Time is a Unique Resource
Abstract: Time management is not about squeezing more into a day or eliminating distractions. It’s about managing activities to achieve goals. This article shows you how.
How many times have you thought or said, “Sure, I’d like to (take a course, take a vacation, work on an additional skill or project, etc) but there just isn’t enough time.” When we say, “There just isn’t enough time,” we’re shirking responsibility. Let’s look at the time and I’ll show you what I mean.
Time is a unique resource. It cannot be saved, stopped, or replaced. It’s interesting, then, that some people seem to “find time” to get things accomplished that others don’t. Some people seem to be able to “manage time” better than others and are thus able to “better use time.”
The fact is, these resourceful people cannot “find time” or “manage time” any more than the rest of us. Time cannot be “managed” or “found”. We all have the same amount of time in a day, a week, a month, and a year.
24 hours in a day
168 hours in a week
8,736 hours in a year
613,200 hours in a lifetime (assuming a life span of 70 years)
306,600 hours left (assuming you’re now 35 years old)
How many hours do you have left in your life? Take a minute to calculate the time and write your answer in the margin. Compare the accomplishments you’ve achieved in the time you’ve already lived with the goals you want to achieve in the time you have left. Are you pleased with where you’re at and where you’re headed?
Ask yourself how you can use the remaining time to accomplish job, career, and personal goals that are meaningful for you. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do TODAY that – if I did superbly – would have significant positive results in my department, career, or personal life?”
Managing time isn’t about time at all; it’s about priorities. It’s about achievements that – at the end of the day – are most important to you. It’s about setting achievable goals and using a planful method for achieving those goals amidst the many forces vying for your time every day.
Align Your Goals With Outside Forces
Have you ever started a diet around the holidays? Unless you opted to go to a health camp for the holidays, you probably succumbed to the many temptations of tasty, not-very-healthy food found during these times. The fact that no one else seemed to be dieting didn’t help either! In short, your goal of losing weight wasn’t aligned with the realities of the season.
The same is true of goals. Goals are easier to achieve if they are aligned with outside forces. As an example, if your professional goal is to achieve a lateral promotion to another part of the United States and the company’s goal is to reduce all transfers, your goal is not aligned with outside forces and you will have a challenge meeting your goal.
If your goals ARE NOT aligned with company goals, you may be seen as a malcontent – a troublemaker. If your goals ARE aligned with company goals, you are seen as supporting the company and your team is seen as a major contributing force in the organization.
Ask yourself, “Will the achievement of my goals help the company achieve its goals?” If your goals MIGHT NOT align with the company’s goals, you may wish to revisit your goal (or consider finding another company to work for!).
Anchor Your Goals With Inside Forces
It’s also important that your goals are anchored to your inner forces or values. If you don’t value the achievement of your goal, or the achievement of your goal goes against your values and principles, your goal will be difficult to achieve.
Ask yourself, “Will the achievement of this goal reinforce who I am as a team member, leader, or person?” If your goal MIGHT NOT reinforce who you are, you may want to revise your goal.
Link Your Goals With Other(s’) Goals
Finally, achieving a goal is easier if it is linked to another goal that you have or to another person’s goal. You may find that several of your goals may link together nicely; by working on one, you can easily work on several. Even more powerful is linking your goal to another person’s or department’s goal.
Ask yourself, “Who else might benefit from the achievement of this goal?” Discuss your goal with this person to see if there’s a possibility of working on mutually beneficial goals.
By aligning, anchoring, and linking our goals, they become easier to achieve.
NOTE: Once you have identified your goals, you will want to record them in a conspicuous place – one where you can see the goals on a daily basis.
Long-term Success Happens a Week at a Time
When you go on a diet, are you “good” every single day? If you blow your diet by going out one night, do you give up on your goal? The answer (hopefully) is “no.” Likewise, if your goal is to get promoted within a year and you haven’t done anything about it today, do you give up on your goal? The answer is “no.” Most people focus too much on the long-term goal OR on the day-to-day task. The truth is that you must look past the day-to-day and before the long-term goal to your intermediate goal.
Think about how you walk. Try walking by looking down at each step you take. You may not ever stumble, but you will certainly lose track of where you’re headed. Now, try to walk by looking at your destination (say a building a mile away); you MAY reach your goal if you don’t fall down the steps or get run over by a truck as you cross the street! To walk effectively, you must look forward – not a mile forward, but several steps ahead.
To effectively achieve your long-term goals, you must first break them down into intermediate goals, goals that can be reasonably achieved in a week (or for longer-term goals, in a month).
You will want to keep track of these intermediate goals on a monthly calendar. NOTE: You will also want to keep track of appointments, meetings, and other business action items on this monthly calendar as well; this will enable you to quickly see how packed or free any specific week will be.
Having long-term and intermediate goals are the first two steps to “managing time.” The third step is to ACT! As the saying goes, “The longest journey begins with the first step.”
Many people – all with good intentions – ignore the realities of the day when they first start integrating their intermediate goals into their daily regimen. They forget that they have meetings they’re supposed to attend, job commitments they’re expected to fulfill, and other things that will tug and pull at their available time. As a result, they become frustrated with their lack of progress on their goals and become angry with the things – work and family obligations – that is taking all their time.
Take a few minutes each morning to plan your day:
Step 1: Identify your appointments, meetings, and other business action items.
Your first step in planning your day is to transfer appointments and other business action items from the monthly calendar. These are non-discretionary: you’ve already made commitments to them. Take time now to transfer any appointments and business action items from your monthly calendar onto your daily calendar in their appropriate places.
Step 2: Plan your daily duties.
Your second step is to plan your daily duties such as phone calls, mail, inbox items, etc. These are activities that are less defined than action items but still require a portion of your day. By planning these duties, you allot time for them without letting them drive your entire day.
Step 3: Make appointments with yourself.
Your third step is to “make appointments with yourself” by identifying which intermediate steps you wish to tackle today. Transfer these discretionary activities (intermediate steps) from your Goal Planning page. This makes discretionary items non-discretionary by the simple act of recording the item in the daily plan. You move the future into the present so you can act upon it now!
Here are some tips to help you “manage time” and achieve long-term success:
• Limit the number of activities you plan for a day. Commit to – and complete – a few activities rather than overcommitting.
• Make a habit of planning for 15 minutes every day.
• Do your priority first. Period. Include a quiet time to accomplish your top priority.
• Take a long-range view of your commitments. Does your calendar fill up quickly? Should it? Space your non-discretionary time carefully week to week.
• Take a medium-range view when planning time for your intermediate steps. “What is the one thing that I know if I did superbly THIS WEEK would have significant positive results in my department, career, and/or personal life?”
• Use your time management system to keep important information such as your department, career, and personal goals and intermediate steps; your appointments, business action items, and other commitments; and your contacts.
Entelechy’s Time Mastery Tip
“What is the one thing I can do TODAY that – if I did superbly – would have significant positive results in my department, career, or personal life?”