Every single time management book sets you up to fail. Why? They put you in the role of reactionary. Sure they try and sell you on their system for organizing and getting in control and saying “yes” to the most important things. But all of these systems land on one of two premises:
- if you organized your list better, you could get more done in the same amount of time
- if you said no to “good things” you’d have time to focus on “great things.”
And so you’re stuck responding to external stimuli and trying to accomplish it all. Seth Godin calls it “roach stomping.”
Even if you’ve filtered out the “wastes of time,” you’re still just trying to get it all done. Here’s the secret: you’ll never be done! It’s time to get in the drivers seat. It’s time to turn the tables on time management.
What Every Time Management Guru Recommends
Every time management guru recommends that you start by tracking how long it takes to do tasks. Keep a time journal. Write down every half hour what you did for the last half hour. After a week, you’ll know how long tasks take you. You’ll also identify time sinks that you could eliminate. As Michael Hyatt puts it,
“What gets measured usually starts improving”
– Michael Hyatt
The Assumption that’s Killing You
That’s fine advice. But it assumes that the amount of time you spend on each task is out of your control. Which is ridiculous. The only thing you have control over is how you spend your time!
Here’s an analogy: when we are faced with an expense that we don’t have the money for, we have two options. First, we could walk away and not spend the money. Second, we could borrow the money. Of course the problem with option 2 is that you can’t borrow your way into wealth: eventually you’ve got to go earn that money and pay it back. Borrowing is unsustainable.
With time, there is no credit card.
We all have 168 hours each week. You can’t borrow more of it today and pay it back later. Yet we live as though we can. Our problems with time and our problems with money are the same: rather than spending as reactionaries, we need to reclaim our ability to decide how much we spend our finite resources on.
For example, I recently tore a hole in my jeans. I definitely need a new pair. But I get to decide how much I spend on them. I can walk into Nordstrom and spend $300 on a pair of jeans. I can walk into Wal-Mart and spend $10 on a pair of jeans. The amount I am willing to spend dictates the level of quality that I can achieve (assuming that $300 jeans are actually better in some way than $10 jeans…)
Decide How Much To Spend
Time works the same way. There are many things you’ll need to spend time on that are out of your control. You can’t decide to NOT do your class project (well you can, but you know what will happen). But you can decide how much time you give it. Don’t work until its done. Work the number of hours you are willing to give it and then STOP. The amount you are willing to spend dictates the level of quality that you can achieve.
So here is my new time management system that no one else is offering:
Budget Your Time
Budgeting is deciding how much you are willing to spend BEFORE you walk into the store. How do you do it? Simple. Take stock of your priorities and divide your resources accordingly.
Need more on budgeting? Click here.
Next time someone tries dumping something into your life respond differently:
That’s an interesting idea. I am willing to give it 30 minutes.
Why not more?
Because I have other commitments.
Do the best quality work you can with the time you’re willing to give. If you’re not satisfied with that level of quality, you have to drop something else to buy more time to do a better job.
Is this wildly different from what you’re doing? Tell us about it! Are you already working a system like this one? Tell us how you do it! Leave a comment below.