How many times have you heard people say “I don’t have enough time to …” or “If only I could find the time to …” or “I'm too busy to …” Perhaps the person you heard saying these or similar things is the same person who stares back at you every morning in the bathroom mirror. Well, it is time to stop blaming time! Time is an absolute - there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds) in a day and that will never change. We cannot “manage” time. What we can manage is what we do during the next 60 minutes.
How we use time is one of the great determinants of how successful we are both as business owners and as individuals. Everyone from Bill Gates to the small business owner is given the same amount of time each day: 24 hours. Think of it like the auto races where they make all the drivers drive identically built and tuned race cars. The winner is then determined not by who has the fastest car but who can drive that identical car the best. Similarly in life the “winners” are those who learn how to drive their use of time the best.
So how do you take control of your time?
Accept that there is no such thing as too much or too little time. There is enough time available for you to be successful - others have been successful and they had no more access to time than you do. Take ownership of your situation. Be accountable for your results and responsible for your actions.
Decide what you want to accomplish. What do you want to be “successful” at? To some it may mean making a million dollars, to others it may mean being healthier, while others may be looking to have better relationships with their family and friends. This is your goal. You must also understand the benefits to you of achieving the goal - how will it make you feel when you achieve it. Both the goal and your “why” must be written down with a timeframe.
Once you have decided the goal and your “why”, you must now determine the activities that will be necessary for you to accomplish that goal. What do I have to do? What time commitment will I make? What will I need to adjust/sacrifice/reduce/delegate in order to have the time to do the activities identified? Remember, if it was easy, everyone, including you, would have already done it. What separates the successful users of time from the unsuccessful ones is the discipline and determination to obtain their goals no matter what. Winners never give up and they never quit on themselves.
Understand that life and business are about choices. You choose how you will spend your time - on what activities and how much on each. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Being successful in many different areas takes effort and time. Success comes from laser-like focus on one or two goals. Once they are accomplished you move on to the next set of goals and focus on those.
Prepare your calendar each week by creating “appointments” to do the activities that you have identified. These are defaulted into your calendar before anything else. Treat these as if the appointment was with your most important customer. Would you easily change your Monday 2-3pm 'meeting' just because someone asked for that time slot? No, you would negotiate - “I am booked at that time. I can see you at either 1pm or after 3pm, which would work for you?”
Be militant about your schedule. If you don’t care how your time is being spent, why should anyone else? Learn to say “No”. In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he breaks activities into four categories: Not Important/Not Urgent, Urgent/Not Important, Urgent/Important and Not Urgent/Important. The danger for most people is the Urgent/Not Important category. This is when we are responding to other people’s urgencies, however the activity does not move us toward OUR goal - by definition it is Not Important. Beware of the time and effort devoted to those tasks. Conduct your own time usage study. Every minute that you can divert from not important categories to the important categories will move you closer to your goal.
Review your successes/challenges in meeting your schedule each week and adjust where necessary. Be honest with yourself and continually reinforce your “Why” – what are you trying to accomplish and how important is that to you.
Find an accountability partner or mentor to help keep you on track. We can all use help every now and then - it is a strength to admit this, not a weakness.
In summary, stop blaming time, take ownership of your time and commit to the discipline necessary to win the race by being the best “driver” of time you can be.