Know where your time goes – and make it go further

Know where your time goes – and make it go further

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“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.”
Charles Darwin

This point is so simple and easy that anybody can do it. Do it properly, and it will deliver great results for you.

Everybody has the same 24 hours each day – the big difference is that some people use that time better! People who manage their time well have better control over their lives – and are usually more successful at what they do.

Do you know how you are currently spending your time? If not, it’s difficult to know what to do  to better to utilize your time: the most precious of resources.

Let’s look at the balance of your life. Here’s a very practical exercise, adapted from David Carter’s book ‘Breakthrough’ to help you visualise how much of your time you spend on various areas of your life, and get things in perspective. You need 7 or 8 containers (choose whatever you like: cups, wine glasses, or bowls), 12 identical items (choose from marbles, champagne corks, pebbles, etc), and some post-it notes.

Take containers, and label each one with a post-it note to signify a different area of your life: family, friends, business, health, hobbies, adventure, spirituality, learning… whatever is appropriate for your lifestyle.

Think of how you’re spending your time in general. Distribute the marbles (or other items) around the containers to reflect how you’re spending your time and energy. Use all of the marbles.

Reflect upon how satisfied you are with that distribution, and the balance you’re achieving.
What changes in your life can you make, to improve things?
Share the marbles around the containers to reflect your ideal, improved life.
Plan to achieve that greater balance.
Take action now to make that happen.

This test gets you to see the big picture and make more strategic choices about your use of time. This gives you the ‘why’ – the purpose of making changes, to achieve greater balance. Then you can work on the ‘how’. For example, you may decide that you need to spend more time on leisure or family, so you commit to only going into the office 3 days per week, or to triple the amount of holiday time you take. These are the really important long term decisions that enable you to achieve your ideal, well-balanced, happy life.

To look at the finer detail of how you spend your time, try another exercise. Look at your working time in general areas over the past six months.

For the six month diary exercise:
Photocopy or print off your last 6 months’ diary entries. And your next six months’
Look over the last 6 months entries from your diary
Take a red marker pen and cross out anything that was a waste of your time, or your company’s time – or a waste of money
Take an orange marker pen and cross out anything that someone else could have done, or you could have delegated
Work out what percentage of your tasks and appointments could or should have been deleted or delegated (some people are shocked to find 50% of their time is wasted in this way)
Take a yellow highlighter pen and mark down times when you were learning, growing and developing
Take a green highlighter pen and mark down times when you were really ‘in the zone’- playing to your strengths and being the best version of yourself. When you were doing what you do best, like nobody else can!

Review this. Think – what if you ONLY spent your time on the green stuff? Doing what only you can do, in your organisation. What if you deleted or delegated EVERYTHING else? You can do some of the yellow, to create even more green in future… IMAGINE how different your life can be!

Look at the next 6 months in your diary. Do the same exercise – this time, deleting, delegating and managing all that time so much better that it makes space and frees you to be unique and excellent (green), and to grow and learn (yellow). SHAPE your time to allow this, and do things differently.

The above task only looks at your diary appointments and meetings – not all the other elements of work – the time it takes you to read or write emails, make telephone calls, read or write reports, daydream, have impromptu conversations or travel to and from sites.

So take this exercise further, and identify what you currently do in a normal day, or a normal week. Be very honest with yourself. Then go over it and see what you’re wasting your time on – what can be deleted altogether, and what can be delegated to someone else.

From this simple time audit, writing down what you actually do enables you to identify issues and make changes when you see any problems:

Where is the time going?
How much of that time gets you where you want to go?
How much of that time adds real value?
Review how you’re spending your time every three months or so, and see what results you’re getting.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, change things.

Once your audit shows how you are spending your time, you can identify where you’re wasting your time. And most importantly, for each problem, decide what you can do to improve things. Possible solutions:

Modify the order in which you schedule tasks. E.g. if you found you were on hold for too long,  or people weren’t available, make calls earlier or later, or on a different day.

Modify the way you do things. Change your systems or processes to streamline them; arrange meetings with key employees rather than ‘turn up’ at someone’s desk or call them to ‘pop over’; pass on tasks to employees, or use a Virtual Assistant.

Avoid or remove distractions. If you have a TV or newspaper in your office and your audit shows you are often reading or watching the news, get rid of it.

Delete activities which are low-value. What happens if you just don’t do it at all? If the consequences are trivial, don’t do it.

Do more high-value activities.

Delegating or automating can free up your time to focus on really important things. Look at what adds value, what no-one but you can do, and what drives you and your business forward.

You’ll be amazed by how much more ‘spare’ time you have to spend more productively. Awareness is half the battle. Noticing a problem is the first step to developing solutions. Highlight the obvious problems. Then resolve them! And most importantly – put your plans into action.

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at getintouch@marcwinn.com.

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