Blog Short #75: 2 Habits to Manage Your Time and Up Your Productivity
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
Photo by knape, Courtesy iStock Photo
Time is a limited resource. We can’t get back what we’ve used up.
This is nothing you don’t already know, but how much do you consider it in your daily life?
I read a book some years ago called Mentored by a Millionaire by Steven K. Scott. It was a great book with tons of good info, but one paragraph really got my attention. He said:
The average adult in America only lives for 3,950 weeks. If you’re 30 years old, you’ve already used 1,560 of those weeks. If you’re 40, you’ve used 2,080, and if you are 51, you may only have 1,300 weeks left.
He’s basing his numbers on living about 76 years, and many of us live longer. However, those numbers slapped me out of my complacency when I looked at this way. I decided to do something to make sure I wouldn’t look back on my life someday and regret time frittered away.
After some research and trial and error, I settled on two habits that work splendidly as long as you stick with them. I want to share them with you today.
The two habits are:
- Heavy scheduling
- Regular tracking
These aren’t new to you, but they won’t help you if you don’t create a system to use them automatically and effectively. Let’s start with why these habits are necessary if you want to stay on top of how you manage your time.
The Time Fallacy
Human beings are habitual impressionists. We have ideas about how things are, often without checking to see how accurate our conclusions match the reality. We estimate, guesstimate, fantasize this or that, and then take it for fact.
This is particularly true of our concepts about time. How often do you say to yourself,
“I don’t have enough time!”
You have a general impression, but impressions are fraught with inaccuracy. It may be absolutely true that you have too much on your plate. I don’t question that part, but it’s likely also true that you don’t know exactly where your time goes.
The Value of Tracking
Awareness is everything when it comes to making use of your time.
Tracking is the key to developing and sustaining that awareness. Without tracking, you guess, which is highly subjective!
Here are some good examples of what tracking can tell you:
Money. If you track your income and spending over three months, you’ll know your financial status in detail. You’ll get an accurate picture of your spending habits, income, debt, and interest paid on that debt. You’ll have the information you need to take control of your finances.
Food. If you write down everything you eat for a week, including quantities and calories, you’ll have an accurate picture of your diet. You’ll know if you need to make changes to improve your health or lose weight, and you’ll see where the problem lies so you can fix it.
Social media. If you track every minute you spend on social media for one week – whether you’re just browsing, checking in, or posting – you’ll find out the quantity of time you waste that could be spent somewhere more purposeful.
When you get the hang of tracking, you can use it for any activity – work tasks, sleep, spending time with family, entertainment, or for whatever you want to know more about.
When you don’t track, you likely:
- Waste time.
- Don’t spend enough time on things that are important to you.
- Feel more anxious because you think you don’t have enough time.
- Get stressed because you feel time slipping away without accomplishing your goals.
So how do I track my time?
There’s only one way, and that’s by writing down how you spend it. And that means posting it somewhere, preferably on a calendar.
Here’s what I suggest:
For one week, post on your calendar how you use your time. You can use 15-minute increments or more if you like, but you want to be accurate and specific. If you hate using a calendar, you can use a small notebook or an app on your phone. Just make sure you keep it handy.
Get as specific as you need to get the information you seek. It helps to label activities in categories like work, sleep, eating, meal prep, laundry, watching TV, chatting with your kids or partner, running errands, etc.
At the end of a whole week, add everything up.
If you’re up for it, repeat it for another three weeks. A month is better because it will capture unexpected things that pop up.
Now for Scheduling
Once you know how you spend your time, you’ll see what you want to change. It’s always eye-opening and rewarding to track something because you learn what’s real, which gives you some control and leverage on how to make improvements.
After you complete your tracking exercise, the next step is to schedule activities thoughtfully and visually. The most effective way to do this is to schedule every activity on your calendar for the week ahead. I’m a screen person, so I use my Google calendar, which syncs across all my devices. My husband uses a wall calendar and datebook. Choose the method that works best for you.
Use these guidelines to schedule:
- Schedule from the moment you get up to the moment you turn out the lights to go to sleep.
- Schedule all your activities in reasonable blocks, but with as much specificity as you need in order to know precisely what you’ll be doing. For example, if you’re doing a work block, you might list the activities out in that space. But if you have the same morning routine every weekday, simply write “morning routine” in that time block.
- Leave small windows of time open between some of your activities for transition time or for things that pop up. This is your pad time.
- Schedule downtime! This is important. If you don’t schedule it, you’ll keep trying to find it all day and likely fritter away time in wasteful ways, like scrolling through social media or sitting in front of the tube. But, if you want to watch some TV or browse social media, schedule it! Be deliberate.
- Schedule sleep time – at least 7 to 7½ hours and preferably 8.
- Don’t make it too fancy. I color code mine in three categories – work, home, appointments/errands. That’s fancy enough. If you get super elaborate, you won’t stick with it.
After you’ve tracked and scheduled for a month, take an hour or two and review what you’ve learned and changed. How did it work out? Are you using your time better and, are you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished? Do you need to say “no” more? What do you need to tweak?
Watching your time provides the means to make sure you’re spending it on what’s important to you. It adds up over the years.
Give it a try, and let me know how it works out. I’m accumulating stories for a book and would like to hear yours.
That’s all for today!
I’ll be back to you next Monday. Have a great week!!!!
All my best,