How many times have you said, “I just wish I had more time for …?” With global business buzzing by in nanoseconds and a world of information in your phone, having time to get everything done seems more and more elusive.
At one point in my life, I let time win. Between my more than full-time job, a second job teaching at night, family, pets, my two blogs, and other business activities, time owned me. There was never enough of it and I always felt defeated by it. As the days/months/years were slipping past, I felt stressed and on the road to burnout.
That is when I started applying the same time management principals that I use on business projects to my life. In a project, getting stuff done isn’t about time, it is about planning and priorities. It’s about making choices.
If something is important to you, be honest, you find the time to do it.
If your kid is in a sports game, you find the time to be there. You put it on your calendar and you make it a priority.
If your favorite band is in town, you are there. You buy the tickets as soon as they come online, you put it on your calendar, you make it a priority.
People are able to find the time to do things that are important to them when they choose to make ‘that moment’ a priority. We are constantly making choices (though not always easy ones) about how we spend our precious time. And true, there is never ENOUGH time in the day to do every single thing we have on our list, some things have to go because time is about making choices as to what is important to you.
Change the conversation in your head.
By changing how you speak about time you can change how you manage it. Start looking at time in terms of your priorities instead of the minutes that a task takes. Priorities are choices and choices are manageable.
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain. I challenge you to change the phrase “I don’t have time” to “it is not a priority to me.” (This idea came from an article titled “Are You As Busy As You Think” by Laura Vanderkam, The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2012)
Try these phrases out loud:
“I would love to help you write that proposal, but I can’t BECAUSE WINNING NEW BUSINESS IS NOT A PRIORITY TO ME.”
“I would really like to help you with that school project, but I can’t BECAUSE YOUR EDUCATION IS NOT A PRIORITY TO ME.”
“I would really like to go to the gym to work out, but I can’t BECAUSE MY HEALTH IS NOT A PRIORITY TO ME.”
If this is starting to feel a little uncomfortable, I understand. Changing your internal language in this way shows you what you make truly important in your life and sometimes that is hard to look at. This language shift shows you what you are willing to place on top of your limited time resource list and the result may surprise you.
Everything cannot be important at the same time, so your job is to determine what really is your priority so that you can action that time appropriately. (Note: I am NOT suggesting that you say this phrase, “because X is not my priority,” out loud to other people – that would be rude and may get you fired or divorced.)
Get Control of Your Time
1. Know where your time goes by keeping a time log.
The first step to managing anything is to understand what you are trying to manage. Do you know how you spend your 168 hours per week? (That is what we all get, no more, no less.)
- Track – Over the next few days (a week would be great) track your time in 30-minute blocks (or as often as you can). How much time do you spend on business tasks (and what are they), eating, watching TV, Facebook, you get the idea? The more you track the better your ability to make wise time choices.
- Be honest – If you Tweet 5 times a day at 5 minutes each time, that adds up. The more honest you can be with yourself, the better handle you will have on the positive and negative uses of your time. (No one is going to see this but you, so why not be real?)
- Evaluate – Group your activities so that you can see those things that you are doing repeatedly or that are wasting your time. Time wasters are things like unnecessary social media activity, talky people who wander into your office, inefficient workflows, etc. I look at the ‘must-do’ vs the ‘want to do’ when I review my list.
- Fix – Once you identify the time wasters, you can reduce and maybe even entirely get rid of them. (Tip: I set a timer for 15 minutes when I open Facebook otherwise I can get lost in cute puppies and high school classmates.)
2. Change how you speak about time
I challenge you for the next week to erase the phrase “I don’t have time” from your vocabulary. Replace it with “it’s not a priority.” Then after that week, move on to step 3.
3. Order your priorities
Take the time log from step 1 and put the activities into an order of importance for that day. Did you spend time on activities that got you to your business or personal goals? Did you get distracted or waste time doing a task someone else could have done? This is the hard part – what really was important to you in that day? If spending time with your family was important, then why were you wasting time on Snapchat? If you had a work deadline, what did you have to ‘not do’ to get it done and was the ‘not do’ something that was important to you? Again, priorities are about choices and making the best choices for you, in the day, with the time that you have.
4. Schedule your time to make more time.
Now you should be ready to schedule your future priorities into your daily calendar. Don’t just schedule work meetings. Make sure to include social media time, family time, doctor’s appointments, and the gym. Once you start ‘owning’ your schedule based on priorities, you will find that your time will become more manageable. (I schedule walking my 3 dogs for 45 minutes every day, 365 days a year. If I don’t they will make sure I know they are important by acting out.)
Whether you use Google, Outlook, or a paper DayTimer, make sure to carve out blocks in your day/week to accomplish what is important to you. If you don’t schedule things, then you can’t complain that you don’t have time for them – you did not give them any importance.
Personal time management is not a once and done task. We all slip and get lost in time wasters every now and then, and our priorities are always changing. This is the time management process that works for me and helped me find the 25th hour in my day. Let me know what works for you… if you have the time.