Unless you are one of the fortunate few who have unlimited funds at your disposal, you are probably used to making trade-offs or sacrifices in order to get something that you really want. Perhaps you want a larger house or a newer house or both. Generally that means that you will be taking on more debt and your mortgage payments are higher. For most of us, that means we need to decide if the additional financial expense is worth giving up other things for. Perhaps it means a less expensive family vacation or less travel in general. Perhaps it means keeping the car for just a little bit longer; eating in more and dining out less often or going out to less expensive restaurants. When talking about money, we get it … it’s not limitless, we can’t have it all, so we learn to focus on what is really important.
Why do so many of us have difficulty making that same connection when it comes to another valuable, but limited resource called “Time”? Why do we somehow think that we can fit one more project, one more volunteer role, one more commitment into an already over-full schedule? The reality is there are only 24 hours in a day … period. All the wishing in the world is not going to change that.
We need to learn how to manage time the way we manage money. So how do you do that?
- Identify your core values, your principles and be able to answer the question “What is important right now?”. Is it spending more time with family? Is it moving your career forward and ending up in the corner office? I am not here to tell you which one is right and nobody else can tell you that either. You need to decide for yourself what you want to be when you grow up and you need to clearly understand what you need to sacrifice in order to get there. I do believe that you can have it all, but not necessarily all at the same time.
- Learn how to say “no”. If you’re like me, you are inundated with requests for help and sometimes the “pitch” includes the line “It won’t cost you anything but time”. Quite frankly, I’m usually in shorter supply of time than money. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or learn how to say “yes, but I need this” or “yes, but I won’t be able to get to that until …” Saying “no” can be a good thing for the person asking. If you don’t have the time to complete a task or project or complete it to the quality level they need, you’re not really helping, are you?
- Let go and get help. Sometimes we assume responsibility for things that can be taken care of by someone else. Take a look at your “to do” list and identify tasks that can be delegated to others. Take a look at your personal task list as well. Would hiring someone to come in every two weeks to clean your house allow you to focus on something that has more value to you? Delegating does mean that you are not in total control anymore and that can be tough, but you’ll realize soon enough that in most cases, your way is not the only right way!
- Get organized. Searching through boxes, piles of paper or email inboxes with 2,000+ emails is a huge time waster and incredibly frustrating. Create a filing system (both electronic and paper) and stick to it. Get rid of stuff you don’t need (that includes all those clothes you have tucked away ” just in case”). Being buried under “stuff” is overwhelming and can keep you from focusing and acting on your goals.
And as a final thought, when creating your “time budget” pay yourself first. Take care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically. Don’t let sleep, food, exercise and relationships be the first on the chopping block when you find you need more time. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anyone else either.