How To Invest Your Precious Time Wisely
Because time is limited, it is extremely valuable!
Growing up, I kept my diary, special notes, and assorted other valuables under lock and key in my safe. Yes, a safe! I was a strange bird growing up – I asked for out of the norm birthday gifts like safes, filing cabinets, and staplers. Maybe, in part, the result of having four pesky younger brothers?
As an adult, what I value is demonstrated by my calendar and my checkbook because how I spend my time and money reveals the truth about my priorities.
Money and time are similar, however, unlike money, there is nothing I can do to add more hours to my day. That’s why it’s critical that I use my time wisely. Just like a budget helps keep my spending on track, a plan for your day helps me stay on track!
It’s interesting – money and time use the same muscles: the ability to plan, focus, and delay gratification.
There will always be competing tasks and people vying for my time, so perpetual prioritizing is key! Here are eight other tips I find help me use my 24 hours wisely:
1. Get Realistic!
If you want to be frustrated, continue overestimating what you can accomplish in a day and underestimating the amount of time each task takes.
If you actually want to get stuff done, then you need to know who much time you REALLY have each day to get things done.
Think about it this way: when budgeting your money, there are essentials you just can’t do without like food, shelter, and utilities. Those expenses are a priority. The money that’s left over after paying for essentials can be used at your discretion.
In the same way, there are activities you must engage in every day – activities like sleep and eating. For me personally, I would add time with God and exercising as also essential. The time remaining is what I have left to get everything else done. For example:
I have 8 hours leftover in which I must accomplish my work, and make sure that I am taking care of my house, myself, and more! The time you have to work with may be different, but take the time to get really honest about the amount of time you actually have.
Maybe you can get by with less sleep or take more or less time to work out. If you are a man, your ability to get ready is probably significantly less. Your fixed items might be slightly different, but you get the idea – be clear on the amount of time you have.
Unsure of exactly what is consuming your time? Keep track for a week and find out.
2. Ruthlessly Eliminate
As time goes on, it’s easy for your responsibilities to add up. Even small tasks can be time suckers. Make a list of all the things you are currently doing. Then evaluate each of your responsibilities and determine if it is something you need to…
- Stop doing altogether & eliminate
- Keep doing – it’s something only you can do
Be ruthless in this process. Whittle your responsibilities down so that you are doing what only you can do. This will help you create margin – space for the unexpected or new things that will benefit you in greater ways.
3. Create a Criteria
Once you’ve eliminated the extra responsibilities, it’s crucial that you determine what your criteria is for taking on new responsibilities in the future. Here are some criteria to think about when weighing future opportunities: Is it…
- In keeping with your values?
- Utilizing your strengths?
- A good fit for your personality?
- Something that will compete or compliment your goals and other responsibilities?
- In alignment with what God has for you?
- Something that will compromise other areas of your life or work?
4. Plan Daily
The quick and easy way to get yourself into financial trouble is to spend without knowing where your money is going. The same is true when it comes to time. If you truly value your time, you will want to carefully plan how you use your time.
Prevent yourself from getting lost in your day or investing time in what isn’t important by planning. Effective planning hinges on how clear you are about your goals and priorities for the year, the month, the week, and the day. That means you need to set aside time at the beginning of each year to set goals for the year. More on that here.
Planning doesn’t stop there. At the beginning of each week, take a moment to see what’s on your calendar and how you will prioritize your tasks. Then, be sure to start each day by taking five to ten minutes to identify your priorities for the day. I find it helpful to narrow it down to my “Top 3” priorities. Be sure to write your “Top 3” down along with any other tasks you’d like to get done if you happen to have time leftover. While silly, there is something gratifying about checking items off as you complete them.
At the end of each month, take time to evaluate your progress towards your goals. Are you on track or do you need to make adjustments on the action steps you are taking to reach them? When evaluating at the end of the month I like to answer three simple questions:
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- What needs to change?
For me, this evaluation process takes about two hours. That may seem like a hefty investment of time if you are not in the habit of evaluating, but in the end, it will save you time because you are able to make strategic changes that allow you to work smarter rather than harder!
6. Embrace Boundaries
Without boundaries, it’s tough to make the most of your time. This applies to both tasks and relationships. Be sure you are not taking on what others should be doing and that you are not allowing people to distract you from your responsibilities.
Remember, you don’t have to be available all the time. In fact, setting limits communicates to others that you value your time. Be sure to communicate clearly when you are available and set aside time to follow up, return phone calls and emails.
Setting deadlines is another way to create boundaries. If you struggle with deadlines, enlist the help of someone you trust to check-in with you and see if you are staying on track.
Depending on your situation, you may also find routines, doing certain tasks on specific days, or working in blocks of time to be helpful. You may also want to set a timer for 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish a task such as writing, returning e-mails, etc. The gentle ticking of an old-fashioned timer reminds me to stay on task.
7. Be Resourceful
They say that necessity is the mother of all invention, but I would venture to say that limited time is the mother of resourcefulness! Because time is limited, you have to get creative, innovative, and resourceful in how you use it.
Here’s the difficulty: being resourceful often takes more time up front, but saves time down the road. In other words, start taking the time up front to organize, create systems, and processes – the things that make up your infrastructure – so that you can work smarter. That hurry under pressure feeling will tempt you to skip this step, but if you do, it will continue to take up more time.
Is it possible to kill two birds with one stone? Can you simultaneously spend time with your child or catch up with a friend while running an errand? What can you hand off to someone else – someone who would appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow on your team?
Are there less time-consuming ways to get the work done – ways you can be more efficient? Don’t be afraid to experiment.
The tricky thing about managing your money and your time is that sometimes God asks us to spend them in seemingly frivolous and crazy ways. He often asks us to give money to someone or something when it makes no sense. The same is true of our time. It requires staying in step with Him to know when an interruption is a special assignment from Him.
I have been confronted with opportunities to speak into someone’s life repeatedly when my schedule was crazy full and God was able to creatively work things out; everything still got done!
Don’t lose sight of God’s agenda. Trust Him. He knows even better than you do what all needs to get done. Holding so tight to your schedule and being so rigid you miss divine moments only works against you in the long run.
How are you using your precious 24 hours? What changes do you need to make to invest your time more wisely?
© Can Stock Photo / ojogabonitoo