Do you ever feel like time is in control of you instead of the other way around? This is exactly how I felt most of my adult life – until recently. So what changed? It’s very simple. I decided to structure and spend my time much more deliberately and thoughtfully. Following the following three principles, I was able to take control of my time, and you can too.
1) Prioritize your activities. A great first step to being more deliberate with your time is to put the various ways you spend time into categories and then assign each one a level of priority. I’ll use myself as an example. In my web design business, here are the primary ways in which I spend my time: client projects, communication with prospective clients, networking, marketing, skill development, and business planning. In my musical life, there are performances and gigs, practice time, lesson teaching, and composing. And then, of course, there’s personal time on top of all that. I went through each of these categories and assigned them a priority level one, two, or three. Getting clear on how important each of these activities is and striving for a balance among them has greatly helped me to feel more in control of my time.
2) Schedule specific times for the things that matter most, and protect that time. In my business, the most important time is – you guessed it – time I spend on client projects. Because making my clients happy is central to my success, making time for them will always come first. Through this process, I began reserving 20 hours each week for client work and nothing else. Protecting this time from temptations, such as a happy hour with colleagues or a phone call with an old friend, takes practice. However, once you diligently schedule and protect this time, you’ll find it will make you more productive in the areas of life that matter to you most.
3) For every commitment and engagement in your life, ask “Is this helping me get to my vision/goal?” Vision. Life goal. Horizon. Call it what you like. Getting crystal clear on where you’re headed makes it easier to decide whether something is worth your time. The reality is, we all have only 24 hours in each day. After you subtract the hours you spend sleeping, eating, and on other daily chores, this number is actually much smaller. This makes it even more important to get clear on what you want, and the activities that will get you there. If you’re spending time on something that will not move you closer to your vision, simply cut it out.