Time is a funny thing; sometimes it feels like we have all the time in the world, and sometimes we just can’t get enough. Our perception of time can change, moment to moment, and time is often cited as a major barrier for people in achieving what they want to achieve. “I haven’t got enough time” or “I’m too busy” are common reasons people give when they’re not getting the results they want. It feels like time is working against them.
“I can’t pursue my dream job because I don’t have enough time.”
“I can’t learn the things I need to learn to move forwards because I’m so busy.”
“I can’t focus on strategy planning for my business because I’m too busy working on other stuff.”
Does any of this sound familiar? If it does then I’m guessing the question you often ask yourself is “how do I create more time?”
Well, if I was a time-bending wizard, I may be able to help you out. But, alas, I’m not. Time creation is not my speciality unfortunately and yes, the title of this article is a bit sneaky and deliberately so. Because the people who most need to read this are the people who feel like they need to make more time, and if you’re coming at it from the perspective of making time, then you’re going to struggle frankly. Making time is a dead end. Having a better relationship with time, being able to use the time you have more effectively is where it’s at.
In my role as a coach I help people to create the results they want to experience in the world and, quite often, that involves developing a better relationship with time. Because when you use time effectively, it is possible to be amazingly productive and achieve huge amounts in what seems to be relatively small amounts of time. And when you’re not stressing about the lack of time then you have more mental space to focus, and that in itself is a huge productivity booster. So what this article is about is some thinking and strategies that will help you develop a better relationship with time. If time is a barrier for you getting what you want, then this is for you…..
1. Recognise that you have a choice about how you spend your time.
Yes, that’s right, you have a choice about how you spend your time. Every minute of every day. It seems like there are certain things that we must do and that we don’t have any choice over, like go to work for example, but even that is a choice. If you decided that you weren’t going to work anymore and you weren’t going to leave your house, you could. Eventually someone would come to check on you and, if you really persisted with that choice then at some point people with white coats would probably come to collect you and put you in a padded room somewhere, so that you got fed if nothing else!
Of course, there are consequences to the choices we make about how we spend our time, but that doesn’t stop us having the choice. If you are prepared to accept the consequences of choosing to use your time differently, then you can make some big changes in the way you spend your time.
I was speaking to someone recently about this and they talked to me about how they had decided to reduce their circle of friends so they could really focus on developing stronger relationships with the people that really mattered to them. They knew a lot of people in the area where they lived and found that they were investing a huge amount of time in superficial relationships with acquaintances. They made a conscious choice to pull back from these relationships, so they could put more time into the people that they felt closer to. At the root of this was a conscious decision to use their time differently, in order to get a better result for themselves.
What are some of the things that you spend time on now that are not serving you well?
What are some of the things that you are doing because you feel you should do them?
What would be the consequences of not spending time on those things anymore?
Are you happy to accept those consequences? If you are, then you can stop doing spending your time on those things.
2. Prioritise well, and time is yours.
Pretty much all time management strategies boil down to:
3. Take action
That’s pretty much it. Whole books, training courses and software platforms have been built off the back of this structure. Get clear on what you need to do, plan it in, do it! Easy, right? well if it was, you probably wouldn’t be reading this!
Where this often comes unstuck is in the first stage: getting the priorities right. We spend loads of time updating our calendar, writing to do lists, taking loads of action, but we don’t get the results that we want because we don’t focus on the the things that are most important and make the biggest impact to us.
I can relate to this particularly well because I was very good at this for a long time! My to do list had 1000 things on it and I spent the first hour of my day working out where to start! Then I would be really busy but wouldn’t get good results because I was focussed on getting fifteen things done, rather than the single most important thing.
I find this a lot with business owners. They are doing the accounting, talking to customers, managing orders, updating websites, networking, managing staff, etc etc etc, and they find they don’t have the time to think about what’s next for the business. The response is: “help, I need more time!”, when actually more time is not the solution. More time would just be filled up with more things to do and the cycle would continue. A better response is to take things off the list, and that is about prioritisation. Effective prioritising comes down to being really clear on what’s important. One of mentors Rich Litvin put it really well when he said:
“Slow down to speed up”
I love this quote because it is so simple and yet so profound. How do you slow down? You get really, really clear on what’s important. Because if spending time with your family is really important to you, then making sure that happens is going to make a big difference to your wellbeing. If getting out of a job you’re not passionate about is really important to you, then focussing more of your time towards making that happen is an effective use of your time and will make a big impact to you. If spending time strategy planning about the next six months in your business is going to make a big difference to you, then making time to do that will have knock on effects that are well worth the time invested.
Where we often feel overwhelmed and time poor is when we are spending time on things that are not deeply aligned with what’s important to us. Getting clear on these things is the first step, and is fundamental to effective prioritisation of your time.
If you could just achieve one thing today, what would you like that to be?
If you could just achieve one thing this year, what would you like that to be?
3. Make time for space
This can seem counterintuitive but is one of the most impactful things that I have found for myself and for others I work with. When we have space, and by that I mean time when we don’t have to do anything, then we open up the pathways for new ideas, inspiration, relaxation, motivation, excitement, and a whole host of other positive emotions to come through.
We live in a world of endless possibilities, almost unlimited information and a million and one ways we can use our time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being busy, all the time. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or not on track in your life, then the countless options can become a big problem and can drain your time and your energy. Making time to do nothing is like finding a quiet spot in a busy city, it provides refuge and a place to rest. And when we stop listening to the busy sounds of the world, we hear things that can really help us get to where we want to go.
This was one of the effects of moving country that I did not foresee coming. Before moving to Australia I had been living in London for a few years, and if you’ve ever been to London you may have an idea of how frantic that place is. I was busy all the time; socialising, commuting, exploring, I would have every weekend planned out at least 6 months ahead. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it, but when I arrived in Melbourne something unexpected happened. I found myself with no friends, living within walking distance of work, and suddenly with a lot of time on my hands. It was weird and I found I felt instantly more relaxed. But, the interesting thing was; I had much more mental space than I had ever had. I found myself day-dreaming, thinking about things I hadn’t thought about before and reflecting on life in a way I hadn’t done before. This was the catalyst for the change in my thinking that led to me leaving a corporate career, finding my passions and pursuing them. It came from having the mental space to get in touch with what is important to me and to start making it happen.
This is now something I will often advise to clients who are struggling with not having enough time. It sounds counterintuitive, and it’s sometimes met with some resistance, but really stepping back and booking in a day or even an hour when you can just do nothing is so powerful. It provides a sense of perspective that you just don’t get when you’re working through the to-do list, and it is very often the time when new ideas come to you, when you get a sense of what’s really important and when you feel motivated to pursue the things you really want. The feedback afterwards is always, without exception, that the time was well spent.
Book some time in where you don’t have to do anything. A day is great, but even an hour is better than nothing. Deliberately do not fill that time with things to do. You may find, when the time comes, you feel like going for a walk or reading a book or just having a nap. And that’s great. But don’t plan for those things; make the time, give yourself some space and enjoy it. You may be surprised at the effect this has.
It often seems like effective time management is about getting more done, but being constantly busy and feeling like you don’t have enough time are the likely results. Recognising you have a choice about how you spend your time, focussing on what’s really important and giving yourself space are what great time management is all about. If a lack of time has been a barrier for you up until now, then taking these ideas on board and bringing them into your life will help you. And when you begin to develop a better relationship with time you will find yourself less busy, less stressed about time and yet getting more of the results you want. If you’re serious about making big changes in your life then make time work with you, not against you.
Developing a great relationship with time can yield amazing results. We all have the same amount of time in the day, and one of the things that separates high achievers is how they use it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, time poor or too busy to make the changes you know you need to make, then contact me now. Because having a good relationship with time is about how you think about it, and I can help you with that.