A few weeks ago I called a co-worker who works remotely to complain about how little time I have to actually get things done. I wanted to make sure he could focus on my complaining so I acknowledged the irony of using my time to place a call to complain about not having enough time.
Every day I work with people to set their professional goals and help them identify barriers to success and I would guess that ninety percent of the time, people name “time” as one of their biggest challenges. No one has time to spare or invest, or commit toward their goals. I have made very similar complaints during my own journey.
But, is it true? Do I and they really not have the time to do the things we say we want or need to do? A couple of tactics that I have used to answer these questions and help me feel more in control of the time that I do have are
1. Know where your time is actually going
A year ago, I developed and tested a time management chart before asking my staff members to record their activity for a week. I wanted to find out how labor intensive it actually was to document activities by the hour. What I found was that I could better use my time in the office. I was having a number of unproductive conversations (not always initiated by me), shifting focus from one activity to another instead of following things through to completion, and spending far more time working on other people’s issues than I should have.
Now, when I am feeling stressed to my limit, I take a day or two to conduct an inventory of where my time is going. I look at my time during the work day as well as what I am doing during non-work hours. Most of the time, I find spaces that could be used to work on a specific goal of mine.
2. Make you and your goals a priority
It is very easy to let everyone else’s priorities trump your own. In the midst of caring for and spending time with our families and friends, work, and all of the unexpected shenanigans that we can’t seem to avoid, it can seem frivolous to take the time to do something as simple as give your next professional move some real thought.
No matter how trivial or wasteful it sounds, YOU HAVE TO! Your goals have to be a priority for you and you need to make sure that anyone who cares about you knows what your priorities are. When you list of your priorities in life or just for the day, include at least one thing that brings you closer to accomplishing one of your goals.
3. Learn to multitask
It would be great if we could all get a six-month sabbatical (I would settle for a 72-hour break), to think, research, and actually work on a goal that I set. Alas, it ain’t going to happen. I can make use of the time that I have. For instance, I am typically alone in the kitchen when I am cooking. Once I have prepped everything and put the food on the stove, I have at least 15-30 minutes to focus. That is my time to finish a self-assessment, update my resume, or work on my LinkedIn profile.
Don’t categorize your activities so tightly that you don’t use all of your time wisely. When children are doing their homework, do your homework. Work on that goal. When you are supporting your kids or family members at their game, instead of Instagramming, Facebooking, or whatever activity you are doing to pass the time; work on that goal.
Finally, be very mindful of where you put your time and energy. Are you focusing on the “right” things? Does it matter to you and your end goal? If you are spending a lot of time on irrelevant things, recalibrate immediately. Make every moment you actually have count toward what you have decided matters.