Do you feel like you are constantly juggling work and personal priorities? Are you feeling time stressed with not enough hours in your busy working week to get it all done? If the answer is yes to both these questions you can re assure yourself that you are completely normal! I find that 9 out of 10 of people I coach would agree. But what about the 1 in 10 who feel they can find time for what’s important, what practical tips and coping mechanisms can we learn from them?
I set about the goal of finding and saving a whole day a week in the typical lives of busy senior leaders, so they could invest back into the things they really cared about and wanted to spend more time on. More time with the family; more ‘Me’ time; more time for exercise; more time to re discover old hobbies….
So I am pleased to say I found the time, a life changing 24 hours of time the typical person could save and re-invest. I’ve synthesized the actions you can take into simple steps you can test out for yourself. Some of you may find 24 hours, some less time, but I guarantee if you give it a bit of thought you will unlock some time to re-invest in what you care about.
Try it out and let me know if my TIME guide works for you:
T: Think and Plan
Effective use of time is not an accident. Highly time-efficient people invest time thinking, planning and preparing. They put purpose behind how they manage their time. I have actually heard people say “I’m too busy to think”, this raises alarm bells, because without reflecting on where time goes you have little chance of improving where you spend it.
“The best advice I could give anyone is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life.” Richard Branson
Think and plan by assessing the following:
- Are you in a healthy 24-hour time regime? The ideal is 8,8,8 (Sleep, Work, Personal life). Few manage the ideal, but how far off are you away from ideal? too little sleep, too much work, and too little time for your personal life is not good for your health, so work out which of the 3 you are neglecting so you can re-invest your time savings back where it counts.
- Great time planners set clear goals. Think though what you wished you had more time for. For many people it is reconnecting with something you used to do e.g. No time now to exercise; I have to keep cancelling dinner with friends; I haven’t called my family overseas; I haven’t had a weekend away in a long time. Make a list and assess how much time you need e.g. If I released 5 hours a week I would do X or Y. Once you have a goal it will make saving the time to make that a reality more important and tangible.
- Think about your ‘Only I can do list’. These are the personal and business things that you and only you can do, it could be anything from reading a bedtime story to your kids each night to a critical team meeting you lead. The list should be short. If you have a very long list of your ‘only I can do’s’ and the items on it fill most of your day, you need to to have a re-think. You are likely to be not getting help from others or not delegating well at work. In the Think and plan (‘T’) phase just think about these areas we will come back to the list later.
I: Invest Work Time Wisely
Most of my clients have successful careers, teams to manage and business commitments and goals they want to achieve. The challenge is how to be a successful leader without spending all your waking hours working. The answer lies in how you invest your time.
- ROIT: In business we talk about ROIC (return on invested capital) as a key metric, I want to start a movement towards ROIT (return on invested time). Successful time managers think of time as a valuable asset that they invest. They ‘invest’ time versus ‘spend’ time. One of the most positive investments they typically make is in developing and coaching their teams, because this in turn frees up more of their time to ‘lead’ versus ‘do’.
- Re-shape your work meetings: The largest time save for most people is in re shaping their working day. Successful time savers focus their work time around what’s most important and urgent, they decide which meetings they attend, and formulate their working day for maximum productivity. For most people the biggest time saving in the 24 hours saved is in meetings that waste your time, on average 2 hours of the working day is spent in wasted meetings, that is 10 hours a week!
- Many of the meetings you attend are scheduled by other people, they are the first place to look for time. If you find yourself leaving meetings saying “that was a complete waste of time”, you need to make a change! Remember you have a choice, just because you are invited you don’t always have to attend, you can go to the most relevant part, or you can say no if it’s not adding value. As Warren Buffett said ‘The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.’ You don’t need to say no to everything, but getting out of those wasted meetings will give you back not only time but also energy.
- You also need to own and shape the meetings you run. Highly effective teams set clear agendas; pre reading is sent in advance and outcomes and goals are clear. In my own experience I found that the more effective the leader of the meeting was, the shorter the meeting was. Think about the monthly all day meetings or half day weekly meetings, take ownership of re shaping them to release time for not just you but also for your team.
- Save time on the commute: The savings here can easily be a 30 minute saving a day, more time could be saved by a zero commute when you work from home on some days. Some ways to save this time include avoiding driving in the the rush hour peak, it’s both frustrating and it wastes time, I know people who work from home catching up on emails first thing and head in after the rush to save time. Most companies allow some flex, successful time managers use the flex, unsuccessful ones don’t use it. These simple changes can save you at least 3 hours a week.
M: Make and Manage Choices
Everyone has 24 hours in a day, time is finite so making choices and managing that time wisely makes a big difference.
- Stick to your priorities. If you successfully thought and planned your time in the Think and Plan (T) step, this step is all about keeping on track. Highly effective time planners stick close to their plan, of course there is flex and things shift, but your goal is to stay on track.
- Openly share your commitments and encourage others to do the same. This is a proven method to stay on track, for example, telling your work colleagues you play tennis on a Monday evening, will avoid people scheduling late meetings that day. Trust me it works… most people you work with don’t get up in the morning trying to mess up your time plan, but if they don’t know about your plans they could. Scheduling time for personal commitments in the evening also helps you leave the office: Dinner with the family; sport; the latest film with friends. Many people find by not planning their personal life their work life fills the time. If you have a goal to leave at 6pm just do it, otherwise you will be still there working at 8pm or later.
E: Eliminate & Delegate
So by now we have found time from work meetings, the commutes more effective and you are managing your time better, but there is still more time to be found by eliminating wasted time and by delegating to others.
- Eliminate the lost time and win it back: on closer review most people find they have a lot of time tied up in activities not on their priority list. Time spent on social media, games and apps could be re invested with humans! Most people can find 30 mins on average a day from these activities giving you 3.5 hours a week. Another time waster is ‘always on’ TV. By watching just the program you really like versus carrying on to watch the one that follows saves you an hour a time. Add 1.5 hours of background TV that you can drop to your social media savings and you are up to 5 hours saved.
- Delegate to others: This is where the ‘only I can do list’ from your thinking and planning time should be reviewed. Release time by focusing on the important things on your list, but de clutter and delegate the rest.
- At home this could include outsourcing household tasks like cleaning, gardening or getting the groceries delivered, your goal it to find at least one thing. It could also involve enlisting your kids to help out more. Saving from this area should be at least 3 hours a week.
- At work by investing time in your people you should ideally be now surrounded by a capable team who you can delegate to and feel empowered. This releases time for your “only I can do list” and results in a happier and motivated team who can get the job done. The minimum saving is 3 hours, over the long run it can be much, much more.
So that’s the TIME guide. In this example 24 hours or a day a week was saved (10 hours from wasted meetings, 3 hours of commute time, 3.5 hours from wasted time on social media + 1.5 hours of TV, delegating or out sourcing household tasks 3 hours, team delegation 3 hours). Your savings will I am sure be different, but with a bit of focus on your Return on invested time (ROIT) you can, I am sure, unlock some valuable time to re-invest into something else you care about.