Take Charge of Your Time

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  • Overwhelm

  • Stress

  • Too much "to-do"

  • Zero time

I have found these perceptions to be prolific throughout the workplace.

And that's not a big surprise to me.

The message of "do, do, do!" has soaked into our modern culture. We can work faster (thanks to technology) and longer (thanks to Red Bull and espresso) than ever before. We can even work farther - a single person can build a website that could influence millions in less than a week .

Remarkable feats, for sure!

The question is, however, how much of your time is spent on tasks that you consciously chose and how much time do you spend on tasks that were (un)graciously bestowed upon your lap?

How many meetings are you added to but you don't see the value of your presence?

How much control do you think you have over your time?

My guess is, not as much as you like. Let me rephrase that - not as much as you're capable of controlling.

A Lifetime Supply of Time

Time is the most precious commodity that you have. When you're born, you're given a lifetime supply of time. And you spend that time every moment. Imagine that you were born with a massive checking account but the rule was that you had to spend $1 every minute for the rest of your life.

Who would you give that money to and why?
Would you let others just take what they wanted from the account?
Would you roll down the window of your car and let the cash fly out?
What would you consciously choose to do with your money?

What I've found while coaching is that much of the overwhelm and stress that we experience comes from spending time on tasks that we don't value or tasks that we have "no choice" but to do. But you do have a choice. You get to choose how you spend your time, because you hold the keys to your lifetime supply of time.

Now, this doesn't mean that you start declining every meeting and burn your to-do list. Rather, this is simply a reminder to pause and look at where you chose to spend your time. Awareness is the first step towards change.

I used to unconsciously spend my time all the time; these days, it's more conscious. I have more awareness when it comes to how I spend my time, and I'm growing my capability every day. I season my day with little check ins to pause and reflect. Some things that I like to ensure I spend time on include...

  • Learning time (eg. reading, podcasts, Ted Talks)
  • Outdoor time (eg. walking, running, sitting on a bench)
  • Health time (eg. body looseners, stretching, exercising)
  • Still time (eg. breathing, meditation)
  • Family time (eg. playing with the kids, cooking with my wife).
  • Flex time (eg. unscripted and spontaneous time to spend on whatever I feel like)
  • Work time (eg. small and focused blocks of time on tasks that I deem as most important)
  • Creative time (I'm still working on getting this one in every day, but examples include writing and woodworking)

Being Responsible for your Time

From here, I have few suggestions for you to consider:

  1. Create a list of categories that you want to ensure you spend time on every day. You can steal as much as you want from my list.
  2. Decline attending one meeting this week that you think you don't need to attend and communicate to the stakeholders why you chose to decline.
  3. Cross one long-standing item off your to-do list and communicate to the stakeholders why you chose to remove that item from your list.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb