Time Management is an often sought-after topic that repeatedly comes up with my clients.
How do I get more done in less time?
Why do I always feel like I’m behind?
My days at work are filled with meetings and I have to work at night/on the weekends to catch up.
How do I know where I should best spend my time?
The truth is, the issues are far deeper than the topic of pure time management. Just trying to stuff more into your day isn’t the answer. It’s what you’re trying to stuff it with!
So today, let’s tackle time management from the lens of WHAT you are doing with your time vs. HOW you get more done.
1. Evaluate your time
The first step is to understand where your time is going. What are your time leaks? (Social Media anyone?) Where are you spending the most time? What are you doing during these times? How much time do you spend in meetings? How much time do you spend doing something that you’re not very good at and could be delegating or hiring someone else to do?
One of my favorite resources on this topic of time evaluation is by Laura Vanderkam: 168 Hours. You Have More Time Than You Think “What if we viewed every minute as a choice?” writes Vanderkam. “Leave aside, for a while, the obligations and complications of the life you currently have. Picture a completely empty weekly calendar with its 168 hourly slots.” Vanderkam has a compelling case for putting in those 8 hours of sleep a night, and 50 hours a week for work (if you desire) which leaves you with 62 hours per week for other things.
Another way I like to look at it is “What would you do if you didn’t have to do anything?” What would you fill your time with if you could start with that blank slate and fill it with whatever you desire?
Also, notice the use of the word “spend” when we talk about time. If you thought of it like money – as an investment – would you think differently?
For more about time, read HERE
2. Work inside your Zone of Genius
The Zone of Genius topic is covered nicely in Gay Hendricks’ book The Big Leap. Through the lens of taking your life to the next level and targeting those behaviours that are keeping you from accessing the best part of you, Hendricks tackles the behaviours and activities you spend your time on that are actually holding you back from your next level of greatness.
One way to uncover what your Zone of Genius is is to draw a square and divide it into four. (Or, you can access a free download HERE.) Label the box in the top left “Zone of Genius;” the box to the right of it “Zone of Excellence;” the box below that “Zone of Competence;” and the box beside that “Zone of Incompetence.” Now, take a look at the time evaluation you did earlier and fill each box with the activities you spend:
- You do, but you don’t enjoy and aren’t very good at (Zone of Incompetence)
- You do, can do it adequately but would be happy not to do it. (Zone of Competence.)
- You do, are quite good at, and enjoy doing – hint: often this is something you trained at school for (Zone of Excellence.)
- You love to do it, are exceptional at it, and feel that no one else can do it quite as well as you. (Zone of Genius.)
The goal is to spend as much time as possible in the top two zones, so as to maximize your time and ensure you are spending your time in the most valuable places.
For more about working in your Zone of Genius, read HERE.
3. Only Do What’s Essential
Earlier this month I reference a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism. In his book, subtitled The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, McKeown describes an Essentialist as someone who lives by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many and focuses on removing obstacles so the essential things get done more easily. Essentialism, McKeown says, is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making the execution of those things almost effortless.
When we merge the learnings from our Zone of Genius and our Time Evaluation with the practice of Essentialism. You will find that the demands of our time start almost magically clearing away, and you will find you have increasing time for more of what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what is fulfilling, instead of feeling drained, burnt out, and resentful of people and tasks that continually demand your time.
But is it really that easy? Let’s tackle a key thing that often gets in the way of Aligning your Time — Aligning your Boundaries.
4. Exercise Brave Boundaries to Claim Back Your Time
This is a challenging one for many women in particular. Many women are “Obligers” (see Gretchen Rubin’s book called The Four Tendencies) and want to please. In fact, more than 50% of women who take the Four Tendencies Quiz are found to be Obligers, meaning they want to help others and will put aside their own priorities to serve others. There is a lot of positive to being an Obliger, but you may find that if you keep obliging others, your own “to-do” list may be left sorely untackled.
In her book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace, by Nedra Glober Tawwab, Tawwab shares some signs that you need stronger boundaries:
- You feel overwhelmed
- You feel resentment toward people for asking for your help
- You avoid phone calls and interactions with people you think might ask for something
- You make comments about helping people and getting nothing in return
- You feel burned out
- You frequently daydream about dropping everything and disappearing
- You have no time for yourself
If any of these are you, then I highly recommend you take a look at your boundaries and where you are giving too much of your time away to other people’s priorities, and not honoring yours enough. When you Exercise Brave Boundaries and Claim Back Your Time, it will go a long way to reducing the overwhelm, resentment, and burn-out that so many professionals in my practice come to me to solve.
KEY TAKEAWAY: So what is your key action from today? I recommend tackling at least one from the list above, learning more about where your boundaries are weak, and diving into that Zone of Genius of yours. If you’d like some support along the way, please do reach out – I’d be happy to talk.
To Aligning your Time!
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