of what you did was more urgent than Important?
In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey teaches us to prioritize where we spend our time on things that are important but not urgent (Quadrant 2 on his Time Quadrants).
Urgent things are time-sensitive-it means something needs to happen very quickly. Important means there will be a significant consequence if this thing is not done.
Unfortunately, we have been programmed to respond to things that are urgent and we forget about the things that are important.
For each thing on your log, categorize your activities according to Steven Covey’s Time Quadrants:
Quadrant 1-Urgent & Important (this is a unicorn or someone procrastinated)
Quadrant 2-Important but Not Important (yay—you prioritized yourself)
Quadrant 3-Urgent, but Not Important (boo, stop saying yes to everything)
Quadrant 4- Not Urgent & Not Important (you slacker, get back to work)
Honesty counts here. You can only start making changes once you know where you are spending your time.
Choose Your Activities Wisely
We’re all guilty of what some call the “Automatic Yes”. We find it hard to say “No” and tell others that we can’t do it. That’s why our calendars are usually filled with things that aren’t as important to us as they are to others.
If you suffer from what I call volunteeritis, here are a few things to try:
- Recognize that you have the right to say no. Don’t give more weight or respect to other people’s time than you have for your own.
- Keep a clear picture of what really matters to you, so that it’s easier to say no to something that will pull you off track.
- Schedule your personal priorities on your calendar as “appointments with yourself”
- If you already have a full schedule, be sure to get rid of one task before you take on another.
- Practice saying no, so you will gain confidence and feel comfortable doing so.
- Say yes or no solely based on the importance of your own planned activity vs. the new request. Never postpone your own plans simply because they can be postponed.
Clear the clutter off your schedule so you can spend more time on you and the things that matter.
As I said, since March is Time Management month, so I’ll be sharing more ways to make better use of your time in the next few posts.