Over and over again, I hear people say, “I just don’t have enough time.” But last I checked, everyone – from the super successful to the super unsuccessful – has the same number of hours in each day.
Therefore, managing our time is a big fat lie. We can manage how we live, work, and exist within time… but we can’t manage actual time.
The key lies in how we use the time that we do have. The most highly productive individuals make strategic choices on how they use their time and they set good boundaries so they make the most of the time they do have.
Just Say No
It comes down to setting your daily, weekly, and monthly activities as priorities in your calendar. Sometimes we think the only things we need to calendar are appointments, meetings, phone calls, and other “To dos.”
What if you also treated your tasks and projects like this? What if you calendared specific time to work on them vs. “hoping to find time” in between everything else? If you’re only calendaring your “real” appointments, it’s all too easy to pack your day full of phone calls, meetings, and errands, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, leaving no time to get anything else done. Prioritizing your commitments requires making firm decisions about everything.
There’s a quote I use a lot with our clients at McLean International: When you say YES to one thing, you are saying NO to another. Think about that for a moment… how many times do we say YES – when someone asks if we can do this or that, go here or there, whatever it might be we are asked to do. It’s almost a kneejerk thing. We have a tendency to quickly respond with a “YES of course I’ll do it!” After all, saying yes is certainly a no muss, no fuss conversation where you can avoid the awkwardness of turning someone down or giving a reason for your no. But when it comes to your time, when you agree to do one thing, you are potentially compromising something else that realistically needs your attention.
Task Management Method
In order to make the most of your time you must begin by finding out what currently fills it. This higher level awareness of what you are getting done, and what you are NOT getting done, can transform how you structure your day, including how you leverage yourself by delegating and relying on the skills of others around you.
How are YOU using YOUR time?
The Activity Breakdown exercise that we use with our clients (available for free on www.McLeanInternational.com) serves four purposes:
- It helps you cast a vision for your ideal week.
- It provides a way to track how you actually spend your time.
- It compares your vision with your actual week and assesses what needs to be adjusted to help you prioritize better, manage your tasks effectively, and thus maximize your productivity.
- The tool also allows you to acknowledge yourself when you DO get something done, and then analyzes what you did to make it happen. Ultimately it is the tool that reveals what you DID and DIDN’T do with the time you were given for the day.
Here’s how the Activity Breakdown exercise works:
- Print out two copies of your blank weekly schedule or have the document open on your desktop for easy recording.
- Prior to an upcoming week, dare to dream your ideal week. Close your eyes and visualize how you would like to spend your time in a way that will support your goals and responsibilities.
- Then, in each slot on the grid, fill in the details of what you’ve just visualized. Carrying over what you visualize to a written plan is the beginning of setting yourself up for success. The more specific and detailed the better the odds that you’ll do what it takes to make it a reality. Start by prioritizing the most important things that aren’t negotiable (such as catching a flight or attending your child’s school event).
- Now, throughout the week use your second copy to fill in what ACTUALLY happens. Be absolutely ruthless in tracking what you’re doing and how you’re spending your time! This exercise is meant to help you become more productive, not judge you or create self-guilt that you’re somehow doing something wrong.
- At the end of the week, place both schedules side by side for comparison, and ask yourself the following assessment questions.
How did you do?
- What is the thing or things that took you away from your plan this week?
- What could you have done to lessen the amount of time you were pulled off track?
- Make a list of all the distractions you noted this week? What created those distractions (yourself, others, etc.)?
- What can you do in the future to reprioritize your time to avoid being pulled away from the vision of your ideal week?
I want to challenge you to start using the Activity Breakdown tool today! If you do, it will make a real difference in how you manage your time.
Finally, look at any extremely productive famous person. Imagine what it was like for them before they became super successful. What was it that they did that was different from other people? What do you think they were prepared to do to help them move in the direction of their goals?
You are right if you answered, “They made a plan, along with making decisions that would ONLY have a positive impact on their goals or their dream.” Yes, they were willing to make sacrifices and be persistent. It all started with the choices they made every day, every hour, and every minute.
What are YOU prepared to do differently to reach your goals?
Guest Writer-Linda McLean
Linda McLean is CEO and founder of McLean International, and is a Certified Business Coach, Speaker, and a #1 International Bestselling Author. She can be reached via Linda@McLeanInternational.com or at 775-851-8934.