Where Does The Time Go?
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
One hundred sixty-eight! That is the total number of hours that you have available in a 7-day week. No matter what you do, you cannot get any more time than that. You can multitask and work hard and fast, but you will still only have 168 hours per week to get things done. How do you spend your time? I bring this up because February is National Time Management Month! I am hoping that by the end of this read, you will have picked up a few tips and tricks to maximize your time management for the remaining ten months of this year. If you already maximize your time, then congratulations are in order. Consider this a virtual pat on your back.
So, what exactly is time management? It’s prioritizing your time to complete those things that are important to you, as well as the ability to use your time productively. Knowing and prioritizing the important things will enable you to use your time most effectively. When you boil all that down, what do you get? Effective use of your time with intentional actions to achieve your goals. A WIN-WIN!
Let’s start with a planner. Do you use a planner? Is it digital or a classic paper version? Is it a hybrid of paper and digital? Do you have more than one? Regardless of whether you use digital or paper, you should only have ONE version that includes all of your planning and appointments.
Having more than one planner can lead to missed appointments and worrying about missing actions. Multiple planners or calendars can also lead to additional anxiety because of the need to check multiple places for open appointments and “to do’s”. I recently converted to an all-electronic calendar after years of trying paper, electronic, or both. When I worked in corporate America I had a paper calendar, an Outlook electronic calendar, as well as a host of Yahoo/Google and iPhone calendars. Now, I have all my appointments in my electronic business planner in Google. I make sure that all of my personal/family and business appointments are put into that one calendar. Don’t get me wrong, there are still challenges with having multiple emails and social media groups, all needing slots on the calendar, yet are not directly connected to my planner. I try to stay disciplined about putting information from appointment cards and emails directly into my planner. That being said, I also have one spot in my office where all paper things that need to get put into my calendar go until I have time to record them electronically. Full disclosure, I do have one paper calendar hanging in the kitchen that lets family members know who is working or has an appointment, just to keep everyone in the loop.
STEP 1 – FOCUS
Start your day with a clear focus on what needs to get done to drive your important activities to completion. The important activities are those actions that drive your goals. You can start by creating a to-do list or task list first thing in the morning, or even right before bed, for the next day.
For example: If you have a goal to get 30 minutes of exercise each day, it is important to know where you plan to fit that in. Have you put it in your planner? What needs to be ready to enable that goal? Do you need a gym membership? Do you need equipment, or a room cleared? Do you need a babysitter? Where are your workout clothes and sneakers? Do everything to prepare your environment for success. Maybe the goal must be broken up into smaller goals to get ready. Maybe you need to have Goal 1 – get the environment ready for exercise. Goal 2 – pick the right time. Think about when you are likely to have the most energy and time to exercise. and set that time aside in your calendar. I can tell you that fitting in exercise at the end of the day is never the best idea. as most people are at their lowest energy level. Get up earlier if you really want to fit it in. Goal 3 – complete just 10 to15 minutes of exercise and see how it goes. Just stay focused on what you wish to accomplish.
STEP 2 – PRIORITIZE
Prioritize the highest value tasks to achieve your goals. The highest value tasks are those that are the most important actions to reach success in meeting your goals for the day. In other words, if you did nothing else on your list but your highest priority tasks, your big goals would be achieved for the day.
This means that you need to eliminate distractions such as social media scanning and swiping. You can decide to include a 30-minute time segment specifically for social media, but it should not be a distraction while you're working on a specific task to achieve a goal. I have additional information on goal setting in my January Blog about habits. As we all know, social media turns into a multi-hour event when there is no timer or parameter set around it. Distractions should be eliminated or given their own calendar/planner interval. Turn on the “do not disturb” function on your laptop and mobile device. Put limits on electronic notifications so that you are not tempted when going about your to-do list. This goes back to knowing what your goal is and prioritizing what needs to happen to achieve success. Eliminating distractions may be the secret to getting more open time back into your schedule that will allow you to have time to relax. If you ask me, relaxation is a priority too!
STEP 3 – SCHEDULE
Structure your time in your planner. Put time slots into your calendar for all the activities that take time out of your 24-hour day. You may not be surprised to learn that, in general, people tend to do an inaccurate job of estimating task time. I liken this to directions. How many times have you been told that a place you are looking for is only 10 minutes away, and 30 minutes later you finally get there?
For example, consider your morning routine: Brush your teeth 3-4 minutes, wash your face 2-3 minutes, shower 10-15 minutes, get dressed 10-15 minutes (less if you have organized your closet and clothes,) coffee/breakfast 15-20 minutes. That is 40–57 minutes, all before the day has really started. Yet, in general, people allow 5 to 10-minutes for this entire set of tasks. Not everyone follows this kind of minute-by-minute schedule, but this is meant to give you an idea of the count down of the 24 hours that we actually have each day. Remember, seven to eight hours are consumed by sleep, if we are lucky enough to get those, which leaves 16 hours to do everything else. Be realistic about what consumes your time, day in and day out. How many times do you eat? Meal Prep? Commute? Talk on the phone? Watch the news? Structuring your time does not have to be perfect. Do not get hung up on the small stuff, and think hard about the big stuff that is driving your goals. Break down projects into consumable and realistic time slots.
STEP 4 – TRACK
Track your time. Documenting everything you do with your time will allow you to have a full awareness of what is eating up your day. How much time do you spend procrastinating? Is it because the tasks are not set up to be actionable? Is the task something that contributes to your big goals for the day?
Determine if the procrastination is because the task is Urgent (it needs your immediate attention, but getting it done may or may not matter in reaching your goals for the day,) or Important (it matters and the consequences for not getting it done will have an impact on you, or possibly those around you). Think through your goals and determine if the procrastinated task meets the “important” category. If so, get it into your planner and stop procrastinating.
Here is an example of my average day:
BONUS TIPS –
Learn to say “no”. By learning to say “no” to activities and people, you learn to stop over-committing yourself.
By planning your time, you have a better awareness of what free time you are willing to part with, and that parting should bring a welcoming feeling. Accepting tasks that you should have said “no” to usually leads to resentment, frustration, and anxiety.
Get some exercise into your planner. I know this is not exactly what everyone wants to hear, but I swear by it, based on the stress reduction it provides me. When I get my exercise in, I feel like I can effectively tackle more tasks and relax when I want to.
You do not need to strive for perfection. Perfection is the death of getting it done. Sometimes we just need to agree that getting it done is more important than a perfect outcome.
Always have a plan B. If something does not get done, what is your plan B? How do you recover or pivot to another action? If something will not arrive on time, or you just cannot get it done on time, what is your plan B? Is it communication, or pivot to the backup?
Leave early for appointments, as it sometimes allows for a plan B. What happens if you get lost? What happens if there is unexpected traffic? Worst case scenario, you arrive early and get to read, spend time on social media or even call a friend.
Limit your multitasking. It really is not effective. You won’t concentrate fully on either task and doing so prevents you from creating a memory of either task. Enjoy this read from Entrepreneur.com, and learn more reasons why multitasking is unproductive.
Do not get hung up on the small stuff.
Leave gaps (15 minutes) between tasks/appointments to allow for items to run a little late. You’ll thank yourself later.
DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE SOME TIME TO RELAX. Allow yourself to entertain the idea of a nap, reading for pleasure, or maybe even a date!