An Economy of Time
The lack of time, and overabundance of things to get done, is likely one of the greatest health hazards, and career-success hazards in America (probably the world). Ultimately, there’s no easy pill… but I have encountered one piece of advice that has given me a few extra minutes in every day, which ultimately add up to hours each week…
Think of time AS money… yes, that’s different than “time IS money.” We all know it isn’t… I don’t always get paid for the things I spend my time on, but I still have to get them done. That said, if I think of “time AS money,” then I make more careful choices about how I spend it — even to smaller fractions of an hour.
That’s the breakthrough — the small fractions of time that get wasted on non-value-added tasks. Think of how many hours you would have back in your day if you didn’t have to read, and then reply to the email that says, “Thank you!” or interact with person down the hall that, “just dropped in to say hi!”
A friend once said, “Treat your time like you are a manufacturer… you are producing 86,400 seconds a day times hundreds of days a year, and countless years… In a manufacturing environment, you would be searching for ways to shave even one or two seconds off of your production times, because those would add up over a week, or a month, to meaningful amounts of time.”
This is brilliant. For the next week, I kept a “time journal” (basically write down all the things you spend time on during the day, and make notes about interruptions, as well as how productive you felt you were and how valuable the activity was). I created a little rating system for myself where I rated the activity as one of the following: Valuable and necessary, necessary but not valuable, Not valuable or necessary, and “personal”. I reserved “personal” for things that were just plain fun, or that I would choose to do regardless of value or necessity.
While I was creating the time journal, I became painfully aware of the interruptions, and “time sucks” that existed — like having my email reminder pop up, so no matter how hard I was concentrating on the task at hand, I was distracted and often jumped over to see what email I had received — killing all productivity and eliminating focus.
Now, whenever I do something, I ask myself if it is a great use of time, even if it’s just a couple seconds. If I can eliminate it, or make it more efficient, I do. I know I have created that “25-hour day” that I desperately craved — try it, I think you’ll find a few extra minutes in your day as well!