On one of the latest episodes of The Science of Success, Matt Bodnar has a great conversation about time and time management, interviewing author Laura Vanderkam. This podcast was timely for me as I was beginning to reexamine my own time management, having focused several of my recent coaching calls on the topic. Tackling the #1 issue identified with The Science of Success audience, Matt did well to bring in Laura, who’s authored multiple books on productivity and time management, as well has having a popular TED talk titled, “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time”.
Laura starts off by saying that time management is not “trying to cram 30 more things into your day” and that “it’s not about scheduling every single moment of your life”, but “spending your time and your energy on the things that are most important to you. On the things that will help you achieve your goals in life.” Words I certainly needed to hear as my list of things to do was continuing to grow but showing little results of actions taken. Hearing about Laura’s time diary projects that she conducted for her book, “Off the Clock”, was also interesting to hear about. Reviewing the busy schedules of over 900 people, she noticed some interesting points. “The people who felt most relaxed about their time were highly likely to plan ‘mini adventures’ into their lives.” Like taking a dance class or going to a movie on a weeknight. Laura continued to say that, “on some levels that might seem like a bit of a paradox because committing to do stuff like that might make us feel like we have less time, but that turns out to not be the case.” Making time memorable actually helps keep people from feeling like “time is slipping from one side of the hour glass to the other.”
Matt continues the conversation asking how those that are “constantly feeling busy and overwhelmed can start to open up to this new approach around thinking about time differently?” Laura responds saying she “always suggests that they try to figure out where their time is really going now.” She continues to say that “one of the reasons people feel so overwhelmed and busy is because they actually don’t know where all their time is going. They don’t know, ‘Am I spending enough time on things that are important to me?’ Or ‘maybe spending too much time in this area?’ If you don’t know for sure, it can become this source for anxiety and stress.” Laura’s following exercise to track your time for a week was encouraging too, as I had done something similar a year ago when nearing a breaking point feeling busy working in my retail store. “A week gives a very good perspective on your life and where your time really goes.”
When I did this exercise, I was working 50-60 hours a week almost routinely. I had just begun my personal development process and was struggling to find time to focus on each step and reduce the stress that was growing in my day to day. When enough was enough, I sat down to figure out how many hours were actually spent working, how much time was needed for my process, as well as how much time was spent asleep, commuting to work, shopping, cleaning and even cooking. When reviewing the week, I realized there was time given to areas that weren’t serving my long-term goals and began to create new habits and routines that helped me have more than enough time to accomplish everything that I was looking to do. For example, I would immediately meditate or journal when I’d notice a stress trigger and worked with my staff to find five minutes to help refocus and also develop my practice. Laura even said that when she began tracking her time continuously, she noticed she was working 10 hours a week less than she thought and needed to figure out where the time was going. This is a very useful exercise in my opinion.
My current issue is trying to do more than what is actually important to me and not making a priority of when I would be doing any of it. When stress starts to creep in that there isn’t enough time for everything, nothing always ends up happening. Matt quotes Tim Ferriss on this time issue saying, “Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities.” Laura also brings up a similar quote from an interview where she was told, “I never say I don’t have time to do X, Y or Z. I don’t do X, Y or Z because it’s not a priority.” She continues to say, “basically I don’t have time means it’s not a priority.”
As life gets busier, sometimes old systems to manage your time no longer work as effectively as they used to. And that’s ok. I used to manage my tasks with note cards, listing my items to complete and it worked for a while. Not having a set day or time to work on items began to reveal a lack of accountability and that is something I’m focusing to improve. This podcast has given me some confidence to also say that if I don’t have time, what I mean is that it’s not a priority for me. I also feel like I’m seeing benefits of the mindset to no longer cram in more to get done and actually get rid of things on my to-do list. In fact, I got rid of the notecard of things to do and bought a 2018-19 planner. With the ideas from my coach and this podcast, I now make a priority for what I want to do by scheduling it in my planner, along with what time I want to work on my task. Even estimating how long it will take to complete what I want to do. A much more effective approach. And just yesterday, I made a priority to go to a meetup so I could get out and meet some new people and enjoy the Florida night life on a Thursday. This episode has a lot of useful tools that I’d recommend looking at, such as defining what is important to do or understanding where your time is actually going. If you find some difficulty managing your time, this could possibly be where your change begins.
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