Where Does Your Time Go?
Accounting For It
In the last issue, Keep the Heat On, there were two calls to action: 1) to consider where you have spent your energy so far this year and 2) to develop a way to measure successful outcomes.
It seems obvious to say there is a correlation between where your time is going and the results you're getting; yet I've found that a drill-down is often needed. You may think you know where your time is going but you may not be seeing the full picture.
Take a Closer Look
Here are three examples of a Where Does Your Time Go drill-down:
- She told me to spreadsheet it. Shortly after we made our cross country move from Connecticut to Arizona (nearly 11 years ago), the biggest adjustment to make was accommodating visitors. I was thrilled that family and friends were coming out to see us, however it was challenging to frequently be in the mode of preparing for or recovering from having people in the house, especially since I have a home office.
A few years in and I wondered why some work projects were always falling off the list. My friend Monica suggested that I make a spreadsheet to take a closer look. I wasn't convinced the exercise was necessary but I took her advice. I filled it in and realized that we had our guest room occupied 26% of the time: over three months each year.
What did I do with that information? It's not that I crossed out the entire calendar with blackout dates, but having an accurate picture helped me to plan more realistically and adjust my expectations. (Plus, I started telling people about my spreadsheet so that probably scared off some would-be visitors.)
- What's the real hourly rate? Those of you who are independent contractors know that when you accept work, the initial hourly rate or aggregate project fee may sound great, but as to whether it will be a profitable engagement, that's another story. In order to assess the real deal, you'll need to track your time and, for example, see how much additional work you're doing aside from face-time with the client.
- Tell me all the activities you've got going right now. That's what I asked Gloria after she complained of lacking focus. She started to list her major commitments and kept adding as she went along, "Oh there's this, too." As we ended our conversation, we decided Gloria's next step would be to complete the inventory. A week later she emailed me:
I have managed to get the inventory set up. It really, REALLY made me realize why I was feeling so overwhelmed and so tired! I need to start saying "no" - which is very difficult because I spent so much of the past few years learning how to say "yes" to whatever came my way. That approach has led to some wonderful experiences, but it's not sustainable long-term. It has its place and season, but right now isn't it."
It's worth noting that self-care and boundaries were part of all three examples above.
Yes and No
To Gloria's point, there is a time for Yes and a time for No. Some activities that were good then may no longer be adding value, relevant, or enjoyable now.
My clients are familiar with hearing: Yes is No and No is Yes. If you've just said Yes to a certain activity or time commitment, it means you're saying No to something else. Each Yes means you only have room for so many other Yes(s). Likewise, each time you say No, you are making room for another Yes.
This is true for standards as well as time, e.g., continuing to accept "less than" means you are saying no to "better."
The main thing is to be accountable and make conscious choices.
From meetings and putting out fires to emails and social media, the everyday stuff of work and life leaves most of us with limited discretionary time - which makes it even more important to get a handle on it.
To be content with how you're spending your time, you may need more information.
This Week's Call To Action:
- Keeping this as quick and simple as you can, make a spreadsheet to track how you've been spending your time or take an inventory of your current activities and time commitments. Now stand back from it: What do you see?
Yes and No.
Make it a conscious choice.
See you in the current,
(1)The client's name above was changed for privacy
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