Have you ever noticed how much time we spend complaining about time? It’s quite a strange phenomenon, don’t you think? Now, more than ever in our history, have we had so little time, doesn’t it feel that way? The fact is that we have exactly as much time as anyone ever had, since the beginning of time. The questions are what we are doing with it, why we are always looking for more, and trying to figure out how to “manage” it. How many times have you said or heard these words, “If only I could manage my time better.” First step…call MYTH Busters!
Yes, you read it correctly. Time management, in this author’s opinion, is a myth that holds people back. Think about it, it’s already managed for us ebbing and flowing from seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to years and there is nothing we can do to influence it or change it. Nothing, that is other than choosing our perspective of it and deciding how to use it.
What’s your perspective of time? Here is what I hear from people, there’s not enough time; I don’t have time; I’m running out of time; that was a waste of time; I missed the time deadline; time goes by so quickly. This creates a perspective of lack. Sir John Lubbock said, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” If you look at time through a perspective of lack, that is exactly what we will create. What if, instead of looking at time as an obstacle, you could look at it as a tool, a guide to help you decide how to best spend it?
Consider this, most of us are creatures of habit. As humans we like habit, it keeps us feeling safe and secure. It makes life easier. Even when we go on vacation we create habit. It may take a couple of days, but sooner or later you realize a sense of flow in your surroundings; a sense of flow in how the days are spent. This is something that happens unconsciously, which is great on vacation, but not so much in real life. Operating unconsciously may feel safe, but, in reality, it keeps us blind to what we really want, what options are available and causes us to forget that we have choice in whatever we do.
Many people start their own business so they can be more autonomous, choose how they want to spend their time, work on what they want to work on and still find themselves a slave to time. Why? Because no matter what we do, who we work for, where we work or if we work, time is always there, forever present and easy to whittle away. Every day we are given 24 brand new hours to spend, what a gift. Yet, we don’t seem to value it as a gift, we take it for granted.
One of the biggest time sinks for most professionals is email. It is so easy to get sucked into checking email constantly. What’s there now? Have I missed something, did so and so reply to me yet? And, by the way, while I’m here let me Google this topic I’ve been interested in, or how about a quick look at Face Book. Before you know it an hour has passed. And, sometimes, we’re just plain tired, feel lazy and don’t want to do anything else, but we want to look and feel busy. Easy to do, but not easy to feel good about.
Okay enough of what holds us back. Let’s take a look at ways you can make better use of time. The most important thing is to first understand what you want. What gives you energy, satisfies a need, uses your skills and talents and serves a greater purpose. This is called motivation. When you’re day is over, what is it that would cause you to feel good about how you’ve spent your time? When we truly value something, believe it to be true, and give it a high priority, we will do it and enjoy it. But when we don’t value something and we’re doing it because somebody else thinks it would be good for us, or we could, should, would do, if we could (hint, eliminate those words from your vocabulary), we will just continue to use time as an excuse and it will not happen or will cause procrastination. And, every time we do that, we feel less and less good about ourselves and more a victim of time.
Here’s something to try, first take some time to really get in touch with what you really need and want and list all the things you have to do. Now prioritize everything on your list. Think about what’s urgent and important, what’s not urgent and important, what’s not important and urgent and what is not urgent and not important. Try not to judge yourself or create reasons why something won’t work as you do this. This concept comes from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen Covey. It’s a great book, if you haven’t read it; I’d suggest you consider it.
As business owners and professionals we carefully budget revenues and expenses and measure our success by looking at our P&L. Time is one of our most precious assets as well as our most costly expenses, yet we don’t budget it and we don’t measure it. Here’s my challenge to you. Create a perspective of time as a line item to be budgeted for and measured for success. How much does it cost you every time you waste time and what do you want instead?