Not enough hours in your day? Make better choices.

Not enough hours in your day? Make better choices.

Article by Holly G. Green

Feeling a little pressed for time these days? (Who isn’t!) It turns out you have more time than you think.

In fact, that’s the title of a great book new book by journalist Laura Vanderkam – “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” (168 = the number of hours in a week.)

According to Vanderkam, the issue isn’t too few hours in the day; it’s how we choose to use those hours. In fact, her #1 time management tip is this: minutes and hours are choices. If we don’t like how we’re spending our time, we need to change our choices and priorities. Granted, choices bring consequences. But it all starts with recognizing that time does not dictate our daily agendas. We choose how we spend our time.

Vanderkam believes that trying to find more time in the day represents an exercise in futility. Suppose you could magically make each day 15 minutes longer. At the end of the week you would have gained a grand total of 1.75 hours.

Instead of trying to “find” time by rearranging busy work or trying to multitask, Vanderkam suggests a different approach. Start by filling your weekly allotment of 168 hours with the things you care most about in life. Instead of squeezing the activities that nurture your family, health and career in between all the “busy stuff,” put them first!

This may require some difficult choices. It may also require saying “no” to some people and activities that are hard to turn down. But as Vanderkam points out, our options are to continue complaining about our busyness or get busy building the lives we want in the time we’ve got.

Which brings us to one of my favorite business leadership topics – staying focused on the destination.

Today’s work world moves so fast that I sometimes think the new business attire should consist of running shorts and track shoes. With so much on our plates, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the “to doing” each day. The meetings, the voice mails, the emails, the twitters, the juggling of multiple tasks and activities, the Internet and all the information that comes our way. It’s no wonder that we tend to lose focus on where we’re going and what winning looks like.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the fantasy of “if only I had more time!” instead of taking responsibility for how we spend our time. So we run as fast as we can from one task to another, and we constantly yearn for more hours in the day when none are forthcoming.

Here are some of the ways we try to run fast in a desperate attempt to find more time: Multitasking. Working longer hours. Putting off the important for the urgent. Becoming slaves to our emails and mobile devices. Making decisions without taking the time to question our assumptions or review the data.

Intuitively, we know that these aren’t the best strategies for getting work done. But running fast is an instinctive human behavior in stressful situations (fight or flight). It makes us feel like we’re accomplishing our goals, or at least getting closer to them. So we continue to run as fast as we can without checking to see whether we’re running in the right direction or making any real progress at all.

The solution? Slow down to go fast.

What if you started each day by pausing to review your destination, which includes your definition of what winning looks like for your organization? And what if you then organized your day around the tasks and activities that truly help you reach that destination rather than whatever happens to jump out and land on your plate? Think that might produce a dramatic change in the choices you make about how to use your time?

I’m not talking about a lengthy process. Just five or 10 minutes each morning to review the most important things you can (and should) be doing and making sure they’re first on your to-do list.

As you pause before starting your day, ask questions like:

• What are the top three to five things I need to be working on? How much time have I committed to those activities today?

• Of all the things I think I need to do today, which will have an impact a year from now?

• Are there items on my to-do list that should be handled by someone else? If so, what do I need to do to delegate them?

• What tasks or activities do I feel compelled to find more time for? Are they really top priority for me or am I succumbing to the urgent over the important?

• If I only had half a day instead of a whole one, which tasks and activities would I work on and why?

It also helps to keep visual reminders in front of you at all times. Put your goals and objectives on your computer screen. Carry them in your notebook. Set up task reminders to ping you. Write them on your whiteboard. Post them in the lobby of your office and on a mirror at home. Do whatever works to stage your field of vision and keep those things that matter most from falling victim to the things that matter least.

When you slow down to go fast, good things happen.

You develop criteria for making better decisions about where to spend your time. It becomes much easier to prioritize, based on what gets you closer to your destination versus what does not. And you progress much more quickly towards where you want to go.

When you focus on the activities that move you closer to your destination, you also spend less time trying to solve other people’s problems, which benefits you and the organization as a whole. When you do for others what they should be doing for themselves, it inhibits their professional development while distracting you from essential activities.

“Slow down to go fast” doesn’t seem to make sense. But neither does wearing track shoes to work. Stop trying to “find” more time and start making better choices about where you spend your time. You’ll be amazed at how much faster it gets you to your destination!

About the Author

As CEO of The Human Factor, Inc., Holly helps business leaders and their companies achieve higher levels of performance and profitability. Her unique approach to consulting – based on the approach Pause, Think, Focus, Run – provides the tools, techniques, and skills companies need to reach their destinations and achieve their strategic goals.

An experienced business leader and behavioral scientist, Holly has a rare combination of extensive academic training and in-the-trenches experience working in and leading organizations. As a consultant, Holly is frequently hired by companies such as AT&T, Microsoft, Expedia, Nokia, and Google to help them compete more effectively in today’s uncertain markets. She helps these companies get clear on what winning looks like, and then shows them how to align the resources and energy of the organization to get there.

In addition to consulting, Holly delivers highly acclaimed keynote presentations and workshops at tradeshows, industry gatherings, and business meetings. Holly’s top selling book, More Than a Minute: How to be an Effective Leader & Manager in Today’s Changing World goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical, action-oriented information. She has contributed to several other best-selling books as well.

For more info, please visit http://www.TheHumanFactor.biz and http://www.MoreThanaMinute.com.

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