Optimize your 1440
Mar 14, 2016
So today I thought I would talk about a core building block that is near and dear to me. But before I get started on that, I wanted to take a moment and sincerely thank you for taking the time to be here and for reading this blog. Know that I consider time as one of the most precious of resources, so believe me when I say that it really means a lot to me that you would choose to spend some of yours here today. I don't know how often I say that to my readers, but whether this is your first introduction to me or we are well acquainted and have been so for a while, I really want you to know that you are appreciated. Reality is, there are plenty of great blogs and podcasts and other sources of information you could be indulging in right this very moment so, in other words, it means the world to me to have you here and I thank you for it.
Now you may be at your desk in your office, or the coffee shop reading this on your phone, or perhaps you are sitting at home with your morning coffee or at the gym on the treadmill with your tablet. Whatever the case, you probably want to get something out of reading this post. Your not reading it just to help burn some of that pesky electricity. There is obviously something you you want to gain for your effort. Maybe you are looking to improve your life or your business. Perhaps you want to learn something that will help you find more space in your day to focus on your goals or relationships. Then again, maybe you are just looking to be entertained for a few minutes.
Whatever the case, you probably fall into one of two categories. Either you're at place in your life where you are not quite where you want to be. A place where you are not getting either the quality or quantity of results you want. You are in a searching and learning mode. You're seeking knowledge and training that can take you to the next level of performance. Or maybe you are exactly where you want to be and currently getting the results you need, want and enjoy. For you it's about continuing the journey and constantly feeding that success machine with good quality fuel. Regardless, we all share the common thread of unlimited potential but limited time. No matter what level we are currently at, we can always grow more, be more and do more in our lives. If we only had more time...
Which brings me to the topic of this post: How to optimize your 1440.
So what is this 1440? It is the number of minutes in a day. It represents the only true equity we have in our lives. And every person on the planet gets the same, equal allotment of time each and every day. Presidents and billionaires, the homeless and poor. Equal shares given daily with no more and no less to anyone. We cannot save it, lend it, borrow it or even slow down the rate at which we spend this equity. We get to control only one aspect of it, how we focus it. We get to decide HOW we are going to spend our share and the the choices we make in this context makes all the difference in the quality of our results and in aggregate, the quality of our lives.
What really got me thinking on this was the "leap day" (Feb 29th) we had the other week. While writing in my journal on that day, I really got to thinking about how it was essentially a whole extra day we got to use. A full 24 hours put into our time bucket that only happens once every 4 years. Without even a shred of planning, I had just slotted all 24 of those hours into a regular Monday and thought of the 'leap' nature of it as just an amusing fact. The domino affect in my thinking from there drove me to wonder how I could have gone about capturing those 24 hours for purposeful use had I actually planned it. What would I do with another 24 hours of time this week? What could I accomplish with that? For that matter what could I accomplish with an additional 10-20 hours every week? What could you do with that much extra time?
When you stop, just stop right now, and think about how the most successful people in the world spend their time, what could they accomplish with an extra 24 hours? How would a billionaire use that time if they wanted to make money? How would an amazing humanitarian use the time if they wanted to have the most impact? How would you use that time to show a loved one you cared if that was the only hours they had left? The fact is, there is never enough time to do everything that we want or is asked of us. But we can choose to focus the time we have towards better results.
Did you know the average adult american watches just about 30 hours of TV a week? If you are ok with 'average' results in your life and in your goals, then I guess your can spend your limited time resource as average people do. But what do you think the potential impact of having 15 additional hours available a week in your life could be? How about a 19 extra 40 hour work weeks in a year? That's what 15 hours a week looks like in a year (780 hours). How much progress towards your goals could you make if you were suddenly given 19 full work weeks to focus on them? Definitely much more than 'average' results I would hope. :)
So how do we focus our time to the best effect? How do we spend this vital resource in ways that support and nourish our lives?
Lucky for us, there are some basic steps we can take to start getting some breathing room or 'time equity' in our schedule. And once you have that available asset, you can start investing it in the activities and pursuits that will bring you closer to the results you really want in your life.
Here are the 5 basic steps to get you started. Do these 5 things and you will immediately start gaining the level of control and focus on your time that you need to create amazing results in your life:
- Determine the current state of your time budget. You need to get really clear and figure out where you are currently spending you time right now. Gather a weeks worth of time 'spending' and record it as your current state time budget. I find that a basic spreadsheet works just fine to do this. Have the entire week on a single sheet and just record what you spent your time on at the end of the day for the next 7 days. I'll include a link to an example template that you can download and use for this.
- Categorize your time. In order to determine where we can save and where we have to keep spending our time, we need some basic categories. When you are just starting out it is easiest to keep it high level and sort your activites into one of 3 buckets:
- Necessary - Needed but neither Priorities nor Distractors (i.e.- sleeping, eating, biological functions, etc.)
- Priorities - High value activities that are aligned with achieving your goals.
- Distractors - All the other stuff filling the gaps.
- Do some analysis (and a bit of soul searching) on what you have recorded. Is your time spent on the things 'average' people spend it on? Does your budget reflect someone working towards their goals? Does it represent the version of you that is congruent with you life's purpose and potential? This is a critical step into understanding why you are currently spending time the way you are. Look at the spending habits as if it were someone else. What advice would you give them about how the hours are spent? Which of the Distractors do you think would be the hardest to remove? How could you start focusing on Priorities more and do so with a sense of flow instead of a sense of struggle?
- Plan out the target state for your time budget. Develop a 'time budget' that better reflects the version of you that is the highest expression of your core values, beliefs and capabilities. Use the same sheet as before and start with blocking out the week into the categories we covered earlier (Necessary, Priorities & Distractors). Start with the Necessary and put that into the week first. It represents the biggest rocks and you need to make sure they are handled first and foremost. Next block out the Priority time. My preference would be to block this time in 4 hour chunks of dedicated focus. If that isn't feasible in your case, then do 3, 2 or even 1 hour chunks. There is no wrong way to do this, but you must be intentional in your planning. Every minute in your life has a purpose and if you are not defining that, then someone else is. I will also include an example of a 'target state' time budget for reference.
- Implement your plan. Start using your new 'time spending plan'. Give it a week or two and then do this whole exercise again. Version 2 of this will be better and the version after that even better. This is an effort in incremental improvement. As such, don't expect this to be the perfect state for your time budget. Not only is that something that is probably impossible to obtain, but it would be too far of a gap to cross in a single step if it was. Just as you cannot go from being on the couch your whole life to running a marathon in a single day, so it is true with making any sort of radical change in our lives. As you start focusing more of your time on the priority efforts in your life, the ways in which you will need to spend your time will evolve. Each time you cycle through this exercise, you are just looking to what your immediate next steps can be to take you to the next level. Write it down and review it at least once a year (3-4 times a year is even better). I even recommend doing a version of this exercise but with a yearly viewpoint to make sure you are taking care of the longer term and more strategic goals in your life.
I know I have gone a bit long in this post but I really do think that if more people would spend more of their time on the things that mattered most in their lives, then the world would actually be a better place for everyone involved. I personally know, that when I hold to my own time budget and focus those ever fleeting moments on the things that matter most to me, my life is just better. When I don't, that is when stress, disappointment and 'average' results rule the day. I can't think of anyone who wants to have a life defined in that way. So set yourself up for success.
The quality of our lives is based on the quality of our experiences and results on a moment to moment basis. Minutes to hours, hours to days and days to months and years. So if you want amazing results, then start doing the things that support amazing results. You can plan for success or be the victim of circumstance. The choice is yours, so go make it.
P.S. - To get the templates I mentioned in this post, just click here to sign-in and get them via FREE download.
Jason is a technologist, consultant, and organizational leader with over 30 years of experience. For the last 20 years, Jason has focused primarily on strategic architecture, privacy, and information security. As a leader and subject matter expert, he has authored numerous papers and articles and is a frequent speaker on these subjects. Jason’s expertise lies in his ability to synthesize the complex nature of technology, strategy, and information security into simple and understandable building blocks. Known for his energetic, focused and light-hearted style, Jason’s personal and professional philosophy is one of openness, empowerment and purpose driven action. Be present. Get a plan. Make it happen.