We’re going to talk about a common issue that many people face- time management.
I hear many people say that they don’t have time to do things like work on their goals. “I don’t have time” really means, it’s not a priority.
Not having time for things you enjoy is a choice. You have the same amount of time as everyone else. What you need then, is to figure out how to use your time more effectively, so you can enjoy some of the pleasures t of life.
If you want something bad enough, you will make the time to do it. You always have enough time for the things that are important to you if you spend it right.
Managing priorities is a challenge for most people.
Have you ever really looked at Olympic athletes? They have a remarkable focus, and are interested only in what they can control…. And that’s what’s happening inside their boat. Everything else is beyond their control and not worth expending the mental energy and attention that would otherwise distract them from their ultimate task.
Keep focus on what’s “inside your boat”, because that’s the only thing you can control.
We all have moments when we need to redirect our efforts “inside our boat” to keep ourselves focused on what’s important. We have to use our time, energy, attention, and efforts on the things we can control.
Time is not manageable. No matter what you do, time keeps marching forward at its own pace, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
Time is a great equalizer. It runs at the same speed for everyone, rich or poor, jet pilot or snail farmer. Time seems to run faster when we are hanging out with friends and enjoying ourselves, and slower when we’re sitting in the doctor’s office.
But it’s actually moving along at a constant pace- exactly 168 hours a week.
And some people tend to think that they have to keep a to-do list in order to mange time.
Making lists and checking things off can be useful. It’s wonderful to feel that ‘rush’ of accomplishment that we get when we check something off.
However, most people discover that the end of the day, or week, or month, that some projects are either not done, or they simply haven’t even started them.
That’s when frustration sets in. The time is gone, and there’s no way to get it back. You can’t reproduce time. You can’t trade bad hours for good ones either.
What you can manage though is your attention. It’s inside your boat.
Attention is a resource we all possess. As long as we are awake, we produce a continuous stream of it. But how effectively do we really use this valuable resource? That depends on where we direct our attention and how intensely we keep it focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.
Your attention reflects your conscious decisions about the activities that occupy your time. One of the challenges we often face when managing our attention is that today’s world is so connected.
We are connected to more potential time robbers than ever before in history. Things like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and every other social network.
You are probably so connected, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be alone with your own thoughts.
Your job probably involves multiple responsibilities that are constantly pulling your attention in many different directions.
You have the ability to recognize when things need to be done and then direct your attention to doing them.
Why Do We Run Out of Time?
So the question becomes, “Why do we often run out of time before getting important things done?”
We let our attention get diverted by things outside our boat. We may be able to justify why we couldn’t get our important tasks done. But the problem isn’t time… and it’s not our to-do lists.
You knew how much time you had that day and you made out a list of what you wanted to do with that time. The problem is that your attention was reallocated to something that didn’t lead you toward your goals.
The most successful people are really good at 3 things:
- Identifying their priorities
- Knowing when to say ‘no’
- Attacking procrastination.
The first step to managing your attention is to precisely understand your priorities. There’s a big difference between managing your attention to accomplish priorities and checking off items on a to-do list.
Our natural tendency as human beings is to do what is fun, convenient, or absolutely necessary at any given time. But your true priorities may not fit into any of those categories.
In the absence of clearly defined goals, you’ll find yourself involved in trivial pursuits– things that keep you from doing what needs to be done to accomplish those goals. You will somehow convince yourself that you’re accomplishing something.
To help you remain on track, ask yourself this question: “If I could accomplish 3 things today, what would those be?” Your answer will quickly identify what your priorities should be and where you should be directing your attention.
Write those priorities at the top of your to-do list and move everything down, or completely off your list.
Can We Truly Multitask?
The truth is, you can only multitask if you want to do multiple things poorly. As human beings, our weakness is trying to do too many things at once. It scatters effort and destroys direction.
You have to set your goals, identify your priorities, and manage your attention toward those priorities. And as you identify priorities, be realistic about what you can accomplish. It’s your job to know exactly where and how to invest your attention.
While important tasks that reflect your goals are top priority, most of the time, these are not the things that appear to be urgent. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the things that seem urgent are worth taking your mind off your most important goals.
What’s important is seldom urgent, and what’s urgent is seldom important.
Most people prioritize the easy, fun stuff and postpone the more difficult tasks, even when they are the most important things.
The other thing you need to address is understanding when to say ‘no’.
Your objective should be to have laser-like focus about what’s important. One of the most important decisions you can make is to decide what’s most important.
Our time and energy are our most precious and valuable resources. Once you spend them, you can’t get them back.
Saying ‘yes’ to anything always means saying ‘no’ to something else. Successful people create laser-like focus by saying ‘no’ to low priority activities so they can say ‘yes’ to the things they are really committed to- their top priorities and goals.
And don’t think that saying ‘no’ just means saying no to other people. Most of the time, successful people say ‘no’ to themselves. They sacrifice the comforts of today- by saying no to something that might be fun or tempting- so they can gain tomorrow’s rewards. They’re saying ‘yes’ to their ultimate goal.
Saying No Is A Daily Winning Habit
Ex: If you spend 2 hours in a meeting that doesn’t help your team achieve its goal, you’re paying an opportunity cost by spending time on tasks that don’t support your commitments.
If you frequently find yourself saying, “That was a waste of time”, this may be a sign you need to start saying ‘no’.
The best question to ask yourself is: “Is this the best use of my attention at this moment?” If the answer is yes, then get busy. If the answer is no, then refocus.
Just as important as a to-do list, is a not-to-do list. Write down all the activities, reports, tasks, meetings, and projects that do not directly support your goals. This helps you to focus your attention more effectively on the things that are most important to you- whether at home, in the community, or at work.
Often times we find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when we should say no to people because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.
But, you have no control over another person’s feelings. That’s outside your boat. If you’re honest in telling someone your priorities and why you have to say ‘no’, most of the time they will respect that.
If saying no could damage your relationship, then your relationship is probably rather toxic already. Relationships are damaged more by misunderstandings and unspoken perceptions, than by disagreements.
If your issue is with your boss, then you are ultimately responsible for achieving results. If it’s clear that the activity your boss is suggesting will keep you from accomplishing your priorities, then you need to say ‘no’ and be clear about why you are saying ‘no’.
If you explain your priorities and they’re not in line with the priorities of your boss, something is out of sync.
There is great power in understanding your goals and priorities and maintaining laser-like focus. Effectively managing your attention comes down to self-discipline.
If you know your priorities, focus your attention, and consistently make the best use of your attention, the right things will get done.
One of the most important truths to learn is ‘Do It Now!’ In almost every situation, procrastination is a habit that can cost you a lot of time, energy, and frustration.
Knowing you have something to do that should already be done increases stress. Procrastination steals your time, adds stress to your life, and keeps you from your priorities.
Do It Now means be decisive. If someone says to you that you should call them later to set up an appointment, quickly respond with, “Let’s save ourselves a phone call and make the appointment now.”
Don’t let things pile up. Act on it immediately and ‘Do It Now’.
Focus Inside Your Boat Key Points to Remember
- I can’t manage time, but I can manage my attention.
- I have to precisely identify my priorities.
- Successful people say “no” to low-priority activities so they can say yes to the things they are really committed to- their top priorities and goals.
- Multitask only if you want to do multiple things poorly.
- Do It Now- attack procrastination.
Do Something Different
- Focus inside my boat… on the things I can control.
- Create a laser-like focus on my priorities by asking, “If I could accomplish only one thing right now, what would that one thing be?”
- Manage my attention by asking, “Is this the best use of my attention at this moment?”
Move on to Success Secret 8: Knowledge is Power