I couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t in the fridge, I hadn’t yet put it in my duffel bag and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how it disappeared. Frustrated, I decided it was too early to search, so I walked to the cabinet to grab a coffee mug. As I opened the cabinet, staring back at me, sitting right next to my favorite coffee mug, was the tupperware container that contained my lunch - spoiled chicken and all. In a frantic rush to complete a task that was due the night before, I placed my left-overs from dinner in the cabinet instead of the refrigerator. As much as I wish I could say this wasn’t a common occurrence, there was a time in my life that this was commonplace. I had become so busy with work, somewhat obsessive about the outcome of business and the desire to train at a high level that I seemed to always be in a rush. So much so that I would place my left over dinner in the cabinet, instead of the fridge; or the numerous times I left my coffee on the roof of my car as I drove off, and many other examples that my ego wouldn’t allow me to reveal to prevent you all from judging me.
So what’s the point of me telling you this? Real simple - I’ve been in your shoes. That’s right, I know you’ve done some of the same things too. Most people do. Living in a world of 15 second instagram videos, news soundbites, 140 character tweets and 10 second pictures that automatically delete, our culture has created in us a desire to move fast, be easily distracted and interact with what matters most, less. The number one issue that comes up with clients is Time Management. Often clients will communicate with me that they do not have enough time in the day to “get the important stuff done” or to finish their workout. They complain that their job is consuming up too much time for them to enjoy other things in life, which, in turn, burns them out. I always tell these clients that I have been there too. I can empathize. But just because that is the way you are now, doesn’t mean that your life has to continue down the same path that it is on.
There is no perfect formula to managing your time well, but there are some overarching themes that can help you become a more productive person. Mostly when I read blogs, books, or listen to seminars on time management people give straightforward and practical tasks to help manage your time, all of which are valuable tools for quality management skills. This blog, however, is different. While I do lay out practical ideas that you can implement into your day to day life, I want to focus on overarching themes that can help you manage your time better by using two simple rules - 1. Protect What’s Precious and 2. Purge What’s Not. Below I will discuss these two concepts to help you better manage your time and become a more productive person.
Protect What’s Precious
Grab a pen and paper. Really, do it. Now, write down what is most important in your life. Make a list starting with the thing that is most important and then add things in order of importance. For the sake of the exercise, write down the three things that you consider MOST important. Got them? Good. These are your anchor points. They are the things that must be protected most. Your schedule should revolve around these important life anchors.
Often when I ask clients to write a list similar to the one you just wrote, the top 3 things are as follows: Family, Work, Fitness. Let’s assume your list is similar. If that is the case, each week, as you break out your schedule, you should build your timeline out with significant time to dedicate to those three goals. Your entire schedule should be founded on these anchor points (exactly why I call them anchors) in order to give adequate time to each of these three goals. Let’s continue on this small exercise we have going. Now that you have your list, let’s build out your schedule. Since this is typically a training blog, let’s focus on the “fitness” anchor point, for now. As you look at your week ahead, before you plug in any other “to-dos” you should fill out time each day for the 3 anchor points you wrote down earlier. Assuming we are currently focused on creating time for your fitness goal, plug in the times you are going to train throughout the following week and ensure nothing else can get in the way of that. In a recent blog written by Bobby Maximus, he explains how a friend finds time to protect his anchor points:
“I know a businessman who routinely tells people he cannot meet with them between 11am and 1pm. He also tells his secretary not to take meetings during that time. When people ask, she politely says, “I’m sorry, there are already meetings booked during that time. Are there any other times that work for you?” People don’t need to know he is going to gym or doing other things. They respect the fact that he is unavailable and acquiesce to another time. Job done.”
Just as the businessman protects his time to train, so should you. Schedule ahead of time your training hours, work projects and family time so that you can give adequate time to each. Turn off your cell phone, email and other distractions. Be there, in the moment, the entire time.
“I tried, but can’t make it work!”
After going through this process with several clients, they will come back to me and say, “I have tried hard to dedicate time to these things but I am still too busy to fit it all in.” My response: “people make time for what matters most to them. If you care about your fitness, you’ll find time to make it work.”
There’s always time, if organized properly, to give adequate attention to each of your anchor points. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this point comes from an article I read from Karl Rove, former Chief of Staff and strategist for President George W. Bush:
“It all started on New Year's Eve in 2005. President Bush asked what my New Year's resolutions were. I told him that as a regular reader who'd gotten out of the habit, my goal was to read a book a week in 2006. Three days later, we were in the Oval Office when he fixed me in his sights and said, "I'm on my second. Where are you?" Mr. Bush had turned my resolution into a contest.
At year's end, I defeated the president, 110 books to 95. My trophy looks suspiciously like those given out at junior bowling finals. The president lamely insisted he'd lost because he'd been busy as Leader of the Free World.
If the President of the United States can make time to read 95 books in a year (almost 2 a week) you can find time for each of your anchor points. You see, the President protected what meant most to him, educating himself on the world around him. He would spend hours reading at night before bed, or on Air Force One as he traveled so he could be better educated about the situations he faced as President. Start protecting your time for your anchor points. Set your schedule and keep it firm.
Purge What’s Not
Your time is precious. It is the one thing that you can never get back. “Time wasters” - those things that steal your time - come in many shapes and sizes. They can be in the form of people, social media, hobbies that do not enrich your life or others around you, or an array of other things. There are 1440 minutes in each day. How many of those are spent doing tasks that are meaningless or do not in any way affect your most important anchor points that we discussed above? Do you still have that paper out? On the back of that sheet, make a list of all the things you do each day that are not necessary to the goals you listed above - these are your “time wasters”. Once you have written out your time wasters, write out the estimated time you spend on each of those things each day. Recently, I had a client do this for me. Here’s their list:
Perusing the Internet: 20-30min
Walking around the workplace (I do this when I can’t focus): 10min
Video Games: 20min
While the list is relatively short, compared to others I have seen, the time wasted is still tremendous. At minimum, this client is wasting an hour and twenty minutes out of their day by spending time on things that will not help them with their anchor points.
While at times I believe a short break can help alleviate stress and allow you to focus on the given task at hand, when you waste away over an hour each day you are missing out on huge opportunities to be more productive with the things that matter most to you. Think about the way you could spend an extra 80 minutes each day. You could complete a workout, finish a task at work and have the weekend completely free, play a game of “HORSE” with your son, enjoy a nice dinner with your significant other, or do an array of many other enriching and productive tasks that better build your anchor points.
“Just a minute!”
Kevin Kruse, an author and entrepreneur, asked friends on his Facebook page to list ways you could productively spend just one minute of your day. Here is a small sample of what people wrote:
Do 30 sit ups
Tell someone how much you love them
Write a thank you note
Introduce yourself to a stranger
Have a great idea (that could even change the world)
Write in a journal
Give a donation
Apologize for a wrong committed
Send a positive note, tweet, message, etc.
Have one really, really good kiss
The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Even one minute spared from the time wasters in your life can be a minute that exponential enriches you or someone else.
I can vividly remember sitting on the front porch of my grandparents house overlooking a field of crops on a hot and humid day in the middle of summer, when my grandfather looked over at me and said, “Enjoy these summer days, son, they will be gone before you know it and then you will be old like me.” Only 7, or 8, at the time I don’t think it ever registered what he meant. But now, looking back at how fast the last 20 years has flown by, I realize how right he actually was. As the saying goes - time flies. Time is a precious commodity that we never get back. How will you look back on the time you were given?
The reason I used the term “anchor points” for the things that matter most is because I want you to visualize those things as the foundation of who you are. I want you to to understand that those are the things that you can build a quality life on. Those are the things that can enrich you the most. Don’t spend precious moments on the time wasters of this world. Instead, focus on your anchor points and invest your time in the things that matter most to you. I want you to manage your time well so that you can invest the time you have into reaching your goals - winning a gold medal/championship, becoming a better father or mother, building a successful business, and so on.
Protect what’s precious and purge what’s not.