The U.S. just ended daylight saving time and gained one hour for one day. One hour for one day isn’t much and some of us used it to catch up on an extra hour of sleep. But it doesn’t have to be for only one day. What if you could save one hour every day? What would you do? No, really. Stop right now and think about it. Make a list of 10 things you would do with one extra hour each day. When you have ten, come back and read the rest of this post.
(tick tock, tick tock.) Welcome back. Do you have your list of 10 things you’d do with an extra hour every day? Great!
Time is our most valuable commodity. you can’t make more of it, you can’t really save it, you can’t slow it down or speed it up. But there may be a way to ‘find’ an hour a day in your life of business or business of life. It’s not really creating more time, there are only 24 hours in every day. It’s about reallocating the time to more important things. Here are three steps to finding an hour a day:
Step 1: Observe and Discover. Take the role of a scientist (you can even put on the white lab coat and use a clipboard if you like). For the next 7 days track exactly what you do all day long and how long you spend doing it. I know this can be a tedious task, but it is an eye opener and will be full of gems from which you can change your life.
Caution: Some clients do this task as assigned. Others pretend to do it and make up times based on their memories. Let me tell you, your memory is not very accurate. The reason you need to track things exactly as you do them is because most of us are not aware of the time we spend on every task. We don’t want to know and so we ‘forget.’ We may not realize just how much time has passed as we surf the TV channels looking for something entertaining.
Step 2: Analyze and Identify. Look at your observer log. As a true scientist you are looking at the data only, not the excuses that are in your head justifying why you spent 4 hours watching TV last night – especially since there was nothing good to watch! As you look at your activities from the past week, is there one thing that is obvious to you? Is there one activity you do every day or several days a week that is of no value – has no return for the investment of your precious time? Circle as many activities as you like that fall under the category of ‘time-waster.’
Definitions: Every person will also have a different definition of what is a ‘time-waster’ and what is ‘time-investment.’ For our purposes here, a ‘time-waster’ is an activity that has no return, no value to you. It does not help you grow, meet business objectives, or meet personal goals. This is not to say you need to be ‘productive’ all of the time. We all need a goal to have fun and relax. But if you are not truly enjoying yourself, if the activity is not truly relaxing and fulfilling your ‘entertainment’ needs, then it is a waste of time. A ‘time-investment’ is therefore is an activity which has a return on your investment. It is something that helps you meet a business or personal goal or objective.
Examples of ‘time wasters’ that clients have identified:
- Watching TV
- checking and rechecking email
- surfing internet sites without purpose
- getting distracted and trying to remember where they left off
- re-communicating things and/or mis-communications (email, in person, etc)
- shuffling papers or trying to find something in the piles of papers on their desk (in the drawer etc)
The potential list is as long as there are people on this earth. We all have things we ‘spend’ time on that are not our priority or do not have purpose. Put another way, we are investing our time on things that have no ROI (return on investment). Would you take your paycheck and throw it away? Would you put it into an investment that never had growth nor dividends? No! So why do you throw away your most precious unit of value – time? Every minute of every day is an opportunity to invest in your life. You only have one chance to live this life – you can’t save your minutes for later!
Step 3: Choice and Action. This step is where you (the scientist) conduct an experiment. Select one activity you have identified as less than valuable from your observation list (time-waster). For the next 7 days, eliminate (or greatly reduce) this activity. During this time, continue to log your activities. For example, I know that I can get a better return on my time investment if I limit the number of hours I watch TV. However, I still want to watch the local nightly news, so I set a limit for myself: 1 hour of TV a day. During this experiment, you also need to have a list of ‘time-investment’ activities to take the place of the ‘time-waster’ your a limiting. For me it was writing. Instead of watching TV, I found 1 hour more a day to write! (Your list of 10 items will come in handy here.)
Keep going: Beyond the experimental week, you may feel inspired to make yet another change. Just keep doing the same process – continue to identify the activities that have no ROI and make a conscious decision whether or not you want to change. Make one and only one change each week. After 2 or 3 weeks you will not need to keep a log of your activities. You will know when you are investing your time wisely. I have found that on average clients are able to reinvest one hour every day toward a more valuable task. What would you do with an extra hour every day? What activity is worth your hour – your precious hour?
If you know someone who would benefit from this post, please share it with them. If you have tried this experiment – share your results here – we all need to learn from one another.
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