Every morning, when we wake up, we only have 86,400 seconds for that day. Regardless of our age, gender, social status, country, … “Time is money” but, unlike money, no one can put time in a savings account for later use. Spend these seconds well when they are credited back into your “time account” at the beginning of each day or … lose them definitely.
How many times have you said and heard: “I am very busy, I never have the time!”. Sounds familiar? It is to me. And I often get paralyzed thinking of all the things I have to accomplish. Yet, if and when I regroup, I realize I have more time than I thought I had and that “everything is going to be fine, really”. So how to make these 86,400 seconds an ally (rather than an excuse)?
1. Let’s be honest with ourselves and others
Everything is a matter of conscious and unconscious choices. It is all about what our priorities are. Also, know that if you do not make these “time choices” for yourself, someone else will make these for you (if that someone else hasn’t already done so). How much time do you consciously decide to spend with your family, with friends, at work ot alone to recharge? With the Labor Day weekend being behind us, how many of you left work totally behind to spend time on non-professional related issues and really relax and “be” rather than “do”?
Decide where and when you want to spend your time, decide what you want to be spending your life doing. And do it at all time levels: day, week, month, year.
One of my favorite prioritization tools is the Mintzberg framework. Use it at all the levels mentioned above.
Create a table:
Deciding what is important vs what is not and what is urgent vs what is not is a personal choice. And this matrix helps us realize that things we considered important a while ago may not be as important as we thought it was.
The most important area of this matrix is the Important/Not Urgent. This is where your dreams are, this is where your motivations lie deep within. This is your engine.
For each area of the table, decide how much and how frequently you want to be spending time. And make sure you consider the Important/Not urgent a priority! For example, if your dream is to have your own business within 2 years, make sure you “spend” an hour or 2 per week learning marketing if marketing is not your forte. Etc… Try things out for a week or 2 and adjust if and when necessary.
2. Time is relative
Einstein was saying: “When you sit with a nice girl for 2 hours, it seems like 2 minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for 2 minutes, it seems like 2 hours”. Indeed… Time sometimes suspends and sometimes takes its time.
So how can we change our perception of time? The Pareto law, or 80/20 law applies here: 80% of our life satisfaction is concentrated into (only) 20% of our time. How can we expand these 20%? This is a challenging question: we all have non-compressible “time spendings” and limiting beliefs when it comes to time (“I never have the time” is one of them!). To move beyond these limits, we need to see things differently and experiment. Here are a few suggestions:
- Even if your day is full, accept to tackle an extra task without extending your workday (this one seems counter-intuitive but is really worth a try).
- Give up solving a minor problem or issue. There is a saying: “In the long term, no problem resists a total lack of solution”
- Turn off your mobile phone and only turn it back on at specific pre-determined hours
- Decide to work an hour less each day without reducing your workload.
Try things out, be curious, draw your own conclusions, find your own way to challenge your perception of time.
3. Time is money
As mentioned earlier… Let’s look at this literally. What if we were to manage our time the same way we manage our money? Some spendings are inevitable (food, housing, clothes, …), some spendings are for leisure (holidays, hobbies, relaxation, …), some spendings are investment-related (retirement, savings, …). How can you compare time and money? Here are a few idea joggers:
- Would you buy a piece of clothing you don’t like? When we approach this question with the angle of time management: would you spend your time with someone that you don’t particularly enjoy or appreciate?
- When it comes to leisure, would you spend money on a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant? Applied to time, would you spend time having dinner in good company?
- Regarding investment-related expenses, would you save money for retirement? When applied to time, would you spend time reading personal growth books or attend workshops or training to keep up with new technologies, etc…?
- If your revenue were to increase by 20%, what would you do with that extra money? Now, ask yourself the same question about time. What would you do with that extra time? For you, what are the expenses that are justified, what are the ones that are not?
Have fun asking and comparing. Discover the questions you ask yourself about money and replace “money” with “time”. You’ll only become more aware of your relationship with time and what your priorities are.
4. Have boundaries.
No, you are not being selfish. When you set clear and honest boundaries, people respect them. You could decide that you will never work from home or that, whatever happens at work, you will not be available from 5 to 8 PM during family or friend time. You can decide when you are available by email or mobile phone on and off the workplace. You can decide you will pick up the kids at least once a week. You can decide you will spend at least 3 hours a week to workout, you can decide to organize at least one dinner a month with friends at your house. Just decide. And make it clear to others.
5. Be in the moment.
When you take a shower, really take a shower. Concentrate on the noise and feel of the water rather than running all the things that you have to get done before lunch. This will not make things happen anyway. Instead, by learning to be fully present, you will gradually become more efficient. Stop the multi-tasking. Meditate every day. 2 minutes can be enough to recharge, let go, put things into perspective and find inner joy. Disclaimer: this advice comes from a person (me) who has been the best meditation sceptic and procrastinator and who would roll her eyes when hearing “Meditation has changed my life”. Give it some thoughts… It’s worth it.