[Photo by: Guy Sie]
Time is such an interesting concept. It doesn’t really exist as a thing. It is just a measure. A way for us humans to measure progress. Progress of a day, a year, a life. Time doesn’t stop for anyONE or anyTHING. However, humans always want more of it. Here is what I did to make better use of my time and create more of it for the things I enjoy.
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The tactics used in this blog come from reimplementing what I learnt while on scholarship with Surf Life Saving Australia, along with some tips I was given from a friend, Paul Mead, who I started Darwin Academy of Sport with.
In 2014, I was extremely time poor. I felt like I had none of it. I was teaching psychology, child studies and careers in a high school, coaching strength and conditioning at an Institute of Sport, running a small fitness business morning and evening plus all the administration required as the owner, and raising a family with four children. I had very little time for the things that mattered most, in particular, my family and my health. I was doing too much, but most importantly, I wasn’t efficient at what I did.
Time is like money - the only difference is, you can’t save it up. We all get 168 hours a week. How you spend that time is up to you. It is easy to spend money and then look back and wonder where it all went. Time is the same. If you want to spend your money wisely, you need to have a plan - a financial plan. Similarly, if you want to spend your time wisely, you need to have a plan.
When I started creating a plan for how I would spend my time, I discovered I had more time. Even better, I found I had more energy, was more productive, got more done, and was happier. The first thing I did was to take time out over my weekend to plan my week ahead. It was an hour out of my free time, but it gave me a very clear picture of the week ahead. Due to my increased efficiency, it also created an abundance of spare time throughout the week.
How to plan your time schedule
With a time scheduled each week to plan out my week ahead, I prioritised all my tasks into four categories:
- Urgent/Not Important
- Not Urgent/Important
- Not Urgent/Important
Your tasks should be undertaken in this order.
The next thing I did was to schedule the timeframe for my tasks. I defined them as needing to be completed, or able to be completed, in the following four timeframes:
- This Week
- Next Week
- Long Term
One of the most valuable components of this step is to estimate how long you think each task will take. This enables you to be realistic with what you can actually achieve in the time you have available. It also ensures you maintain margin for the things that matter most. Margin is the time you have left over after you’ve done all the things you have to do. Using the money metaphor again, margin is the amount of money you have left over after all your bills have been paid.
Strategies to create more time for the important things
The next important step, and a crucial one in generating momentum, is to write down the first action you can take to get your task done. Write down the very first thing, the absolute first action you can do to get started. Once you’ve completed that, write down the next action, and so on.
To create more time for the things that matter most, follow these strategies:
- Plan your week: Schedule an hour over the weekend to plan out your week ahead.
- Enter everything into your calendar: Put absolutely everything you will do for the week into your calendar. Include work, study, exercise, social events, rest, sleep, and time with family.
- Prioritise your tasks: Determine the importance of your tasks by defining their urgency and importance.
- Schedule your tasks: Decide what needs to, or can, be done this week, next week, in the long term, or is ongoing with no deadline.
- Define your next action: Write down the very first action you can take to complete a task. Once you’ve completed that, write down the very next action, and so on.
- Estimate the time required: Estimate how many hours you think it will take to complete each task.
- Review your previous week: During your weekly planning time for the upcoming week, spend a short amount of that time in the beginning to review how you went last week. Use the strategies outlined above as a guide and pay particular attention to how accurate you were with estimating the time required to complete your tasks. Give yourself a score out of ten for how you think you went.
You will never get more time. However, you can create more time for the things that matter most by planning how you will spend your time. Sticking to these strategies at all times will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed when things get super busy in any area of your life and reduce your levels of stress. Using these strategies to make better use of your time will lead to much greater productivity and happiness.
What's your best strategy for spending your time wisely? Let me know in the comments below.
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