Does the way you use your time match your priorities?
It’s a simple question, but it’s essential. Many people say that something is important to them, but the way they use their time says otherwise. There is a mismatch between their time allocation and their priorities.
I was reminded of it when I read Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen. In that book, the author emphasizes the importance of aligning how you use your time with your priorities. Clayton Christensen also says something similar in How Will You Measure Your Life.
The fact is, there are many things that could distract you from your priorities. If you are not careful, you could spend so much time on trivial things that you make only a little progress on your priorities.
I’m still learning to handle this myself, but from what I’ve learned, here are some steps you should take to match your time allocation with your priorities:
1. Know your priorities.
Before anything else, you must know what your priorities are. First, they should consist of your long-term goals. In addition, they should include maintaining your life balance (more on that below).
2. Track how you use your time.
People often don’t realize how much money they spend on something until they track their expenses. Similarly, you might not realize how you use your time until you track it.
There are many ways to do it. Jim Collins, for instance, uses a timer to track how much time he spends on different areas of his life.
In my case, I use a timer to track how much time I spend on my priorities. I track only the time spent solely on my priorities. Whenever I get distracted, I stop the timer. I track the time in 30-minute “blocks,” and record how many blocks I have each day. This is how I realized how badly I used my time.
Track your time usage. Then you will be able to see your real situation.
3. Eliminate or delegate.
If you find you need to allocate more time for your priorities, there are two things you should do:
- Eliminate. Say no to non-essential things. As Rick Warren once said, you should say “no” to good opportunities so that you can say “yes” to the great ones.
- Delegate. For things that you still need to do, try to get someone else to do them. You can use outsourcing web sites such Fiverr for this.
These two strategies will help you free up time for your priorities.
4. Maintain life balance.
Don’t forget that you should always keep your life balanced. For instance, don’t eliminate your social life to free up time for your career priorities. There are five aspects of life, and they must all be in balance.
5. Stay alert.
Matching your time allocation with your priorities is an on-going process. It’s not something you can do just once and be done with.
So stay alert. My suggestion is to keep tracking your time so that you know if you get off track. You can then take the necessary action to get back on track.
Using the steps above, you can match the way you use your time with your priorities. Your life will become effective and productive.
As you might know, I’m a big proponent of having side projects, and my current side project is game development.
I’m happy to announce I have just launched my first iOS game! It’s a simple game, but I think it’s fun to play. Check it out here.
Photo by Markus Spiske