“I am sorry, I really wanted to prepare a presentation for today, but I had absolutely no time for it. My son needed to go to a doctor, my daughter had some sort of a school event to prepare for, my husband needed some help with his work stuff as well. I simply didn’t have time to make a presentation. But on the other hand, why would I even need a presentation if here is no screen to show it on anyway?! And here I already start talking about a fundamental question of time-management.”
This was more or less the beginning of my speech on time-management last Saturday.
The first fundamental question of time management is: why? Why do you need to do what you are trying to do?
The second one is: and what is it exactly that you want? What are your goals? What is it that you want to have time for?
Let’s go back to my intro. I didn’t have time for a presentation, but then again – it was not needed that I had. See, some things that we do, don’t even need to be done in the first place.
Now, the excuses. All my excuses were actually true. I was indeed very busy that week. However, someone who is extremely busy still would be able to find extra time if his water pipe would have bursted. There would be extra time to clean everything up, to call a plumber, to arrange for fixing it or installing a new one…
One person told me once that all explanations except: “I want that” or “I don’t want that” are nothing but excuses.
Another good example to illustrate. I don’t have time to clean the windows. I really don’t. But then again, if someone would have given me 5000 EUR to do it, I bet I would find that time.
If we want to achieve something, we find a way; if we don’t want it, we find an excuse.
And in general everything is a matter of choice, priorities, focus and determined action.
Another thing to mention — it is also very fashionable to be busy, which in a lot of occasions is an unnecessary boast disguised as a complaint. At the end of the day, it is about the results. Ask your busy-self if you are truly going the most efficient way towards them. And in general — ask yourself some thorough why’s. Big why’s for sure; but even small why’s, like, for example, why are you ironing your husband’s shirts? Why doesn’t he do it himself? Or better — why didn’t you buy a non-iron ones and get the problem off the shelf all together? (Yes, the ironing service is also an option, but not the most cost-efficient).
In other words, try to look at your day, week, month and start eliminating useless actions. That would already give you some slack.
Think further about time-wasters you indulge in. Here, not only look at the actual minutes and hours wasted on scrolling through news or Facebook feed, but also look at your energy losses. How many hours have you spent last month going through unnecessary emotions, worries, over and over again reciting your story in your own head? How many times you actually got yourself into this energy-draining exercise after which you were unable to do anything else? Now do the math.
Next, the power of small steps is the most underrated power of all. Small determined steps in the right direction add up to big success. Always. The ones who say otherwise, either don’t have the focus figured out or fail at self-discipline. However if you know what you want and want it bad enough to persistently move in its direction, you have no other outcome but to succeed.
Now the tools. Everybody loves clear, easy, magical tools. The problem with tools is that it all anyway starts with a mindset first. No magic here and even the most efficient tool can be useless without the right mindset. But still… let’s review some of the tools out there:
- “Eisenhower matrix“, simply said, breaks everything in two dimensions: urgent on one axis, important on the other. Everything that is important and urgent is to be done first; important, but not urgent requires a fixed end date; unimportant but urgent needs to be delegated; and finally unimportant and not urgent — just dropped and forgotten. Good tool to take into account, but please don’t waste your time trying to fill in the matrix on a daily basis.
- An add-on to the above tool is something preached by Rory Vaden. Significance dimension. You see, there some things you can do today which will save you time from now onwards. An investment at first, yet with a high return on that investment. Further, Rory suggests to pass any task through the following questions:
- How can I eliminate this? (give yourself a permission to ignore)
- Can I automate this?
- Can I delegate this?
When the answer is “no” on all three counts, the last question comes: Should I do it now? Positive reply calls for focus and self-discipline. Negative – puts the task on hold and back “into the queue” for going through the initial three questions. Until either you can find courage to eliminate it, find a way to automate it, or gather mental strength to delegate or just finally do.
- Great tool is also David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done). In the essence for every input you start with figuring out if you personally need to do it. If no, whether you need to keep thinking about it. Obviously if not — just “trash and forget”. The next step, assuming you need to personally do the task, is deciding whether you can do it quickly and if yes, don’t even put it on your to-do list, but just do the thing. And if the task cannot be done quickly, set a deadline and schedule it.
(True! I cannot forget to mention scheduling.)
If there is something important, schedule it!
If you need to think about something, schedule it.
If you need to sit down and draft your life plan, schedule it.
Schedule it and stick to the schedule. Start with filling up your schedule with the most significant stuff and the rest will follow.
- Coming back to tools, I want to mention the last one. Get yourself a kitchen timer. Heard of Pomodoro method? You need to define a task, set the timer for 25 minutes, work on the task until the timer rings. Take a break. Repeat.
Don’t be too tools-focused: if 25 minutes is too long for you, set a timer for 15. Just don’t do more, your attention span has its limits.
To draw the line, you can use any tool you want for prioritizing tasks. Whatever works for you.
- However, before you even start prioritizing, try to define your end goals. Answer yourself where are you going to? What do you want to achieve in all the different domains of yours? What are your values and your priorities at this particular moment in time?
- And why? Don’t forget the good old “why”!
- Then: eliminate time-wasting, eliminate energy-draining.
- Don’t focus on the way, focus on the destination.
- Remember the power of small steps! Smallest time investments in the “right places” bring wonderful ROI (return on investment)
There is basically no such thing as time-management, as it is all about managing yourself and that starts with thoroughly knowing thyself… And I will conclude with one of my favorite quotes of Seneka:
If you don’t know which port you are sailing to, no wind will be favorable.
And that’s where all time-management starts: knowing where are you going to and focusing on it; while, where focus goes, energy flows and… time resides.