“I just don’t have enough time to get everything done.”
“There’s so much to do and so little time.”
“24 hours just isn’t enough time to get everything done.”
Have you ever found yourself uttering one of these phrases (or something similar) during an exceptionally busy period of your life? Perhaps you feel that way all the time, as our increasingly busy culture is always on the go, trying to squeeze as much activity as possible into our already crammed schedules. Just imagine how nice it would be if you in fact did have more than 24 hours in a day! What do you think you would do with all that extra time? The answer may be closer than you think.
Every year, our nation receives a time management “pop quiz” (except in Arizona & Hawaii), and yet most of us don’t even realize that a test is being administered. At 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November, something magical happens…an hour is added to the day. So there is a single day each and every year (at the end of daylight savings time) when there is actually 25 hours. So, that begs a very serious question for each and every one of us. What do you do with it?
This past November, I woke up at the exact same time I always do on a Sunday, right around 6:00 a.m. Only this time it wasn’t 6:00 a.m., it was actually 5:00 a.m., so I had a free hour with which to do whatever I wanted. When the alarm went off, I was faced with the aforementioned pop quiz, and it answered a very important question. If I was given extra time in my day, would I actually use it to do something productive, or would I squander it? Much to my satisfaction, I got up and cleaned out my garage, while everyone else in the house was asleep. However, I must admit that it was the first year that I remember actually taking advantage of the extra time.
Many of the same people who complain incessantly about needing more time in the day rarely do anything significant on the one day that they are given the additional time that they so earnestly desire. In fact, every year numerous online polls are conducted asking folks what they plan on doing with the extra hour, and the most common answer is “get an extra hour of sleep.” These people received an extra hour in the day, and yet accomplished the same amount (or less). Unbeknownst to them, they are victims of what is oftentimes referred to as Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s law states that the amount of time which one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task. My wife and I joke about it all the time, and it’s never more evident than when we are getting ready for church. If we wake up late on Sunday morning, and only have 30 minutes to get ready for church, we race around like wild people and leave precisely at 9:30 am. If we wake up on time, with 2 hours or more to get ready, we get the same things done (though with slightly less stress) and STILL leave at precisely 9:30. Rather than hurry up and get ready in 30 minutes (which is obviously possible) and use the extra 90+ minutes for important tasks, we tend to take our time and get ready at our own pace.
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to do the same thing with their task lists, allowing the tasks for the day to fill the entire day, instead of compressing them into a block of time that allows for other portions of the day to be used for brainstorming, business building, long term projects, etc. Their theory of needing “more time” is completely erroneous. In fact, they don’t need more time, they need to learn to utilize the time that they have in a more efficient manner.
The entrepreneur’s first (and biggest) time management mistake is starting their day with the easiest tasks first. They do this because it gives them a sense of accomplishment, as they are able to quickly cross things off the list. However, the problem with doing the small tasks first is that (per Parkinson’s law) it tends to take up most of the time you have allotted to work, 8 hours or so. This leaves very little time for the big projects, which are typically the most important, and the ones with the most profit potential. Every small business owner says that they want to spend more time working ON the business, rather than IN the business, because they realize that’s what it takes to make the company grow. But big projects take big time, and because we don’t get the satisfaction of drawing a big, bold line through it on the to-do list for days or even months, we unfortunately have a tendency of putting it off.
As you can imagine, I wear a lot of hats in my life…husband, father, blogger, entrepreneur, real estate trainer, pastor, and the list goes on and on. So, like many of you, I oftentimes find myself in the unenviable position of having what SEEMS to be more work than can be accomplished in the time I have available. For a long time I fell into the trap of trying to get all the little things done first, so my mind was clear and I could focus on the big things. But I never seemed to get around to the big stuff, and by the time I even THOUGHT about the long-term projects, the day was practically over. I always thought I would get to it “tomorrow”, but after 100 tomorrows, I realized it wouldn’t happen unless I changed my strategy.
After getting advice from some other successful businessmen, I found that the best way to accomplish my big goals is through a time management strategy known as “time-blocking”. On Sunday evening, I have a planning session in which I set my schedule for the upcoming week, including time for small items like e-mails & phone calls, but also time for blogging, strategy sessions, and what I call business builders…the BIG vision stuff. When my phone vibrates letting me know that a new time block has started, everything else is shut off and I eliminate all distractions. I turn my phone to silent, I close my office door, shut off my e-mail account (so I won’t be tempted to check new emails) and I spend all my allotted time on that specific project. This allows me to have focused intensity on the project at hand, and it has produced amazing results in regards to my productivity.
So, if you are guilty of wasting the extra hour you were given last month, or if you have a tendency to allow insignificant daily tasks to steal valuable time away from building your business, then give time-blocking a try. Take one week, and schedule EVERYTHING you do in your calendar, setting aside a 1 to 3 hour “block” for important projects that require focused intensity. You will be AMAZED at how you’ll be able to complete projects you’ve been trying to get done for months, and you will end each day with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.