Technology, apps, social media, fast travel, instant communication. These are all things that have become easily accessible for nearly the whole world. 100 years ago some of these things did not exist and if they did they were nothing like they are today. These advancements are all intended to make life easier by allowing us to get things done faster. This in turn frees up our time for the other things we enjoy. We can be just as productive as we were before technology and do it with less effort and time.
Is this what has actually happened? It’s an obvious no.
These technologies have seemed to make us busier, and not always in a productive way. The demands on our time are pulling at us around the clock. There are actual demands on our time like our job, and family. But there are also other entities that are trying to pull our attention towards their products. The most obvious is social media. These companies want your eyes on the screen using their services. This demand on our time is self-imposed. We allow them to take our attention but we don’t have to.
So, what things should we be focusing our time on?
I once read an example of how Warren Buffett helped someone with this exact issue. He told his acquaintance to list the top 20 things he wanted to accomplish in order of importance. Then he told him to cross off everything below number 5. These top 5 things are what’s important and needed focus. He helped to free up the demands on his friends time by focusing on only what mattered to him.
This example deals with long term goals. We can adjust these concepts to fit our daily needs, and immediate actions. What are all the things you do in a day? List everything, personal and professional actions. Then look at this list and see what actions move you toward your personal and professional goals. There are probably only 5 or so that really matter. Playing candy crush? Probably not. Making a family activity calendar? Definitely yes.
Once you have pared down what is important to your success, how do you avoid the negative things that compete for your time? There are some actions that can be taken to help you.
- Set limits for media use. For example, only look at Facebook from 7:00 to 7:30 while you are eating breakfast. Then avoid it for the rest of the day. You could also pick a few TV shows you love and watch only those show. Don’t mindlessly flip channels and watch nothing. Make what you watch worth it. Be intentional.
- Schedule your time by weeks. Get a notebook calendar that has every day available to fill in with 15 minute increments. On Sunday night or Monday morning fill out your week with activities that allow you to take steps towards your goals. Be careful to not overextend yourself. If you schedule too much and things come up that get you off track you can get discouraged. Start slow and stick to the schedule.
If you do get off track don’t take it as a failure, don’t get mad at yourself. It happens to everyone no matter how successful they are. The most productive among us will sometimes be unproductive and get off track from time to time. The important thing is to recognize it and get back on the plan the next day. Start again as soon as you can and forget the hiccup.
I can give you examples of how I personally am using these strategies to maximize my time.
The first thing I did was delete any time wasting apps off my phone. They would slowly take more and more of my time away from my career and family. The next thing I did was set limits on other media use. I picked my favorite TV shows and I only watch them during the week. When I am feeling like I just want to sit and get away from thinking about work for a little while I really focus hard on not turning on the TV. I read a book instead. As I practice avoiding time wasting activities it does get easier.
Lastly, why is time better than money? You can always make more money, but you will never get more time. There is honestly no price that can be put on the time you have alive. Try your hardest to make the best of it. If you get off track, just get right back going.