“My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” - Steve Jobs
We know time is a finite resource and yet, we often fill it in careless ways and then complain that we are too busy to pursue our dreams and goals. There are a lot of articles online about being more productive at work, but what about the other 14-16 hours of your life? Let’s run some numbers.
Say you work 10 and sleep 7. That leaves 7 hours a day. You’ll have to spend much of it caring for family and household tasks. Let’s say that’s 3 more. That leaves 4 precious hours per weekday of “you” time. And what’s the quality of that time if it starts at 7pm and you’re fried from a long day? Time to . . .
Steven Covey’s Time Management Quadrants compartmentalize this well.
Quadrant I: Urgent & Important | Quadrant II: Not Urgent & Important |Quadrant III: Urgent & Not Important | Quadrant IV: Not Urgent & Not Important
It’s Quadrant II we all neglect, for obvious reasons. Here’s one easy way to simplify Covey’s idea. Just make 2 lists -- The Urgent vs. The Valuable. It's what needs done to survive (or keep your job) vs. what needs done so you don't die full of regrets.
Do The Right Thing at The Right Time
Sometimes prioritizing goes beyond compartmentalizing into strategically doing the right things at the right time. Use the best you on the best projects. Many of us are at least somewhat influential in our own schedules. Are you a morning person who's stuck at a crappy job that starts at 8:30? Then get up at 4:30 and front load your free time into your best hours. Go to bed at 9:00.
Lying to yourself is the ultimate time waster. Does your list say “Clean the House” on it for your 4 hours on Monday evening? Let’s talk. You’ve got to break projects down into realistic chunks. Also never assume the best case scenario in any of your plans. This kind of harsh realism isn't meant to demoralize, but it will help wisen up time use. Writing 1000 words is scheduled an hour, but history implies it will take two. Your hour workout is really 90 minutes with prep and stretch.
There are many more strategies out there, but if you start with these essentials, you’re less likely to wake up at 55 with regrets. Prioritize, get real and set up the right conditions to do the important work of life.