One of the biggest challenges our clients face is the challenge of finding enough resources to meet their goals and deliver their services. This struggle appears at every level of the organization from leadership to the front-line. And the most precious of these resources is time, as the to-do lists continue to grow, and they’re asked to do more with less.
Like you, we too struggle to find enough hours in a day to get everything done. And since we’re big fans of practical thinking and big fans of Marie Forleo, we decided to sign up for her newest course ‘Time Genius’. We won’t give away the whole approach, but she shares some really enlightening concepts that turned our understanding of being time-poor on its head and we thought they were definitely worth sharing with you.
As she often does in her courses, let’s start with a reality check and some pretty sobering statistics.
Because we find ourselves operating in a constant state of overwhelm and forever trying to spread ourselves thin enough to meet all of our obligations, we are living in a state of ‘chronic stress’, which either causes or worsens 90% of illnesses. Think about that for a moment. Forget about smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. The state of being stressed out because we’re trying to do too much and feeling bad about it every waking moment is literally making us sick.
As much as technology is a godsend in helping us get our work done, these days more than ever, it can also be a time-sucking distraction. According to a 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, nearly half an adult’s day is dedicated to consuming content. American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading, or generally interacting with media.
If 11 hours a day doesn’t get your attention, a survey by Adobe found people in the workplace spend on average 3.1 hours a day sending and checking their emails alone, amounting to 15.5 hours per week - and a shocking 20 full weeks of the year. 20 weeks a year on email!
168 hours per week
In this life, that is the time we are allotted each week. No more, no less. It’s an equal playing field. Now for the sake of argument, let’s just say that 40 of those hours are spent at work. These days, a lot of us feel like we have 80 hours' worth of work to jam into those 40. So, the question is, how do we get it all done? The answer is. We don’t.
Here are 4 key steps to help us reclaim our time at work. (And they work in our lives outside of work too, as Marie will share).
1. UNDERSTAND HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME
You might think you know, but it’s critical to track everything you do and for how long, for a period of 5 days- write it down. It likely won’t be the big tickets items that surprise you, but the small stuff you do each day on autopilot. When you tally the time spent it can be an eye-opener. Remember those email statistics?
The point is to get clarity- a true picture of what we do during those 40 hours a week. Because reclaiming a repetitive, relatively unimportant task that we do 30 minutes a day, can add up to 10 hours a month (1.25 days) that we can use to accomplish something that makes an impact. And if we start assessing which meetings really accomplish things and which we attend simply because they reoccur in our Outlook calendars, we’d likely reclaim days, if not weeks of precious time each month. But until we take an honest look, we’ll just keep repeating the cycle.
2. DECIDE WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT
Sounds easy, but isn’t everything important? With a few exceptions, everything on your list is probably important. But that’s not what you’re looking for. You’re looking for what is the MOST important, and that can’t be everything on your list. There should be only 3 or 4 things that are the most important. Those 3 or 4 things will get you another step closer to accomplishing your goals.
Here’s another tip, the things that are urgent are not always the ones that are the most important. But we can all easily fall into this trap. For example, you may be expected to contribute to a joint report that’s due in 48 hrs, and you also may have a new member joining your team at the end of the week. Our instincts and those organizing the report will have us believe that 48hr deadline should trump anything else on the list.
In fact, preparing all that is needed to onboard this team member properly is actually the most important activity because this person may be playing a key role in your upcoming strategic plan. Dedicating time and attention to this task should be the priority. Thinking through the noise and making this decision takes insight and courage.
3. SET ASIDE WHAT’S NOT
Once you’ve determined what is the most important, it becomes much easier to set aside the rest without feeling guilty. The clarity you have from understanding how you spend your time and identifying what’s mission-critical gives you confidence. And remember, this is not a one-and-done exercise. You should be re-assessing regularly because situations evolve, so what can be set aside this month, could become one of the most important things on your list next month. The key is to cross them off the list for now and get them physically and metaphorically out of your sight, so you can focus.
4. OPPORTUNITY COST
One of the most helpful concepts that Marie talks about in our opinion, is opportunity cost. “Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else.” This is a big one! The most common reason our to-do lists get out of control is that when someone asks or assigns something new, we don’t stop to ask the question, “if I take this on, what will I drop off my list?” It’s as if we just assume time will expand automatically and we’ll have another hour tacked onto our day to get the new task completed.
It’s okay to say no. In fact, it may become one of the most important words in your vocabulary. If you’re going to fulfill your responsibilities you need to focus on fewer things, so you can execute them at a higher level. As one of our former bosses liked to say, “Being a mile wide and an inch deep gets you nowhere fast.”
Time Genius obviously delves much deeper into topics such as mindset and beliefs, which are key to changing our behaviours, but these 4 concepts are a very good place to begin taking control of our lives and our time.
“You can’t go back and make a new start,
but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”
-James R. Sherman