Do you ever meticulously plan your week only to end up with a larger to do list at the end of it? Why does this happen?
If we don’t have a realistic view of how we are spending our time, our plans will fail. We simply run out of time. As a business owner, I have become aware of how important “making the invisible, visible” as the authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything put it.
What does that mean? In relation to time management, it means we do things, unconsciously, that waste time. This in turn throws us off our schedule because we don’t plan them. For example, do you go back to your desk after a meeting and check email? You aren’t there to look for an urgent message. It’s just a habit you’ve developed to help you transition from one activity to another.
Let’s say every time you check email it takes you 30 minutes. If you have four meetings a day that each last a hour. With the invisible email time, at the end of the day, you’ve spent six hours between meetings and email. That’s why you are taking work home because you can’t finish it during the day.
One way to make the “invisible, visible” is to time map your days.
- At the end of each day, write down hour by hour what you did. (If you have a hard time remembering what you did at the end of the day like I do some days, carry a small note book with you through out the day and jot things down as you go.)
- Review your time maps after one week. As yourself the following questions:
What did you spend more time on than you thought?
What days did you feel good about how you spent your time?
What days were stressful? Why?
Were you realistic with your to do list?
Were you realistic with how long things take you?
What does how you spend your time tell you about your values?
The last question is important because if we say that we value our family, yet you look at your time map and you only spent a couple of hours with them during the week (and you were aggravated to boot!). This may tell you that although you want to value your family, you spend your time in other places.
What can you do?
Watch out for invisible time thieves. If you need time to transition between meetings, fine. Build it in. This will give you a realistic perspective of what “free” time you have.
Create a realistic to do list. If you know how much time you have to accomplish things, build your list based on the time you have not the other way around. What you will find is you get the most important things done and you start to drop the time wasters.
Plan only 50% of your “free” time. If you have 4 hours for to do’s, plan enough work for 2 hours. This allows you the flexibility to address unexpected needs. Once again it helps you prioritize which to do is most important.
Be realistic with how long things will take. For example if you need to travel to an appointment or to do errands, add the travel time into the appointment. If on the other hand, you work from home and don’t have to “commute” between clients, you still need time to transition. Plan it in. Learning something new, it will take longer. Shopping in a new store (or newly remodeled store) it will take more time. We stress ourselves out because we don’t plan enough time to get things done. Once you figure out how long things really take you, you’ll have a more accurate schedule.
Time mapping can be a huge eye opener. It can tell us so much about our invisible activities. It can help us build healthier work habits. Finally it can help us realign our actions with our values.
Personally I’ve rediscovered the value of reading. My time map revealed the lack of time I spent reading. Now I plan time to read. This readjustment added new balance to my life. With that…I’m off to the library. Until next time.