Time Made Me Do It
Time gets a bad wrap. We’re always blaming Time for not getting things done. Time’s close cousin, Busy, also finds a way to get into the mix. We’re with Busy all the time and we can’t get enough done. Or Too Busy comes along and by then, all hope is lost. Let’s hope Crazy Busy isn’t in town this month.
I’m sure Time and Busy will be to blame for most of us not hitting on our top resolutions for this year:
1. Diet or eat healthier 2. Exercise more 3. Lose weight 4. Save more and spend less 5. Learn a new skill or hobby 6. Quit smoking 7. Read more 8. Find another job 9. Drink less alcohol 10. Spend more time with family and friends
It’s not like we enjoy running around in a state of frenzy - there is just so much to do. So much outside of our control. We try to manage Time wisely - its just that we're so Busy.
But Busy is so lame.
When we point the finger at being Busy or lack of Time, what we’re really saying is that we don’t have control. Control to say “No”. To turn down less important meetings. To not immediately respond to your emails. To leave work at the time you need to in order to make a healthy dinner.
It’s been said that managing time isn’t about creating more of it, but rather about making the best use of the time we have. It is about actively taking charge of our days, goals, and challenges - rather than responding to them.
What does it mean to actively take charge of the time we have?
Be grateful. When is the last time you were thankful for the time you had? For the time at work that allows you to provide for your family. For the time with your family. For the time at the gym. Thinking of time as qualitative - associating a meaning to the time we have - instead of quantitative - measured and counted into seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and years - allows us to stop managing time itself. Rather, we begin to manage the tasks, events, and activities that surround us.
Differentiate important versus urgent. The Pareto principle states that about 20% of your tasks will create about 80% of the value. So if tasks aren’t created equal, ensure you know the difference. Do the high-value and important tasks first. And then look to delegate, diminish, or delete tasks that don’t add value. There is no law that says meeting times must be set at 60 minutes.
Focus deeply. Many of us may wear different hats at work or try to balance out the need to tackle important items with the urgent matter of responding to emails, phone calls, or other things on our to-do lists. But don’t assume you need to wear all of our hats at the same time. When you have important items to complete, block out the time to get it done.
Start with small experiments. Do whatever you can to get started. Blocking out time in your calendar is great, but as we’re learning new habits, we’re sure to allow distractions to get in the way. If you can’t your workout in for the day, getting in five minutes of jumping jacks allows you to keep momentum for the next day.
If trying to accomplish a significant goal or project, break it down into smaller pieces, or experiments. Thinking of a large goal in more manageable chunks allows you to experiment and measure more effectively, rather than waste time on the wrong things.
Detour distractions. Studies show that the average employee checks email over 50 times a day, while people touch their smartphones over 2,000 times a day. Another study showed that “chatty co-workers” were the number one distraction in the workplace.
We’re surrounded by opportunities to throw us off track. Detour these distractions with changing your routines. Eliminate notifications on your phone and computer. If you’re able, work outside of the office to avoid unplanned distractions.
Share with others. Employees like their jobs less when they're in a distracting workplace - but the majority never discuss solutions to address workplace distraction with their managers. If you’re distracted, share it with someone who might be able to help. You’re more likely to hit your goals if you share the issue with someone else.
If we manage our time more effectively and efficiently, we have the opportunity to not only be more productive, but reduce stress and frustration. By planning and creating new habits, Time and Busy may appear more manageable or - just disappear.