And the way we spend our time is the way we spend our lives.
We often say we are killing time.
But really it is time that is killing us.
So how best to make the most of time?
1. Eliminate: Many people recognizing the limitations of time tend to try to do as much as possible. They multi-task and run around in a frenzy. Usually all they achieve is more multi-tasking and more frenzy. Doing more stuff is not the same as achievement. Activity is not productivity. Showing how busy you are does not show how important you are.
2. Focus: The key to doing less is to focus. Here are two filters to help you decide what you should focus on.
a) Comparative Advantage: You should spend your time doing things that you can do better than most people. Some focus areas are are easy like being a spouse or a parent, since by definition you should be able to do this better than other folks. However for many of the errands you run and the assignments you take on at work, it is important to ask if you can outsource or delegate or find a colleague who is better than you.
b) Positive Outcome: Where you can choose you should only do things which give you a positive outcome. Either you 1) earn a financial reward, 2) learn something new , 3) help someone else or the team get better or 4) experience in itself feels good.If it is not one of those four outcomes and it is avoidable why are you doing it?
3. Scale: You can scale yourself and your impact and therefore save time. Two ways to do this is to use “leverage” and “momentum”.
Much of what we do as white collar workers is to think, communicate and sell. Basically with a few exceptions our success is based in large part on how we are as communicators and sellers of ideas and points of view.
a) Leverage: Today technology and scheduling allows people to leverage. You can use social media, good writing and speaking skills to reach many people that you need to communicate and sell your thinking to. You are not limited to small meetings and groups. You can decide if you are senior to gather folks at the right conference or meeting versus repeating yourself again and again.
b) Momentum: The trend is your friend. To not waste your time you need to understand the underlying trend that is driving your firm or your business and in most cases align with it. The world is going global. The world is going digital. Every company has a built in DNA. If you are going to go against the flow prepare for much loss of time and grief. I am not suggesting that you sometimes do not try to change the trend of your firm or relationship but be alive to your chances and better have a superb strategy or you will be have nothing to show for it but bitterness.
I often meet people who doggedly pursue totally wasted causes and complain about how little time they have. Time is all you have. Stop having idiots decide how you spend it.
4. Do new things. Tattoo the moment: While the first three behaviors of elimination, focus and scale are scientific, the next couple are much more artistic.In the movie “Into the Wild”, there is a line about how the core of existence is new experiences. Often what we remember and which gives time certain elongation and depth are new experiences. These do not just have to be travels or new relationships and new jobs but could be as simple as walking down a new street, eating at a new place and going to a new cultural event. If there is a way to tattoo the moment into your memory you should try too.
5. Give you time to others: One of the best ways to use your time is to use it not on yourself but on others. Nothing is as rewarding as helping other people, mentoring younger people and forgetting about yourself in your time equation.
If you respect other people’s time. If you give them your attention. If you think not of the lack of time but the beauty of time, you will find that the time you spend is magical.
And in the end it is the time that you do not measure that is the most meaningful of all.