Get Your Time Back. (It’s Yours, Fight For It.)

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How has your week been? Did it feel like it has escaped you? Let’s talk about reclaiming some of your time.

I cannot buy more time. I better be careful how I spend it.  — Warren Buffett Click To Tweet

The Choice (Of Time) Is Yours

When people share concerns about time escaping them, they often view it as something that makes a decision to walk away. But time is a constant: every day has the same 24 hours. The sun rises and sets. What you do as each day goes by is in your hands.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are things beyond your reach like accidents, or health emergencies. Outside of that, you have the choice of what goes on your calendar, how much of it, and how frequently.

I’m not sure why we call it time management. What it really is has more to do with our values, which inform our priorities, which inform our decisions about what gets our attention every day. Boundaries are then what erects a protection around those priorities and allocated blocks of time.

Time doesn't escape you, it goes where you direct it. – Corinna Hagen Click To Tweet

Trace Your Steps In A Calendar Audit

Let’s trace it back: Your calendar, in essence, is filled with decisions around your priorities. Some are influenced by others, like your work responsibilities. If you find a large portion of your day not leading you to these priorities, reassess your calendar and where you chose to spend your most precious commodity, time.

To claim back power over your calendar, you need to have clarity about what each hour should be spent on. Run a calendar audit. Similar to time-blocking, take a few highlighters and mark your calendar use off in 4 colors:

  • Green for active personal use like family dinners, workouts, etc.
  • Blue is for active professional use like work hours, business dinners, conferences, etc.
  • Grey is for inactive time – whether work or life, e.g., commute, sleep, etc.
  • Red is for wasted time. This is up to you to define. It may include time you cannot recover that takes away from your priorities, such as interruptions by chatty colleagues who have a hard time ending meetings, or dysfunctional processes, or your favorite escape activity keeping you from doing the work (a.k.a. procrastination).

Looking at your visualization will quickly show what needs to shift to create balance, achieve your priorities and stop busywork. Time doesn’t escape you, it goes where you direct it. You make the majority of those choices.

Catch Hidden Activities

The previous activity looked into the past for analysis. In addition to viewing historic data, look at the small, unscheduled activities. Oddly enough, we often don’t add things to our calendar that consume a significant amount of our day.

This week, take a notebook and jot down everything you are doing every waking hour of the day for 2 weeks. Keep it simple: Bullet points or keywords are enough. Mark useful things that are in line with your priorities with a ‘★’ and time wasters, false urgencies, and inefficiencies with an ‘x’ – or color code your list if you prefer that. Review your list at the end of each day and again at the end of each week to reflect on the ratio of those markers and take note of what you learn. You will see patterns emerge and gain greater awareness in the moment, which will allow you to be more selective and less impulsive.

The payoff for self-awareness and contextual awareness is the gift that keeps on giving. – Corinna Hagen Click To Tweet

All of my clients get introduced at one point or another to what I have labeled 5×5 journaling. A 5×5 journal approach refers to taking 5 minutes at 5 PM (or whenevery you end your day) to reflect. This can be done in different ways. Here are some simple reflection examples you can do in those 5 minutes:

  • What should I keep/start/stop doing?
  • What worked well/didn’t work well?
  • What priorities have I abandoned, and what was my reasoning?
  • What created vs sapped my energy and motivation?

It is nearly impossible not to reap the rewards of better decisions, higher mindfulness, improved presence, and more fulfillment when you commit to adhering to this tiny reflection habit. The payoff for self-awareness and contextual awareness is the gift that keeps on giving.

Related resources:

  • The Busy Detox Program for Leaders (Article) – 5 min. read
  • Bill Gates and Warren Buffet on Time Management (Video) – 1 min.
  • Prioritizing Effectively as a Leader (Video Course) – 36 min.
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Book) – 314 pages
  • 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management (Audio) – 8 min.

Get your time back!

LC#3

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