My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are continuing our discussion around how we allocate time.
If you haven’t yet listened to the last episode my invitation is to go back and listen to it now as this episode is intended to reiterate and work with the same basic concepts.
In the last episode we started with the idea that we do in fact allocate our time – it is a deliberate choice. Now, this is hardly controversial but important to acknowledge in terms of taking responsibility and being accountable to ourselves. Also, regardless of whether we are aware of them – we create our own rules governing how we allocate time. I call these time principles. They are really high level – like our own personal commandments – and govern what we decide to do and not do.
For anyone who is still unsure how time principles are applied in practice, let me briefly illustrate. I have a print-out of my top principles taped to my monitor – just 8 in total. Whenever someone or something tries to hand me a task or responsibility I look at my list, which includes items such as “Focus on Accomplishments”, “Learn to Say No” and “Seek Support”. So, I ask myself “How might this task or responsibility advance my larger aspirations?” whilst giving myself permission to say No if it doesn’t, all assuming I have the motivation, energy and attention to take this on. This makes it so easy for me to say “Look, I’m sorry but this really isn’t for me.”
The time principles don’t as such help me plan my day or do tasks more efficiently but they are essential in terms of setting boundaries of what is mine to do in the world and what isn’t. From my experience this is key before we start talking about systems, tips or tricks to manage time and energy. I encounter people all the time who skip this step and seek out the mythical perfect time system that will allow them to get everything done but whose time principles include items such as “Say Yes to Everything” and “Don’t Disappoint Others”. Now, hardly surprisingly they are overwhelmed. Surely the first step is being clear what it is we want to get busy about and making the decision that we are going to protect that from ourselves and from others.
Once you’ve built this solid foundation it is probably time to build rituals and routines to make these principles second-nature. These allow us to structure our day such that we define what it is we want to accomplish and don’t get lost in long to-do lists and other people’s priorities. That said, it may be that at work your boss or peers basically decide what it is you get busy about. If this allows you to add the value you were hired to add great. If not, what might you do about it?
The reality is that we are all full of good intentions but equally capable of self-delusion so we may think we’re being more intentional and productive than we are. We tend to forget the interruptions or distractions so being fully aware of how you allocate time and how you experience, remember and think about time can have a major impact on how overwhelmed you become. Just building in a few minutes at the start of your day to ask yourself what your priorities are for the day, what it is you truly want to have accomplished and then reflecting back on your day is truly powerful. You get to see what principles you are truly living and also reflect on whether you have made progress on your priorities. And if you haven’t that’s fine – you’ll probably have some insights as to why not. And always remember that tomorrow is a clean slate when you get to start again.
So the question from last time is unchanged – What priorities am I living now?
Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.