Take a look at your calendar right now.
What have you been doing for the last month? Is it the life you imagined yourself living? Are you doing what is needed to making progress? Do you know what progress looks like? Anything surprising?
Financial planners often suggest that the first step to money management is to become aware of where you are currently spending your money. It follows then that the first step to “time” management is becoming aware of how you spend your time.
Think of your Day-Timer as a fossil record of your life. It’s incomplete and it’s ancient history, but it can give you some indicators of how you have lived your life and how you could improve on it. Ask yourself some of these questions:
Have you scheduled items that you don’t respect? Sometimes we schedule things we should do like going to the gym, making cold calls, or taking time to read. This is an opportunity to ask why it is a should and either recommit to it or redesign how it’s scheduled. For the advanced schedulers out there, you may want to have an Intended Calendar (how you intended to spend the time) and an Actuals Calendar (how you actually spent your time).
Are there big gaps in your schedule and you feel like you have no spare time? If you are self-employed, time can seem to disappear without you knowing why. By noting what you are doing in those gaps, you gain the ability to reflect later on whether that was time well-spent.
Are you spending a surprisingly large amount of time on unimportant things? We’ve all done it before. We spend hours tweaking a website or shuffling papers when we really should be working doing the work we least want to do. Calling attention to your typical business time-wasters will help you stop doing it.
How much time are spending on the most important projects? On the flip side, how much time are you actually spending on the work that will make the biggest difference in the long-run? The projects that are on fire will always absorb our attention, but what about those projects that will be on fire? Or what about those skills, relationships, results that require a lit bit every day?
How much open space do you have in the week ahead? If the answer is “no space”, then you may want to ask yourself if that is sustainable. Without time for reflection, for spontaneity, or any other kind of unstructured play, you could be missing opportunities to innovate in the best case or running yourself to the ground in the worst case. Perhaps it’s time to make some difficult choices as to what activities should be chopped. Sometimes scheduling “you time” or “business time” is necessary. This doesn’t mean you should schedule every conceivable minute of your life. It just means you may have to set aside time for it.
Is your schedule mostly empty? If it is, either you are in the fortunate position of a Warren Buffet who has a singular focus and nothing else critical to worry about, or you are trying to keep everything in your head and letting little appointments and commitments slide. A simple test is to ask yourself whether you are forgetting little details or having that feeling that something needs doing, but you don’t know what. We shouldn’t be slaves to our calendars, but neither should we carry it all in a leaky memory. You don’t want to be “that person” who we can count on not counting on.
Does your calendar involve the most important people in your life? It may seem unromantic to schedule a date with your loved on, but compare that to not having any intentional, conscious, quality time with people you care about.
In the end, your schedule is a reflection of some (not all) of your priorities. It’s worth taking a look at how you’ve been spending your time and checking to see if they actually align with your life’s journey.
Are there are any funny or interesting patterns you see in your schedule? Please share!
P.S. – I was inspired by this video on your calendar as a “moral document”.