Just like space, time is a limited resource. In fact, most of us would say this is a resource under constant pressure. I just read a trend in a market research paper called “Lifestyle Claustrophobia”. Symptoms include overly busy schedules and cluttered homes. With so many demands on our time, it is easy to feel pulled in several directions and be unsure of what to focus on.
Here are three strategies to help you invest your time wisely.
1. Know your priorities
Goal and objectives, whether personal or professional, are often defined annually. To be tracked, they must be broken down into specific, measurable, implementable activities.
When a new opportunity or commitment presents itself, use this list of defined objectives as a measuring stick to help you determine what to say ‘yes’ to and what to decline. Incorporate actions that further your goals – these are your priorities. Defer or decline those that don’t.
If you’ve got competing priorities, sometimes you simply have to say ‘no’ to something worthwhile. Nice problems to have, but some of the hardest decisions to make.
Write down your priorities to create a visual reminder that you and others can refer to often. Use a whiteboard or jot them at the front of a paper planner. Remember, out of sight is out of mind.
2. Plan your time around your priorities
To ensure you achieve your goals you must devote time to working on them. Not doing so leaves you open to sabotage by daily incoming obligations which may be urgent but less important.
Since there will always be unexpected and pressing issues, plan gaps in your schedule to accommodate them.
A week is an ideal amount of time to consider and make time for each of your personal and professional goals. This may sound silly, but I have found colour-coding your calendar – one for each type of activity- an effective way to perform a quick visual check on how you are spending your time. You may for example choose one colour for lead generation, one for client meetings, one for administration and others for social or exercise time. If you see one colour dominate, it may be time to make a shift.
3. Review priorities regularly
You’ve often heard “the only thing constant in life is change”. Stop and review your goals, objectives, priorities and performance at least once per quarter, if not monthly, to make sure you’re indeed working on the things that move you towards your personal and professional goals. If not, adjust. This will make sure you keep making progress even if you change the way the compass points along the way.