If you are not driving a car or holding a chef’s knife in your hand at this very moment, do this: look at either your watch or a clock near you. Notice the time. Now, stop time. You can't. See, that’s the thing about time – it never stops.
The key to understanding time management is that you don't manage time, you manage attention. You probably hear this quote often: “Time is money.”
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, however. Time isn’t money, money is money. You can always make more money – you can't create more time. Your attention is the real currency. What you focus on is where you energy goes. Energy and attention is the how the most successful people in the world get stuff done. We all have the same number of hours in each day. The difference between those that get want they want in life and business is how they use their twenty-four.
Secret of an Italian Economist
Vilfredo Pareto was a man who recognized a very unusual pattern in his garden. Eighty percent of the peas were produced by just 20% of the pea pods. It made him wonder if that strange imbalance was just in his garden, and his research showed it was not contained to just green beans. He uncovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. Thus, the Pareto Principle was born. Known also as The 80/20 Rule, it states that roughly 80% of your results come from only 20% of you activities. That’s easy; the hard part is identifying your twenty percent.
What activities can you delegate to others who may actually be better at executing them than you? Don't let foolish pride get the way: if a task is not something that you are really amazing at, you might be better having someone else on your team tackle it. Always play to your strengths. Yes, you can struggle through that Excel spreadsheet to prove something, but why? Better to focus on what your 20% is and maximize your results. Remember time is ticking, and invest your time into activities and priorities that get you and your brand the best return.
The human mind is a fascinating creation. For only weighing roughly three pounds it uses around 330 calories a day. It also consumes about 20% of the oxygen you take in. The human brain also has some unique wiring or shortcuts called heuristics. These are mental shortcuts we have developed to help us make decisions faster and thus survive the millions of years of human evolution. They were created to make sure we survived.
They also can hurt us when it comes to time. Cognitive biases are ways our brain make sense of all the information that bombards our senses. Think about all the information that you have to take in at any moment: all the visual stimuli, every little sound, the physical space around you...it's a lot.
Here are a couple tricks to getting a better grip on time:
Parkinson's Law: Work expands or contracts to meet obligations. If you are given a week to work on a project, most people won't feel the pressure to really do anything until a few days before it's due. If you have ever crammed for an exam, then you have experienced this firsthand. It’s better to set a tighter deadline for yourself and commit to reaching that target. Be tough on yourself and exercise those willpower muscles. That might mean saying no to that hour or two of TV you like to zone out to at night. Stop chatting with people at work for long periods of time discussing what you think might happen on Game of Thrones. Discipline is the key to getting the distraction monkey off your back. Saying no is sometimes more powerful then saying yes to things.
This can also work wonders for getting your team to control time better. If it's Monday and you want a project done on Friday, ask for it by Wednesday. In the kitchen, when you give a cook a prep list, make sure to provide a deadline with it for its completion. There are some cooks who, if given them 12 items to prep in 8 hours, will use all eight. Give them 12 items, make it clear that they have only 6 hours to get it all done, and you’ll see that many can pick up the pace under the time pressure.
Schedule It: If you looked at your calendar right now, chances are it’s 90% filled with appointments, meetings, or phone calls that are from other people. The demands of others is killing your ability to get control of your life.
You either control time or it controls you, period.
Getting control of your calendar is paramount to learning to control your attention. Yes, there are things that will come at you from others that will require your focus. The key is making sure you schedule time for things that are important to you, things that move you closer to your goals.
How about working out? Do you? Most people in this industry love to throw out the excuse that they don't have time, and it's true – you don't own time. You make time and schedule time for things that are important to you. If working out and keeping healthy is not important to you, it will only happen when you find the "opportunity." You’d have a better chance of hitting the Powerball lottery numbers four times in a row than working out if you are waiting until the opportunity presents itself. Taking control of time and your life requires you to step up and own the things that you have total control over: your calendar and your attention (which means taking conscious action).
Want to get to the gym? Schedule it. Want to get the schedules done on time? Schedule time to work on it. Want to read more? Put that down on your calendar!
Your calendar is really a reflection of the quality of your life. If you have a lot of white space on there, chances are you have a life driven by the demands of others, or you’re doing things that only give the appearance that you're busy on the surface. Yeah, you worked a 12-hour shift, but what did you really get done? You might say something like this: Well, there was this thing that popped up and then I had to go to the store because someone forgot to order limes.
You are not rewarded in business or life for being busy. You are rewarded for the results you get. If you want to make more, do more and become more, stop fighting against time – it’s a battle you will never win. The only thing you control is your focus in this moment. What are you going to do with that information?