I would venture to say that over the years I’ve found that one of the biggest excuses I hear people tell is “I just don’t have enough time”. I would say out of all the weaknesses there are, time management is probably the biggest, or pretty close to being the biggest weakness for most leaders or people in general. The crazy thing is that this is the one commodity that every single person has the same amount given as every other person. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Page – the list could go on and on; all had just 24 hours a day just like you and me.
The radical difference between someone who is productive and someone who is not is the way they choose to use this precious commodity of time. Time is the most precious commodity because once it is gone it is gone forever and too many of us are spending our time instead of investing it in areas that have an ROI. I heard it best described that we are all given 86,400 seconds in a day, and let’s look at each second like it is a dollar. So we are given $86,400 a day and told we must use all of it everyday because none of it can roll over, but how we use it is extremely important. We could spend it on things that have little long term value and once spent is literally gone forever. However, we can invest it in areas that will produce long term gains towards a bigger goal, and we can get the benefit of compound interest in the future because we were wise in how we spent it in the past. It is easy to waste time because we are “live in the moment” people with little to no cognitive thoughts about where we will be 5 or 10 years from now. But unless we change our perspective, 5 or 10 years will pass and we will still be in the exact same place in life!
So how can we maximize this commodity called time? Well let’s look at 4 ways to get an ROI out of your time:
1. You control your calendar. Your calendar does not control you.
As driven people in our search for success we can easily become workaholics because we love what we do, but in doing so we destroy the greatest loves in our lives. When we allow our calendar to control us we are slaves to our work instead of masters of our work. What I mean when I talk about our calendar controlling us is that our true priorities are taking a back seat to every other activity that is already scheduled. You MUST schedule your “top priorities” first and there is no compromise in this area. Listen if you just try to fit in your so called “top priorities” it is expressing to yourself and the people around you that work is actually your “top priority” and everything else is filler.
So how do you discover what is the most important areas or priorities in life? Well, I ask myself, “What will impact me in heaven a thousand years from now?”; because that is what should be at the top of my list when it comes to my priorities. Those two things are my relationship with God and my family. I can’t take my business, my money, my cars, or my homes with me; but I can take people with me and I will get to spend forever with Jesus. So those two areas ALWAYS come first in my calendar because I can be the most successful on paper, but if spiritually I am bankrupted and my relationships are strained it is all meaningless!
2. Schedule Everything!
You must put everything in your calendar. Every meeting, lunch, haircut, appointment, all has to go into a calendar, and what is on the schedule always comes first. (Now a side note: I am not talking about family emergencies). What will throw a schedule completely out of whack is several 20 to 45 unplanned meetings that people need to have with you. The next thing you know you are running behind and are late to your scheduled appointments, which is extremely rude to the person you are scheduled to meet. If someone needs to meet with you, schedule them in or block out a certain amount of time that is built for random meetings, but either way it is scheduled in your calendar.
3. Maximize empty slots.
Now that you have your priorities in your calendar and you are scheduling every meeting, you will see where you have empty slots in your schedule. These moments are where we can either invest or spend our time. We can either hop on Facebook or turn on Netflix or we can start chipping away at our goals. The choice is yours and you have to have the discipline to choose wisely. If you can develop this discipline you will maximize your progress at a speed that most in this world do not, and this is where you separate yourself from the pack.
4. Wake up early.
I know this one is definitely not sexy and no one likes to wake up early, but I feel it is imperative to success. On top of the studies that say you work better in the mornings, I do it for a few different reasons beyond that. First, it takes discipline to wake up early. Secondly, when I wake up early and I have already been productive before the day begins I feel accomplished and that builds momentum into my psyche. Thirdly, I am more presentable for the day in my appearance and in my attitude. When we roll out of bed straight to work and we look like we have been run over by a truck, it does not boost confidence or respect from our team. It also takes time for your brain to wake up and you are losing valuable productive work time. Fourthly, nothing causes stress or ruins your mood like rushing out the door as you are running late. Lastly, as a married man my wife cares much more about us going to bed together than us waking up together. There is something meaningful about going to bed at the same time with your spouse instead of working late, going to bed separately, and then sleeping late.
I know life can seem busy and you may be working a job that is not in your future while trying to pursue your dreams, but trust me it is still possible to manage your time so you can be productive moving forward. I am speaking from a first hand experience, and it can be done if you have the discipline to make it happen!