Special Audio Bonus! Nationally recognized writer and author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast Laura Vanderkam talks about the value of keeping a time log, how time is a choice, and how every schedule needs a little slack.
philosophy, which says that there are about a half-dozen things that make the greatest difference in any area of our life, whether it’s health, money, relationships, etc. If you focus on about five or six things long term, you will be in the top 20 percent of successful people in your particular area. Next question is: How do you get in the top 10 percent, 5 percent or 1 percent? Well, this is where refinement comes in.
Our guess is that if you have mastered staying on task and limiting interruptions on a consistent, daily basis in your work life, then you have positioned yourself in the top 20 percent of the marketplace. But what are the refinements the ultra-successful make? Obviously, they have a handle on time management, both in how to maximize their work time to get the most benefit, as well as having more personal and family time to enjoy their results.
What are these refinements? We will touch on this later. Additionally, we’d like to add that for the top 10 percent, 5 percent and 1 percent, it requires a clear mission and purpose in advance—clarity about what they want to achieve and the cost it will require. Once procrastination is conquered and good time management habits are established, then, often, the biggest obstacles are prioritizing your projects/goals and nipping interruptions in the bud. The more success you have, the more people and opportunities will present themselves at your doorstep. No one likes to say no and be less than positive in how we relate to others and the opportunities we have to be of service, yet the old adage that “good” is the enemy of “best” begins to come into play the more you create success in your life.
A great example of this would be in your giving or charitable causes. Are there plenty of opportunities to give to worthy causes? Yes! Are there plenty of needs out there that are deserving of our attention, time and resources? Yes! Are there plenty of inquiries and solicitations for us to contribute our resources to these needs? Yes! Are we able to meet all the demands? Probably not. Are you made to feel guilty by others or yourself? Maybe. Well, the same is true with your time. There is only so much to go around, so it’s imperative to make good choices. Just as we are a steward of our money, and we believe it has an opportunity to multiply when we make good decisions as to how we allocate and spend it, likewise, we feel the same responsibility and opportunity with our time. Identify your priorities, set your goals, value and maximize your time, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
This month we’re focusing on the topic of Time Management:
1. Developing a Philosophy of Time Management—Establishing your priorities and values. As important as how to manage our time is first and foremost the why, since the why is the force that pulls us toward our dreams and determines the how. First we’ll look at the philosophy of time management and then determine our priorities based on the values we believe in and hold in the highest. Two weeks ago, we discussed these things in depth.
2. Creating a Proactive Schedule—Allocating time based on your unique priorities and values. Once you know why you are managing your time and the priorities and values you strive for, then it is important to understand where you currently spend your time and how to strategically budget for maximum performance. You see, something will always master and something will always serve. Either you run the day or it runs you. Last week, we looked deeper into this aspect of time management.
3. Breaking Through Barriers—Eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination. Many folks know what to do, but it is often the things we shouldn’t spend our time on that get us off track. It’s important that we not mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get tricked by being busy, but the key question is: Busy doing what? This week, we will look at how to overcome procrastination and eliminate time wasters.
4. How to Gain More Time—We’ll talk about time-management pointers and how to reclaim one to two hours a day through delegating, skill improvement, multitasking and improved focus. These are things anyone can do to gain more time in their day. Yes, there are only 24 hours in each day, but we can maximize those hours by working “smarter” rather than longer, and employing other skills along with our time management. We will look at these ideas next week.
This week, our focus is on eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination. Before we get started, I just want to say that I hope you are making strides in developing and implementing your philosophy of time management as well as setting priorities. You have also had a week to take an inventory of your time usage and begin working on budgeting your time. This should be proceeding nicely for you. Keep working on your time-budgeting skills; it may not come overnight, but if you work on it—and yourself—you will get your life under control and see a whole-new world open up.
With that being said, let’s move on to this week’s topic of eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination.
The key to all time management is to stay focused, have a plan based on priorities and actively follow that plan. If you do these three things, you will have your time—and your life—under control and moving along the way you would like it to.
But, similar to when you are driving, various things can slow you down, sidetrack or distract you. The same goes for time management. Have you ever been driving down the road when you came across a detour because of road work? Or maybe you saw a store you wanted to stop at even though you had somewhere else to go?
Managing our time is much like that. There we are, managing our time, knowing where we want to go because we have our priorities set, and then a time waster presents itself. Or we waste time because we simply procrastinate. Either way, it nets the same result: We don’t get where we want to go.
So let’s take a look at the issue of time wasters first, and then at the idea of procrastination.
What are time wasters? You may think they are obvious, but this isn’t necessarily true. Time wasters are anything that prevents you from accomplishing the proper use of your time based on your priorities and values.
Believe it or not, time wasters can be “good things.” Now, I don’t mean they are good for you, but that they may masquerade as something “good.” You may be able to look at them in a vacuum and say the things you are spending your time on are inherently good—until you weigh them against your priority list. Then it becomes clear that these “good” things are actually “time wasters.”
Time wasters fall into two primary categories:
The Urgent. If we do not have a firm grasp on our priorities, and work hard to develop a schedule that keeps us working on the important things we want to achieve, eventually the “urgent” will be upon us. Urgent things cry out to us, telling us they are important, when in actuality, they are not. The power of the urgent time waster is in the dramatic demand it makes on us. When it calls our name and appears to be urgent requiring that we spend time on it, it takes away from the very important things we should be working on. I have found, as I’m sure you have, too, that urgent things can rarely be done in short order. They usually drag themselves out, keeping us even further from our true goals. Perhaps the best way I have seen this demonstrated is in Stephen Covey’s idea of the four parts of the time-management quadrant. You have:
– The important and the urgent
– The important
– The urgent but non-important
– The non-important
The idea is to stay in Covey’s second quadrant. At first, you may be in Quadrant One (hopefully, you don’t spend much time in quadrants 3 and 4), but as you manage your time, you will see fewer and fewer urgent matters vying for your attention.
Always be aware of so-called “urgent” matters because most of the time they are just time wasters. Have the courage to let them go. At the very least, take a serious look at your life and make sure you aren’t constantly living in crisis mode. Crisis mode is a very dangerous thing when it comes to making good decisions and managing your time.
The Pleasurable. Pleasurable time wasters are extremely insidious. Sometimes when we spend time on urgent matters, we know we are wasting time and we wish we could get out of them. Not so with pleasurable time wasters. These are the things that we willingly and openly pursue. We know they are time wasters, and yet we still pursue them. Why? Because they are fun! They are pleasurable. We enjoy them, and that keeps us from disciplining ourselves to work on our priorities. It is much like the person who wants to lose weight yet keeps eating dessert night after night—they do it because it tastes so good.
As you think about time wasters, think about which ones are urgent and which ones are pleasurable for you. Work to get so far ahead in your priorities that you virtually eliminate urgent matters that call your name. In regard to the pleasurable, this takes you being brutally honest with yourself. It takes the ability to admit to yourself that you are choosing what is fun rather than what is important.
Remember, you don’t have much time to waste in the first place. I realize now in the latter years of my life that time moves by quickly. It doesn’t seem very long ago that I was only 30 years old! Time is a very precious gift, and it’s one that we can and should take seriously, because once that moment in time is spent, it can never be retrieved. Stay focused on the very important things you desire for your life. Stay focused on the things that will build your business and fulfill your life’s purpose. Stay focused on the things that will bring you a happy and joy-filled family life. Don’t waste your time on things that will quickly pass away and have relative unimportance.
Paul of Tarsus wrote, “The things I want to do, I do not do.” This is a problem as old as humanity itself. I am sure the wheel would have been invented and fire discovered much earlier if it weren’t for procrastination!
Humans have two incredible abilities: First, they are able to become crystal-clear about what it is they want. Second, they are able to completely put off pursuing it!
I believe there are a few primary things that cause people to procrastinate.
What drives procrastination?
Fear. In my opinion, this is the biggest source of procrastination. People procrastinate because they are afraid—afraid of failure or afraid of success. They are afraid they will do a poor job or of what others will think of them. I would encourage you to think about whether or not this is an issue for you. If so, do whatever it takes to deal with your fears and move past them.
Hard work. Some people procrastinate because they know doing the work will be hard. Many people have an aversion to hard work, so they procrastinate, putting it off indefinitely. Realize that being successful usually requires a lot of hard work. Sometimes it is physically exhausting, sometimes mentally or emotionally exhausting. But let me assure you of this: If you invest in the miracle of hard labor required to accomplish your goals, the rewards, the gifts and the feelings of increased self-esteem you will reap will far outweigh the pain of labor. At the end of your efforts, you will be able to smile with deep satisfaction knowing you have faithfully sowed and now you can joyfully reap—and reap without complaint or apology! What a powerful opportunity to invest in the labor that creates miracles.
Lack of passion. Some people procrastinate because deep down they aren’t really passionate about what it is they should be doing. It isn’t really a priority for them or for their life, even if they have said it is. If this is the case, go back to the drawing board and get really clear about your priorities and values; then have the courage to pursue and live them out.
An inability to motivate themselves. Some people procrastinate because they do not know how to get themselves going internally. They wait until something externally moves them. You’ve heard me give the example of the guy who says, “I wish someone would come by and turn me on and get me motivated.” Well, what if they don’t show up? You’ve got to have a better plan than that. You’ve got to be self-motivated because, ultimately, that is the best motivation. Now, everyone is motivated differently, so it’s your job to figure out what it is that really motivates you and then do what it takes to get and stay that way.
Time wasters and procrastination are the roadblocks that will keep you from reaching your goals. This week, work to become aware of the things you waste your time on and what drives your procrastination. As you come to realize these things, as you become fully aware, you will be better equipped to overcome them.
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
The Top Three Time Wasters
1. Television. Yes, the old one-eyed monster. Think about how much TV you watch. Go through each day, from Sunday to Saturday. For example, Sunday: one hour watching Meet the Press, three hours for football. Monday: half-hour morning show, one hour news, half-hour sitcom, etc. Add it up. Be honest! The average amount of television watched per week by “busy professional people who don’t watch much TV”? Twenty hours!
Now, think about this: That is more than 1,000 hours a year—or 25 full workweeks! What could you accomplish if you had an extra 25 workweeks a year?
So, how can you overcome this time waster? Here are a few ideas:
– Get rid of the TV. At the very least, cut back on your TV viewing.
– Be proactive and take control of how much you watch. Budget your time.
– Cut some shows out (most shows can be cut out and your life won’t suffer!).
– Using DVRs for recording the shows you want to watch is great because they allow you to watch the program but skip the commercials.
2. Telephone calls. The phone can be the “great interrupter.” There is this very weird, almost magical effect that a ringing phone has: Many of us are like preprogrammed zombies; we “must” answer it. Try something the next time you have someone in your office and the phone rings. Just keep talking as though you don’t hear it. Watch the person you are with nervously look over at the phone and then back at you before finally asking, “Do you want to answer that?” Even though it would take away from them, they expect you to answer the phone!
The fact is that you do not have to answer a ringing phone. Especially with voice mail, you can let the phone ring through and schedule a time at regular intervals to return important calls (one side benefit is you will be amazed at how much time you save by not having to work your way off the phone with unsolicited sales calls).
How can you avoid wasting time on the phone? Here are a few ideas:
– Don’t always answer it. Enough said.
– Schedule your calls into time frames. Make all of your calls during regularly scheduled times. This will keep you from “spur of the moment” calls that distract you.
– Know before you call what you want to talk about, talk about it, and then get off the phone. When you call someone, say, “Hi there, I wanted to talk to you about XYZ.” Then talk about it. When you are done, say, “Well, I know you are busy and I have some things to get done, too, so I’ll let you go.” Bingo—you’re off the phone!
3. E-mail. E-mail is the new phone—except much worse. Why? A few reasons. Some of it is spam, but the main reason is because people can’t type as fast as they can talk. When someone writes an e-mail that will take a long response, either call them or write an e-mail that says, “Call me. It would be better to talk about this.” Another reason is the volume of e-mail we receive. Add to that the forwarded jokes from your aunt in Omaha. Just sorting through this takes time. By the way, the best way to get off Aunt Margaret’s e-mail list is to politely ask. Just tell her that you are trying to cut down on e-mail and ask if she will take you off the list. It works!
Some ideas for reducing email time wasting:
Overcome your fear. We have made a great point about fear. Much procrastination results because we fear things. A lot in life can be accomplished as we dig deep into who we are and what drives us. Do you have fears that cause you to procrastinate? Do some internal work and find out what you are really afraid of—then face that fear. Get some help from a coach or counselor if you need it.
2. Get motivated. Motivation is something we have to work at. Read books, listen to tapes, go to seminars, and hang out with exciting people. Do whatever you can to stay motivated. It is much easier to get down to business when you are motivated than when you aren’t.
3. Just start. Just start doing what you said you need to do. Tell yourself you are going to just do 10 minutes and then you’ll quit. What often happens, though, is that you don’t quit. Much of the problem with procrastination is just starting. So get started!