I often here the argument, “If I had more time for this or that, I could …”
Well, unfortunately, having more time doesn’t always mean getting more done. It doesn’t guarantee getting the right things done either.
The secret to time management isn’t more time management hacks at all.
It’s knowing the vital few keys that really make a difference.
The 3 Keys to Effective Time Management
Here are the keys I’ve found:
- Manage energy, not time.
- Make room for your big rocks.
- Use anticipation to drive versus react.
1. Manage Energy, Not Time
Sometimes I get more done in an hour than I can sometimes get done in a week. Why is that? For me, it’s actually about energy. There are only so many hours in a day. While I can’t make more hours in a day, I can use my energy better.
Sure there are lots of interesting little time savers, but there are also plenty of time wasters too. I find the force that makes the most measurable difference is the energy and engagement I bring to the table. Energy over time is a key concept in the book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz . The secret to managing energy is following your passions and playing to your strengths. Managing strengths to manage your energy is a key concept in Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, by Marcus Buckingham.
- Finding Your Key Strengths
- Spend 75 Percent on Your Strengths
- 3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses
2. Make Room for Your Big Rocks
Assuming I have all my energy ready to tackle my day, I need to distinguish between urgent and important. If I’m only reacting to urgent, then I’m missing out on opportunity to deal with important, whether that’s job impact or personal growth. The moral of the story is, if I don’t make time for the big rocks, the fillers in my day won’t leave room. I like Steven Covey’s perspective on urgent vs. important in his book, First Things First.
Here’s a summary of the popular Make Room for the Big Rocks story …
A time-management professor demonstrates the importance of prioritizing by filling a five-gallon mason jar with fist-size rocks. He asks the class if the jar is full. Since another big rock wouldn’t fit, the class answers, “Yes.” However, the professor proceeds to pour a pitcher of gravel, then sand, and finally water into the jar before it is finally full. The point of the story is not that you can cram much more than you ever dreamed into any given day. The point is this: “If you don’t put your big rocks in first, the fillers of life will take up your day and you won’t fit your big rocks in at all.”
3. Use Anticipation to Drive vs. React
Anticipation is a actually a skill that I haven’t worked on as much as I should. I actually plan to do a 30 Day Improvement Sprint on anticipation, when the time is right. It’s funny how many recurring things happen each year, that take me by surprise. Birthdays. Holidays. Reviews. Events. Geeze! You’d think I’d see the patterns 😉
Well, I do. I’ve seen the pattern of me reacting to events I don’t anticipate. While the corporate ninja expects the unexpected, I also find that with a little anticipation, a stitch in time saves nine. If I make project plans, and there’s a major event I didn’t account for, I shouldn’t be surprised when suddenly nobody’s around. At the same time, I’m sure I can find a way to leverage the sudden spurt of energy some folks have right after mid-year discussions.