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What Are Your Risks? Wasting Time

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Add Value to Your Life and to Others in Less Time

How can I deliver more value to more people in less time? 

I heard this question from Daniel Ally, and I think it is a great question to ask yourself. Then I started to think deeper about this question. In order to add value to more people in less time, we have to add value to ourselves in less time. We really can’t do much for others if we are completely mismanaging our own time.

I know there is a ton a material about time management, so how can I make this seem different from the rest?  Even with all the books and blogs about being productive and using your time better, it is still an issue that many people find important and want to know more about. In a survey I did recently, 73% of the respondents said that they enjoyed reading about ways to improve productivity and time management. This was by far the most popular of the choices listed. Why is this important?

There are only 168 hours in a week, and based on studies of sleep, it is recommended that the average adult sleeps 7-8 hours a night.  Shawn Stevenson has a wonderful book called “Sleep Smarter”, which explains all the health benefits of sleep. If we assume you sleep 7 hours a night, then you have about 120 hours a week to get everything done. We can’t really do anything to get more than this.  Everyone has the same amount of time no matter if you are poor, rich, educated, or uneducated.  Therefore, we are most successful when we learn to maximize the 120 hours a week.

What are some things we can do to maximize this time? Below are 5 things that will make the 120 hours more productive so you can add more value to your life and the lives of others.

1. Minimize Distractions as Much as Possible

We live in a very distracting time. Social media, texting, emailing, TV, Netflix, sports, kids, open office environments, smartphones, etc. are making our daily lives more distracting than ever. What are we to do? First of all, I am going to list some ideas that work for me, but may not work for you. Everyone is different. The most important thing is to not let other people dictate every hour of your day. Take back your day by scheduling and prioritizing what is important to you.

  • Plan your day – Put everything you want to do at the beginning of the day on the calendar. Put your To Do List on the calendar.  Planning your week is even better.
  • Set aside times of the day to check your email. Turn off all notifications.
  • Use music to help focus when doing more difficult tasks. Subscribe to Focus At Will.  With four kids ages 4-12, I have to listen to music to do tasks that require deeper thinking, such as writing this blog.

2. Tools and Technology

I am constantly amazed at the new technology to improve productivity. Due to enhancements to software, internet speed, and lower costs, many of these tools are available to everyone. What are some good ones? No, I am not getting paid to advertise these. I just like them.

Join.Me – Online screen sharing and video is common, and there are many platforms, such as Go To Meeting and Skype. Why do I like this one the best? Because it is so easy and relatively inexpensive. In fact, you can get a free version. I will have to say the free version has some latency and doesn’t handle higher bandwidth.  If you are going to do screen sharing on a regular basis with a team of people, then you will want to upgrade for about $20 a month. Yesterday, I was about to spend about two hours driving to a client for a meeting, and we opted to use Join.Me so we could save time and more easily see each other’s screens (better than looking over someone’s shoulder). It ended up working better than face-to-face, saved gas, rush hour driving, and we got more done.

Asana – I learned about this at a CPA conference this week. It is an online project management collaboration tool, and it is free for up to 15 people per team. It is helpful for coordinating tasks among different people, scheduling tasks and subtasks, uploading files, communication, and it even syncs to your calendar. This is a great tool for planning and scheduling long-term projects, recurring activities, and managing teams without tons of emails and phone calls.

EverNote – I cannot do justice explaining the benefits of this software in a few sentences. I use this tool to keep track of important emails, documents, files, or articles. EverNote has an easy way to clip online articles and save important emails by forwarding to a special EverNote email address. I also have a couple of groups in which we share notes, files, and information to decrease emails and texts. The search and tag capability is powerful, and everything is available on your phone, iPad, or computer.

3. Being Present

Today we are seemingly very busy all the time. We have smartphones or electronic devices captivating our attention. We are so lost in the technology that it is easy to lose track of time. Have you ever been on Facebook and looked up and wondered where the last hour went? It is easy to put ourselves in a different world (reality), dwell on the past, or dream about the weekend or the future. This is really not very productive. I am not saying that it isn’t useful sometimes, but only if planned. What are ways to be more present?

  • Journal – Every morning, write down what you are grateful for. Write down your goals, joys, struggles, accomplishments, and ideas for improvement.
  • Prayer / Meditation – I think of prayer and meditation as the same thing. I realize that meditation can mean different things, but overall, the idea is being present and aware of God, giving thanks, praying for wisdom, and even confessing our sins is helpful.
  • Try encouraging three people a day by text, email, phone, or in person. It really doesn’t take much time. I just realized I forgot to do this today. I will be right back.

4. Your Health

I am sure you have heard that exercise and eating well increase productivity. Obviously, if you have more energy, you can accomplish more. This is not rocket science. The challenge is that we still have a hard time staying active and eating well as a society. If we knew that exercising for 30 minutes a day would give us all the time back or more, would we do it?  If we knew that eating better would help us earn more money, would we? I am not sure that is enough. I think habits are so hard to break that people will be writing about this until the end of time. The best advice I have learned is to improve a little bit at a time. Take small steps. When exercising, do something else that you like doing at the same time.  I like reading a good book while on the elliptical or listening to an interesting podcast while on the treadmill. I feel like I am accomplishing more. Also, I have some of my best ideas when I am on the treadmill, which is an unintended benefit.

5. Think and Strategize

Schedule time to think and strategize. This is important not just in your business or job, but also in your life. Planning and strategizing will save you time in the long run. I am not talking about over-doing this. I realize that we get stuck in the trap of analysis paralysis due to fear of starting something. What I am talking about is setting measurable goals and reviewing them. I am talking about thinking of creative ways of doing something. Remember the idea of living each day by adding more value to yourself and to more people in less time? In order to do this, we have to make time to think and strategize.

We will always be working on ways to be more productive as a society. There will be new technologies that will save time and distract us at the same time. We have to focus on what is most important and not try to do everything. We can’t please everyone. We can’t be everywhere. It is not about getting more done. It is about getting the right things done with the right people at the right time.