Where do you find time? 5 Steps for Having More

Equal TimeThis is a question I’ve been asked often over the years. We all wear so many hats and in today’s world we often don several at a time. It can be a challenge to create a schedule we can honor. When I thought about going back to college in my 50’s and starting my own company at the same time there were understandably some skeptics, including me! However, over the years there were two things that had proven true and once the value of these lessons snapped for me, it all changed. Here they are:

Lesson 1: Time is the ultimate equalizer – Eleanor Roosevelt had the same amount of time I do. So does Darren Hardy of Success Magazine, Tony Robbins, Seth Godin and every other change maker I admire. Who do you admire most? Think about it. They have the same amount of time you do. Whatever other resources are involved, time is time. It’s not an excuse, it’s a resource. And it’s the only finite resource we have that is universal. As Chaucer pointed out to us all: “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Lesson 2: When we truly care about something (or someone) time is never the real issue. Are you guilty of using time as your default excuse? I was. Someone would invite me to something and I’d tell them I was too busy and had no time. In truth, I didn’t want to do what they were suggesting but I didn’t want to say that. So I used that time worn excuse (pun intended) of not having the time. The problem here is that when we talk, we are listening. Every time we tell someone else we don’t have time, we’re in the audience. We hear that message too and pretty soon, we believe our own press. Try this experiment for the next 30 days:  Do not allow yourself to use time as a reason for turning anything or anyone down for anything. You can turn them down (and you should) but not with time as a reason. Change your relationship with time by changing your language about time. Say you are already committed (make sure that’s true..), say that you aren’t taking on any new projects right now. Say that the activity doesn’t interest you. Whatever is true. Therein is the key: tell the truth so that you are hearing the truth as well. It was never really about the availability of time. It is always about our choices about time.

With all things time being equal and recognizing that the only things different are our choices about time, here are 5 easy disciplines you can adopt that will mean time is always available when you need it because you’ve created an investment strategy to protect it.

#1- Determine how you use time now. Quite often this first step is all it takes to open some flood gates. We truly do not realize where we are spending time. Think about the word spending for a moment. Because that’s what we’re doing. Time is a resource just like money. But where you can get more money, you cannot get more time. And yet we are less intentional with time than practically anything else. So to begin, get honest and get real with yourself about how you’re spending time now. Keep a very simple log. If you have a smart phone, do it there. Nothing fancy, just log every time you change activities. William Penn is credited with this quote: “Time is what we want most but is what we use worst.” By committing to this exercise you can reverse that truth and begin using it well.

#2- Make a commitment to value time. Create a red rope policy about it. Your time is the most precious resource you have because it’s the only resource that is finite. Treat it as such. Remember that scarcity is an incredible driver for value. Here’s something I learned about this point from the  Jim Rohn, an early mentor and thought leader: You cannot think just in terms of lapsed time. You have to also think in terms of frequency and cycles. How many more vacations will you take before your children leave home? Let’s say that it’s six over the next six years. It’s not about having six years to take vacations. It’s about six more vacations.  It’s about six more times, not six years. How you honor that distinction once you see it can be life changing. Steve Jobs had this to say about time:  “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

#3- Demonstrate your regard for time by planning it. When you look at your calendar what do you see? Are all of the appointments with other people? How many appointments make it to the book that are for yourself? For time with a child, a parent, a friend? Where are your values showing up in your calendar? This is key because how we spend today is how we will experience tomorrow. One of the initial exercises I go through with clients pertains to core values. The next step we go through is looking at their calendar through the lens of their values. Where are they showing up? Book your values. Then you will live them. There are studies that show that couples who honor “date nights” on a regular basis have a lower divorce rate and, more importantly, report much higher levels of satisfaction with their marriage and partner. They value the relationship and they demonstrate it by honoring it in their calendar and how they invest their time.

#4- Recognize that integrity is defined as being true in our actions to our words. If I am in integrity, who I say I am is how I show up in the world. And if I am in integrity, what I say I will do on my calendar is in fact what I do. The caveat here is that while time is the ultimate equalizer, we don’t actually own it and so there are circumstances when we have to adjust. How do you do that and stay in integrity? It’s easier than you think. It’s what I call the one free reschedule rule. When I am faced with a decision between two activities I ask which must stay and which can roll.  Whichever can roll, is rescheduled and once it’s rescheduled it can’t roll again. That keeps me in integrity.

#5- Check in on your calendar performance. There’s a reason that coaches encourage us to review our performance. It’s how we identify the seemingly small habits that hold back our game. It’s how we begin to see trending in what is happening. We need to see if there is a particular activity that always seems to get sacrificed. Why? Is it something we need to consider delegating to someone else? Is there a particular time of day where we seem to always have disruptive interruptions? We might want to schedule low priority activities in those time blocks to mitigate the impact. Our calendars get more honest as we get clarity about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. As the playwright Jean Racine said: “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”

There you have it – 5 principals you can begin applying right now like a time machine for creating just what you need when you need it.

  1. Baseline it
  2. Value it
  3. Book it
  4. Honor it
  5. Track it

In closing, here is one of my favorite thoughts on the subject from Carl Sandburg: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

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