Everyone wants more time. More hours in the day. More chances to do what they love, spend time with others, read, learn, more time so they can ride their bike to work instead of driving.
Hence the huge number of time management tools out there. But here’s the thing: We can’t manage time, regardless of what choices we make we will all reach the future at the rate of 60 minutes per hour. So, time management is really just about self-awareness and self-management, the two most critical skills of life. We start managing ourselves by prioritizing the things that matter most to us.
Productivity increases when you know what’s important, and what isn’t. And once you start the process of self-management, you’ve already taken a big positive step towards being 20% more productive. Here’s how you can manage and improve your ability to match effort with outcome and prioritize what really matters.
Productivity increases when you know what you want
The first step towards time management is figuring out you want. It has been covered a hundred ways, but this is a long-term outlook, not one of immediate gratification. Stephen R. Covey encouraged us to “start with the end in mind”, before him Seneca instructed to “know the port to which one sails” and more recently Robert and Ryan Quinn suggested the question “what result do I want to achieve?” To answer this meaningfully, it helps to start broad. Really broad.
Start by thinking about what you value in life, and work to articulate it simply and clearly. For example, you might start with ‘I want to spend more time with my kids.’ Alternatively, you might say ‘I want to be more successful at my job.’
This is your sentiment, so there is no right or wrong answer. If you’re struggling, try to mine your life story for themes. Whatever it is that’s important to you, write it down.
Already, you’ve begun to take control of your efforts. Productivity increases when you start intentionally focusing on the things that matter most.
Prioritize your goals
Productivity increases when you consistently work on what’s important you. And in order to do this, you need to prioritize.
There are many different ways to do this. Even Excel has a solution if that’s your cup of tea!
One way is to take your list of high-level results that you want to achieve and write A, B, C, or D beside all of them.
This is probably the easiest way. At this stage, you’re well on your way to being more productive. Productivity increases when you have a clear goal and a clear set of prioritized objectives, which you’ve done.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways that you can prioritize your goals if this isn’t working for you. One especially popular way is to get a piece of paper and draw two lines on it, cutting it in half vertically and horizontally. Now you have a piece of paper with four quadrants.
Then, put titles at the top of each quadrant:
You can call the boxes whatever you want but the idea is you now have four priority buckets. Then, you plug in goals and tasks on your list using your prioritized list of goals as criteria to evaluate them.
I understand that most people reading this will recognize the activity, the funny thing is that few actually use this activity. When we resist consciously prioritizing and labeling our efforts, we can easily rationalize focusing on low impact activities; because this kind of busy work makes us feel productive, but in reality is the greatest thief of productivity.
Another benefit of this activity is that it puts objectives into perspective with relation to other objectives. It will help you optimize where things sit in how important they are with relation to each other.
Keep your goals in mind when you plan your efforts
So at this point, we have a list of goals and we’ve prioritized those goals, we’re well on our way to self-management and thus, better effort allocation.
Now it’s time to turn our abstract goals and life priorities into actual productivity improvements.
Track your effort so you know where it's directed
One you have prioritized goals and objectives, it’s important to know how your efforts line up with those priorities. This is the easiest indicator of whether you’re progressing towards your goals or not. This takes a couple of things.
There are plenty of tracking apps out there if you insist on being accurate and granular. Alternatively, you can take a big picture approach by simply recording what you did that day and how long it took in a journal.
Either approach is fine, as long as there is time for reflection. Too often the use of tools discourages reflection because we assume the valuable data is being shown to us. However, reflection on your efforts can help reveal what motivated you, when you stall, how you felt about various activities, etc. etc.; all things that straight data cannot offer.
Frequent reflection of our efforts should be coupled with periodically evaluating efforts every three or six months. The same way it pays to sit down and review your budget, it pays to look at how you actually spent your efforts.
And remember your original list of goals and objectives?
Now is the time to review and map your daily activity onto those goals.
For example, if one of your objectives is to spend more time with family. One way to do that is to prepare for the next day each night, so your days are more efficient and you avoid the need to stay late.
However, if it’s revealed in your effort tracking that you only did that seven times, you might want to refocus your energy on that activity. Productivity increases when we become aware of what we’re doing and have a plan in place to adjust.
Become aware when you’re making excuses
As a close follow up to knowing where efforts are directed, you need to recognize when you’re making excuses. If you find yourself saying, ‘yeah, well I didn’t leave on time because it’s a busy time at work right now’ that’s an excuse.
What you need to do is first own your behavior, and then recognize that what you’re doing is changing your habits.
And guess what?
There’s never going to be a convenient time to change your habits. Right now, your default has a set of priorities. These have probably been imposed on you, and you’re looking to use your new awareness to change them.
But to do that, you need to realize that it’s not going to be easy, and something is going to have to give. The plus side is that you’ll end up happier because you’ll be managing your efforts, your mental and physical capabilities, and your potential by working toward meaningful objectives.
Making the most out of your time isn’t about downloading a better app or ticking more and more stuff off a to-do list.
It’s about understanding that time is a limited resource that you have no control over – all you can do is figure out what’s important to YOU, and then allocate your efforts accordingly. With a focus on self-awareness and self-management, you’ll be more capable and better prepared to face the world, all the while achieving the results you want.
Want to learn more about self-management? Get in touch for an introductory call to see how we can help you today!
Our lives are perfectly designed to get the results that we're getting. If we want different results...we've got to do live differently! We have to Elevate the Ordinary!
Trust is a matter of vulnerability. We trust people who we have made ourselves vulnerable to and… https://t.co/Ja2QwMzt7S
Doubts can be debilitating! The one sure way to overcome them, is to take action. Don't let your… https://t.co/f0LGvsE7jw
A little thought from the fourth President of the United States. Some believe liberty comes from… https://t.co/Wwjjg36V3N
CONNECT WITH ME