Time is the one thing you can never get back: It’s our most precious and limited resource, it’s also the resource that’s most easily wasted. I think it's essential to have a plan for your time. There are a billion different tools and techniques to help you plan your time, but many of us struggle to cut through to the essentials.
In an effort to juggle my roles as a father, husband, author, consultant and business owner, I’ve studied a number of techniques over the last few years, and these five tips I’ve found help me feel I’m in control of my time:
1. Ask yourself what you want from your time
So much of our time is spent servicing the needs of others: our bosses, our shareholders, our husbands and wives or our kids. Often we find our days are filled up doing things for others and not ourselves. In all this, it's important that we focus on what we need to achieve, and more critically, why. It’s great to start your day by writing down the three things you want to achieve and why they’re important. This way you focus on achieving your objectives and get to celebrate your achievements daily.
2. Schedule what’s important to you first
A few years back I did an audit of how I was spending my time and I was horrified to find that less than a quarter of it was spent on things that I felt were really important to me. To avoid this, I always schedule my own priorities first. This means I schedule time for exercise, and time with my wife and my kids BEFORE I schedule meetings, calls and anything else that needs to get done.
3. Write down ‘to do’s
I hate the feeling I get when my head is buzzing with things I need to do. I find that writing down what’s in my head not only calms me down, but it also makes me feel more in control. Once I have a task written down, I can put it into context, it can be grouped with other similar tasks and I can define how its execution might help me to achieve a greater goal. And, incidentally, if it doesn’t help me achieve a goal, I can decide not to do it or to ask someone else to help me.
4. Chunk stuff
Often I find that my list of tasks for a week can easily fill a couple of pages. One hugely helpful tool I learnt from Tony Robbins is to create ‘chunks’. By grouping similar tasks together, things become more manageable. Instead of having loads of things to do, there are now a small number of chunks. I can decide what can be achieved within each of these chunks and whether there’s a better way to achieve the same result. I can also decide which individual tasks are really essential to getting the outcome and which ones can be left until later, passed to others or just forgotten!
5. Put dead time to work
We all have ‘dead’ time - those minutes spent on the train or bus, which, if we add them up amount to hours and hours every year. This time can be a huge resource if used wisely. Minutes between meetings can be used to write emails, connect with friends and family. Travel time can be used to learn new things, brainstorm solutions to problems or catch-up with a show that you can’t watch because you’ll be focussed on doing something with family. As long as this time is put to good use, you won’t find you feel like it's wasted.