I’m amazed that an entire industry has crept up around the notion that somehow you can manage time. Last time I checked, you cannot really manage your time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you “ain’t getting no more” as one of my friends reminded me many years ago. You cannot go down to the local Target and purchase another 4 hours, and you cannot issue an executive order that starting next Monday, each workday shall have an additional four hours, increasing from 24 hours to 28. As Peter Bregman pointed out in his excellent 2011 book, 18 Minutes, you can’t recover lost time, so don’t waste it.
So what can you do if you cannot really manage time? First, you can sit down for just a few minutes and think about where you’re bound, and whether you are on track to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you’re not on the track to the outcomes you’ve been pursuing, you can refocus and reorient yourself along a new course. Where I came from, they call that a choice. You can create a daily schedule for yourself that includes you spending the majority of your time on your greatest priorities (you know, the ones that accelerate you toward the goals you want to reach…). Make sure to leave the minority of your time for the meetings, emails, phone calls that have been sapping your strength and testing your patience.
Bregman has a novel concept that spurred the title of his great book, and it works like this. Sit down with yourself for five minutes early every day and outline the biggest priorities that should consume your best thinking and greatest creative energies. Put time on your calendar to get those done, today. Work on them first, while your energy and focus are high. Stop every hour throughout the day and ask yourself if you’ve spent the last hour on your most important work, the stuff that will lead to your success. If you’re off course, you can make a correction of your course. Ah, another choice!
If, at the end of the day, you have just a bit more gas in the tank, you can spend another five minutes reviewing what you accomplished or didn’t accomplish today. If you’re not satisfied with what today held, you can make another course correction for how tomorrow will look. Ah, yes, yet another choice. Five minutes to plan the day in the morning, plus eight minutes to check our course throughout the day, plus five minutes at day’s end to review how we made progress. That’s how you get to 18 Minutes… Choices.
I’m starting to think about having some T-Shirts made that say “It’s all about the choices you make today!” Might help.
If you struggle with Time Management, read 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman or Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Start to think about making better choices for how you invest the best, most innovative and productive minutes of each workday. Here’s to a massive increase in your productivity by making better choices!