Time management 101 tells us that we should figure out how long something will take us to do and block out the time to do it. Makes sense on the face of it. What bothers me with this way of thinking is that it puts the project in control of your “time budget” instead of you deciding how you are going to spend your “time budget”.
I prefer to decide how much time I want to GIVE TO a project based on what I believe the project is worth to me.
This is what we do with money, which we can get more of, but we don’t do it with our time, which is finite.
Think about it. If you want to rent an apartment, do you look at them blindly, or do you first consider how much you are willing to spend on rent and then look at apartments that suit your budget?
In my experience tasks expand and TAKE whatever time you leave open for them. If you have a “wide open day” with no appointments or plans a quick five or ten-minute task can easily TAKE all day. On days that you have appointments scheduled back to back and you’re running from one thing to the next you GIVE that same task five minutes and it is done.
It’s the same with money. If you go to the store with an unlimited budget you pay no attention to what you’re spending, you will find that your purchases increase to fill the void. Generally, if you go to the store with a budget in mind you get what you need at the price level you are comfortable with.
When you decide how much time to GIVE something (AND stick to that time limit) you are forced to increase your focus, make quick decisions and you take quick action.
What’s even better is that since you have real deadlines you eliminate procrastination and eliminate (or at least reduce) your need for perfectionism.
Here are three questions I use daily with my clients (and certainly myself!) to help us decide how much time we want to GIVE to a project. Give them a shot and take control of your time budget.
- What is the goal of the project? What do I expect to accomplish by having it done? What will it do for my business? My profitability? My clients?
- Is this a long-term project or a quick task? Will the results of this project be long lasting enough to justify the investment of my time?
- What other projects am I working on? What other commitments have I made? How will my time be best allocated between the things I want to accomplish?
AFTER you’ve asked yourself these questions, and answered them honestly, you can decide how much time you want to GIVE the project. Now you can go back to Time Management 101 theory and block out the time to do it.
Where can you take charge of your time? Share with me.