No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.
I talk to so many busy people, from students to executives who want to work on time management. Sometimes the issue is clear. They tend to procrastinate or they are not aware of how they are really spending their time, so it seems to just disappear. More often, I hear something like, “Here, look at my schedule. It’s packed. There is no way I can get all of this done and still have a life / get to the gym / finish my project”.
They are invariably correct. Their schedules are jammed with meetings, deadlines, and tasks, and it genuinely looks like there is no room to breathe. A lot of time management advice focuses on work; how to do it and when. That’s nice, but not everything we want to do is work. We want to have fun and relax and recharge too, so how we look at our time may help us find more of it to spend where we want to.
Budget your time like you budget your money
To those of you who have jam packed schedules and are having trouble fitting in getting to the gym or cooking meals at home or finishing personal projects or even projects at work; what does your time budget look like? What have you been spending your time on? We’ve all done this when we want to get a handle on our expenses. We take a look back and assess how we’ve been spending our money. Too much eating out? Ok, I can budget for that and put the difference into savings or investments.
Even better, the next time I think about ordering in, I’ll consider if that’s how I want to spend my money. Why don’t we do that with our time?
Spend your time like you spend your money
If in every meeting we attended, we were asked to give $50 or even $10, we would call foul. Why then to we fork over our minutes and hours every time someone asks for them in the form of emails, texts, and meetings?
They say time equals money, but they’re wrong. When researchers Gal Zauberman and John Lynch asked people to think about how much time and how much money they’d have in the future, the results didn’t add up. We’re consistently conservative about predicting how much extra cash we’ll have in our wallets, but when it comes to time, we always think there will be more tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.
Be stingy with your time. It is precious, and only you get to decide where it goes.
Revisit your priorities often
It’s easy to think everything we do is important, but is it important or just urgent? We tend to know what is truly important, but we do something else anyway because it’s easy or it’s coming from a loud voice. In the moment, ask yourself, “Is this moving me forward toward my goals, or am I just clearing something out of the way, or am I distracting myself?”
This works with our time budgets too. In Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership, Peter Hawkins relates a story about a CEO who demanded that his top team devote 50 percent of its time to a transformation agenda. As you can imagine, there was a near mutiny since the executives already spent “over 80-90 hours a week running their functions”. Mr. Hawkins suggested that they return in a week having removed 10-20 percent of the least value-adding time from their schedules.
“But everything we do is essential,” they replied, to which the coach offered, “Okay, if you genuinely cannot find that 10-20 percent, then bring your schedules next time, and your colleagues will find that which can be weeded out for you”. Each of the leaders was able to find what could be removed. All it takes is a little perspective.
To sum up, life is short.
- Look at how you spend your time and treat it like a budget.
- We really need to treat our time more like we treat our money. Our time is, after all, finite.
- Prioritize and reprioritize. It’s your time, so you get to decide what’s important.
Have a great week.