Managing Yourself – Step 3: Effective Time Management

Introduction

This GovLoop series on “Managing Yourself” provides readers with the right skills, tools and mindset to be proactive about their development and as a way to thrive and succeed, both professionally and personally. Thus far, we’ve covered “Knowing Thyself,” and “Goal Setting.” Our post this week is the next step in your road map for success: effective resource allocation (aka, time management).

Time Management

In order to thrive and succeed we need to make good and effective use of all the resources available to us. Arguably, the two most valuable resources at our disposal are time and money. And time, unlike any other resource out there is the ONLY one we’ll never get more of.

Also, time is the great equalizer. You, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and the kid mowing the lawn down the street all have the exact same amount of time available every day. What separates the “high achievers” then from everyone else is how they use their time. They treat their time as an investment for the future, whereas many of us unknowingly are treating it as a cost for the present. By choosing to invest time rather than spend it, the high achievers make it seem as though they have nearly unlimited time and flexibility for everything. So how can we shift our thinking to be a little more like them?

Start with an Audit – Deconstruct Your Week

Our friend from earlier posts, Earl Nightingale, integrates principles of time management into nearly every one of his lectures. Why? Because time and money are our most valuable resources and for the vast majority of us, our funds are limited (school loans, kids, etc.). So the resource most readily at our disposal is time.

He uses an exercise in which he asks listeners to think about how much time they really have in a day or in a week. After hearing a variety of answers he begins mathematically deconstructing the week to depict just how much time is REALLY available to us to do the things we want (exercise more, read more or think more).

For example, a week has 168 hours. If we sleep 8 hours a night and work 40 hours a week, we’re still left with 72 hours. If we take an hour to get ready and two hours to eat every day we still have 51 hours available to us! Let’s throw in an hour to work out and another 2 hours for commuting… we still have 30 hours left! You get the idea. So what we’re most interested in is how to invest the 30+ hours available to us every week.

In an excellent post about time management, author/blogger, Brett McKay, makes the point that you can tell a lot about an organization NOT by listening to what they SAY they do but by looking at how they spend their resources. In the same light, you can tell a lot about a person by looking at how they spend/invest their time.

So, the question remains, how do you invest your time each week? To get an answer, you undoubtedly need to track it. You can do this in a variety of ways: journaling, keeping a timesheet, or my personal favorite, asking friends, family and colleagues for feedback. They’ll be able to tell you what you may not see for yourself.

Rebuild Your Week According to Your Goals

Once you’ve seen and received feedback on how you spend your time each week, you’ll know what your time investments are and what your time costs are. Now it’s time to re-construct your week to fit everything in that needs to be there… both work and play.

Begin with the things you need to do each week (these are usually activities that are dictated by life):

  1. Sleeping – 6-8 hours a night
  2. Working – 40 hours
  3. Getting ready/commuting – 17 hours
  4. Eating – 1.5 hours

Then allocate what’s left according to your priorities and goals:

  1. Spending time with family – 2 hours
  2. Exercising – 1 hour
  3. Reading – 1 hour
  4. Watching your favorite TV show – 1 hour

It’s important to note that this isn’t a one-and-done kind of activity. As we progress through life circumstances change and we need to adapt. Thus, this should be a frequent activity – monthly, weekly, and even daily activity!

Critical Tips and Tricks

  1. Decide what’s urgent and what’s important. Urgent tasks are daily “fires” whereas important tasks are investments in future returns. It’s important to spend as much time on important tasks as possible. Everything else will fall into place eventually. Also, author and speaker, Jim Collins, suggests having only three priorities. If you have more than that, you have no priorities.
  2. Avoid time sucks. Or at least limit them – these are inefficient uses of time that yield little in future returns. Examples: social media, mindless web browsing or watching too much news (it’s all the same after half an hour anyway).
  3. Delegate where you can.  This is especially true if you’re the manager – you need to be able to let go and enable your colleagues and team. This frees you up to spend time on important tasks.
  4. Learn to say “no.” Try it once, it’s very liberating. It will enable you to spend time on doing things you want to do, instead of on things you have to do.
  5. Create efficient routines. Don’t waste a minute of your valuable time. In fact, if you can do two things at once you can maximize your time. Examples include listening to podcasts/news while you get ready in the morning, reading on your commute, spending time with your family eating. The possibilities here are endless and you can customize to your liking.
  6. Outsource. Switch out tasks that you don’t like doing for tasks that you prefer doing. Example: dry clean your clothes – for a few extra dollars every couple of weeks you can save yourself several hours of work. AND, you don’t just get clean and neatly pressed clothes as a return, you also get time to spend on a side hustle, go to the park, eat dinner with friends, etc. It’s really a two for one deal.
  7. “Get Action.” This is a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

The Takeaway

Time is the most readily available resource to us and in many ways the most valuable because we’ll never get more of it. It’s important to allocate this resource as best we can to ensure that we can do and achieve everything we want in our lives. By looking at how we spend our time we can create a time budget that enables us to seize opportunities when they arise, while keeping our days flexible and hopefully, a little relaxing too!

So how do you spend your time?

Next Week – Part 4: Having Executive Presence.

Want to read more? Try 26 Effective Time Management Tips, or 4 Things You Need to Master Time Management.

Brian Baskerville is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Profile Photo Emily Jarvis

The start with an audit really struck me, because I know I personally really struggle to acknowledge where I am struggling with time management. I will put that audit into practice!