Lack of time is an evil in our century, especially in North America. We spend much of our life feeling like we’re running against the clock. About 31 percent of people described most days as quite stressful or extremely stressful, according to Statistics Canada. 34% of people reported feeling trapped in a daily routine and 38% felt they had no time for fun. Poor time-management skills will increase your feelings of being under pressure and short of time.
Every day we do thousands of tasks as part of our professional and personal commitments — a balancing act between worklife, family and social activities. When we feel pressed for time we tend to do things quickly and half-heartedly, which can result in things being done poorly and us feeling unfulfilled. It is therefore not surprising that in our western civilization, time is a major source of stress.
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to manage your time? If you are prioritizing the unexpected then that’s the wrong strategy; the unexpected should never take up more than 25% of your time.
Human nature drives us to settle the symptoms rather than the cause of real problems. In a similar vein, humans gravitate toward spending time doing what we love to do or what can be done quickly, as opposed to what is necessary or what may take longer. These choices amplify the race against time and up the frustration level.
Time is life; it’s a valuable resource, and it can be your ally or your enemy.
Here are two revelations that have had a significant impact on my life and on the lives of thousands who have taken my time-management training program, otherwise known as Gain an Hour a Day.
Excessive socializing is a time-eater
We are social beings, evolved to live together in a society and to talk. I don’t question the importance of communication and the need to vent to others. I simply wish to draw your attention to this shocking revelation: I believe 70% of our time is devoted to talking, chatting, joking, gossiping, questioning, surfing the internet … and complaining or blaming others!
Whether at work or at home, the time you spend “strolling socially” is self-sabotage; it can be a waste of precious time resources and prevents you from getting to other tasks that should be a priority.
Just because you’ve spent a significant amount of time in a meeting, it doesn’t mean that it was time well spent! How many times have you told yourself after a particularly heinous meeting, What a waste of time!? Precious minutes are spent on speculation, discussing the past, or non-value-add topics such as the weather. If meeting objectives and agenda topics are not clearly defined beforehand, the risk is that the meeting will be a time-waster.
If you want to optimize your time, you should learn how to communicate effectively with others and focus on high-yield activities, while getting rid of tasks that yield little and therefore are time-wasters.
2- Stop managing your time; instead, manage your priorities!
Nobody can buy time or add an extra 30 minutes onto tomorrow, even if you are as rich as Bill Gates!
My secret is this: I don’t actually believe in the “management” of time; my motto is that you must learn to manage your priorities.
To do this, start by evaluating a situation before reacting. If you categorize everything as an emergency then these tasks ultimately end up managing you. Behind “emergencies” inevitably lies poor planning.
Tips for better time management
To better manage your priorities, you must start by blocking a weekly time slot devoted to planning your week (30 minutes for this slot and no more).
When you sit down for your planning session, begin by listing your high-yield activities from your professional and personal lives. Then, identify the time-sucking parasites with the goal of first reducing these and then removing them.
Ask yourself the following questions and answer them on paper:
- What are your priorities?
- Why are they priorities?
- Why do you do what you do?
- What are the results?
- What would you do with more time?
Refer to your answers and your list when you feel up against the clock.
Most of all, we have to realize that there are consequences when we don’t manage priorities. Whether it is a loss of money, less quality time with family, or a lack of me time, we all lose something from poor time management and lack of prioritization.
Sometimes it’s hard to prioritize what is important to you because humans are ambivalent: they often want both something and its opposite. For example, a large family and a big bank account! It all comes down to choice … and priorities!
If it is hard to have your cake and eat it too, it is even more difficult to have time when you don’t know the consequences of poor time management.
In a future post, I will share you my techniques to make time your ally and get better results in less time…!