‘There just isn’t enough time to get everything done.’ Not only have we heard people say this but you have said it to yourself. The problem with that phrase is that you don’t have to do everything. What you need to do are the things that are most important. And, there IS enough time to do what is important. Winston Churchill said, “It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
Everyone has 24 hours every day, 168 hours every week, 8,736 hours every year. Think of the most successful people in the history of the world. They have (or had) the same amount of time that you and I do. They just decided to spend their time differently.
A common defense is that you don’t have control of your time. People will say that other people or responsibilities determine how their time must be spent. That is not entirely true. Most of the time consequences are determined by other people or responsibilities. What you need to decide is whether you can accept the consequences for how you spend your time. Sometimes those consequences are unbearable but if you are honest with yourself you still make the decision. How you spend your time is within your control.
Stephen Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities.”
Whether you plan how you spend your time or not, you are already making decisions about what’s important. What people usually don’t do well is determining what the most important things are beforehand.
To start to have an understanding of how you spend your time:
- Make a list of everything you do in a given day. Write this list in a column. Some examples might be, sleep, getting dressed, breakfast, commuting, meetings, lunch, exercise, preparing dinner, dinner, family time, reading, email, watching TV, doing homework, playing games, laundry, extracurricular activities, etc. Add whatever else you do to this list.
- In the next column write down how much time each of these activities takes for you to do each day. (keep it simple and use half hour or quarter hour increments)
- Add up the total.
What is the number that you added up?
- Is your number less than 24 hours?
- If so, what activity do you do that you did not put in your list. Add that to the list and add the total time again.
- If there isn’t anything else to add, where did you miss judge the amount of time you spend? The 24 hours doesn’t change. You are spending your time doing something. Label it and add it to your list.
- Is your number more than 24 hours?
- If so, what did you list that you really don’t do. If someone else actually does that activity, then remove it from your list (ex. delegated tasks like housework).
- If you still have a number greater than 24 hours, review your list and adjust the time to what is real. I’ll make a bold statement here but I can say with confidence that it is impossible to spend more than 24 hours in a day. Make the numbers right.
This exercise should help you realize where you are spending your time. Are you spending your time doing things that are making a difference in your life or in someone else’s life? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing those activities. Only you can manage your own time and decide what is most important. A future post will show how you can determine which activities you should be spending your time doing.
Please share some of your results in the comments for this post.