Getting a Handle on Your Time
In her best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," author Marie Kondo identifies high levels of clarity and focus that result from eliminating unnecessary items from our personal and professional lives. Removing “clutter” brings with it an almost overwhelming sense of relief and an ability to spend more time and attention on the things that matter most.
The same principal can be applied to our quest to make more efficient use of our time. To “de-clutter,” we must first identify and yes, write down how we spend our time during a typical day. There is no way around it. This first and best way to start is with an activity log; your own. This can seem tedious and time consuming however the benefit of knowing in clear terms where your time goes is a valuable first step in gaining better control. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Start with set units of time you will capture (15-30 minutes is recommended). Identify the task items and major projects and activities you will record; but record everything! You can simplify the process by establishing codes for these activities to make the recording easier. Record as you go, resist the temptation to “batch” your notations; chances are you will miss something. There’s an additional benefit to doing this.
When you have to write down everything you are doing, you are likely to be far less tolerant of interruptions that take you off track. And while 15- to 30-minute increments may not seem like a lot of time, you may be amazed at the clarity of thought that results from being allowed to focus on one item, activity or project for that amount of time. Productivity and satisfaction soar.
Early in the process, expect to feel frustrated and impatient. This is normal and as with any new experience, it will pass in time. After three to four weeks, you’ll develop a rhythm and a cadence to this process allowing it to become a positive, goal-directed habit.
Summarize your time at the end of a given period by activity or project. See what percentage you spent on key items and the amount of time you spent on “stuff.” Use the following three categories to capture this:
- Things you should be doing,
- Things someone else should be doing, and
- Things no one should be doing.
If item “B” shows up frequently, your immediate response may be that there is no one to hand these things off to. That speaks to the need to further develop the team around you. If item “C” shows up, don’t be surprised (or discouraged). Get your team together and put a halt to these items at the earliest. Expect some resistance but stand firm. If there is not a bona fide business reason for an activity, task, or project, it has to go.
For more information on ways to get a handle on your time, contact me at email@example.com.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.