Tag Archives: time management

Where does my time go?

There are times when I start doing something, and the next thing I know it is time for the next meeting. This often happens at home, when I sit down to relax for a few minutes and then suddenly my wife is wondering why I’m not ready to leave. I will have gotten lost in a book, a show, a conversation, or another project. Very few of us are good estimators at our time usage.

When I started this project last summer, I downloaded the free version of toggl in order to quickly track what I was doing both personally and professionally. I could do it on my phone or in a browser, so it was easy to work with. I didn’t go crazy with categories and 15 minute increments, but simply tracked some key areas:

  • Personal: Eating
  • Personal: Reading
  • Personal: Devotional Time
  • Personal: Email, blogs
  • Personal: Social Media
  • Personal: TV
  • Personal: Mentoring
  • Personal: Out with friends
  • Personal: Chill/Nap (this is important!)
  • Work: 1:1
  • Work: Team Meetings
  • Work: Mentoring
  • Work: Email/Slack
  • Work: Project A
  • Work: Project B

So what did I learn? It made me more intentional with what I did. Personally, I became overly cognizant of how much time got spent on social media, and this has led to a significant reduction in time on these platforms overall. At work, I started to become aware of going to email instead of using some downtime to finish up a task. I also was more careful of sitting in meetings and doing email instead of paying attention. I also started to shut down at an appropriate time and not keep working at the expense of my personal life.

Try it for a couple of weeks and see how it works for you. See what lessons you can learn about how you spend your time. There is no answer that will satisfy everybody in terms of how your time is spent. That is up to you, your family, your work.

Once you have done that, maybe you need to switch something up. I am a person of routine anyways, so this can be hard. My morning consists of reading blogs, personal Bible reading and prayer, shower and dressed, and making a cup of chai to begin the day. At lunch I try to get a couple miles of walking in or a nap if it is ugly outside. During this time I stopped playing Words with Friends, which I found was becoming more of a distraction than a chance to challenge my brain.

Another great personal example that I have heard others do is set a timer. They don’t want to give up video games, but they recognize the need to reduce the time spent on them.

For work, I committed to more walking meetings. When I have a 1:1 or another meeting for which I don’t have to be in front of the computer, I walk while on the call. It keeps me from being distracted by email or Slack. I have also tried to regroup my to-do list so that I focus on the important items when I have some downtime during the day.

Some may question having chill/nap time on this. Doesn’t that mean you aren’t being productive?! I have always found that I can become more productive if I can get a short nap in at lunch, or after going out fishing, or reading something unrelated to work. It was great to see this backed up in an episode of Art of Manliness called A change is a rest . Sometimes walking away from a complex problem will help you to recenter your brain and your creativity.

So spend some hard time doing the analysis of how your time is spent. It might be good to share it with your partner, friend, or a mentor to look at it closer and get some objective feedback. And then make some small changes to see how it changes your productivity.

Books on productivity and life

I am an avid reader. I wanted to share some of the books that that have impacted me most greatly and a few of the key insights that I got from them.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (book | website) is one of the books whose principles define many of the books below. While I was a goal setter prior to reading this, I started to understand SMART goals better, becoming less scattershot.

  • Beginning with the end in mind made me define my roles and create a mission statement.
  • The circle of influence helped me to think about where to focus my attention.
  • The Urgent vs Important quadrant made me think about my tasks within my circle of influence to know which ones I should be doing.

Getting Things Done by David Allen (book | website) is my favorite productivity book, and was my next step beyond the Franklin-Covey tools. One of the key points is the need to “empty your mind,” which means actually getting everything that you need to do in a system. By doing that, I was able to collect everything that needs done by a category or project. This reminded me of my project management training and breaking the larger projects down into smaller tasks. This even involved the routine of task review becoming more detailed, involving not just work tasks but what I wanted to do personally.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (book | website | podcast) was recommended by several leaders I read or listened to (Michael Hyatt and Seth Godin being two of them) which drove me to pick it up. I was enamored from the time I heard his story of why he wrote it. “Essentialism isn’t about doing more things, it’s about doing more of the right things.” One of my favorite podcasts right now. It has me asking questions about my goal setting, dreaming, and best yeses.

The One Thing by Gary Keller (book | website | podcast) I found out about from The Essentialism podcast. He has a key focusing question to make sure our purpose and priority are in line: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by oing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” Still working through a part of this as I finalize my 2021 goals, so more to come here. It is helping me to refine my mission statement and is bringing it into one solid focus.

Linchpin by Seth Godin (book | blog | podcast) is my favorite of his books. I read his blog regularly, short and to the point, and his podcast will make you think. Early in my career I would keep my head down and hope that things would pass by me. I was challenged to become critical to the organization I was in, to stand up and be noticed. This has put my career on a very different trajectory by not staying in the shadows.

Two books that I have read this year that have made an impact are Conscious Business by Fred Kofman (book | website) and Start with Why by Simon Sinek (book | website). Both books can be read from both a business perspective as well as from a leadership perspective. They encourage some of the same things in having a clear mission that is centered around values that YOU have defined for yourself.

Have any of these books struck a chord with you? What insights did you gain? Any books that you would add to this list?

Let’s get uncomfortable

My journey in trying to be productive started with trying to find the perfect tool, the perfect process, the “10 steps to productivity” if you will. Some of this was pre-internet, so I read books and magazine articles on the subject. As the internet exploded, I did searches for the best blogs and productivity experts. I had my Franklin Planner, I integrated the Franklin-Covey methodology, I had software to manage my to-do list and print it out and keep it with my schedule. I built my mission statement and did my goal setting. As the electronics came up to speed, I had my Palm Pilot and my Blackberry, an Android and then an iPhone. I played with Microsoft Outlook Tasks, Google Tasks, Things, Nozbe, and others.

But my mission statement wasn’t complete. I thought through my roles (husband, dad, son, friend, co-worker, manager…) but there were two issues. One was that I had not gotten completely honest with parts of myself. The second was that I was not being consistent in that mission in all aspects of my life.

For the first issue, while my wife was helping me learn to say “No”, it took a bit longer to be able to understand that I was a people pleaser, and it was destroying me. In 2000, I spent some time with a life coach who helped me understand the people pleasing part of myself. This helped me to better voice my wants and desires to others, as well as do better at saying “No” to those things that I wanted to do but drove my productivity down. Aaron Rubel commented on my previous post about effectiveness vs efficiency, and I had to learn that.

It took until 2015 when I almost had a mental and emotional breakdown to understand that while at the time I was being very efficient in managing a staff of people and processing 500+ emails a day, my effectiveness was at a low point. I was putting in too many hours, the self-care was lost, and my perfectionism and procrastination was taking its toll at work, while I was not enjoying the rest and relaxation that I needed.

I had to get uncomfortable. I had to look at myself even deeper. I had to make some hard decisions about my career. I had to be ok with failing and disappointing people at the right times.

And I did. I chose to work less hours and be ok with things being undone. I was let go from my position during some restructuring, and I was ok with it. I took a new position that was very different a few months later with a lower pay, and I was excited about it. I joined the Hobie Fishing Kayak Team, which was a stretch in some ways, but a joy in so many others. All of these led to some amazing growth opportunities.

For the second issue on consistency across all aspects of life, we’ll get into with future blogs.

Next week I want to look at some of the books that have made an impact on me, and why. But until then, what about you? Have you been ok with being uncomfortable, or do you need to dive into that further? Here are a few thought starters and potential actions to get uncomfortable:

  • Fear of missing out (set a time limit on social media; don’t finish that book that you are not enjoying; cancel a podcast subscription that is no longer serving its purpose)
  • Lack of trusting others, which may mean unwillingness to delegate (identify something you are doing that somebody else could do)
  • Perfectionism, either spending too much time and never being good enough or overwhelmed and unable to start (launch it!; put pen to paper)
  • Procrastination, maybe due to a proliferation of hobbies or it could be caused by your perfectionism (either schedule time to do it or set a hobby aside for a time)
  • Fear of failure (ask somebody to have a conversation; try something new)
  • Saying “Yes” too often, even to good things (next person who asks you to do something, tell them you need to think about it)
  • Trying to please everybody (list out the important people in your life)
  • Lack of self-care (identify one thing you can do differently: health, exercise, eating, emotional imbalance)

Who can you talk to about these further?