Do you ever find yourself telling a friend or colleague that you’re “so busy” whenever they ask how you’re doing? Or, that you “have a lot on your plate and hardly have any time for yourself”?
These are common answers to the question: “ how are you doing?”. Perhaps you see it as an easy response that doesn’t need much explanation. Or, it could be that you’re in disbelief at the end of the week, wondering where all that time went.
The reality is that time is precious and waits for no man. Yet, many of us unconsciously squander time away; but when that realization kicks in, it’s often too late, or you have little time left to spare. And, the end result of what you were going to accomplish either gets short changed or fails altogether.
Think about the time when you had to be up early for an important meeting at work; yet, the night before you were up late binge watching a TV series. You ended up waking up late the next morning and had to rush to work, leaving you flustered and not well prepared for the meeting. Did you really have to watch those TV series late into the night? Or could you have used that time for an early rest?
Or, what about that time you had a deadline to meet, and you spent every night that week working late to complete the project. Did you really have to spend every night working late at the office? Or could you have prioritized your time better and gotten the project done during your typical work hours?
I’m sure we’re all guilty of not spending our time wisely at some point in our lives.
But let’s not focus on the time that has already been spent; instead, let’s look at how we can prioritize and leverage the time that we still have!
How to Leverage Your Time
Going back to the age-old battle of Quantity versus Quality, which do you think matters more? What if I told you that you need not worry about how much time you have left–instead, focus on how you’re making use of the time that you do have so that it’s worth many more valuable moments in the future?
That’s right. You can easily multiply or invest in the time that you have now. This way, you’ll reap many more returns in the future, instead of merely spending time at present. And, one simple way of investing in time now–so that it becomes quality time– is to Prioritize.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. It isn’t new. Yet, how many of us actually intentionally sit down to prioritize daily tasks and responsibilities? Even less likely, how many of us know a method that can help us effortlessly decide what is important enough to take up an hour of time, and what can be skipped?
Here’s an important skill I want to introduce to you:
Determine Value in Any Task or Action
Before you can decide on what to prioritize, you need to know just how important that action is.
Value is what you gain from an action that you take. It’s the benefit you’re getting in return for spending your time. Sometimes, the Value is immediate or short term; other times, it‘s only realized in the long term.
So when you invest in time, you’re actually creating future value for the time you put in now. Usually, the benefits are not immediate and will take time to manifest. But once they are realized, they are enjoyed over a long period of time.
Reduce Time Expenditures
Time expenditure on the other hand, creates short term benefits at the cost of your current time. Usually, the benefits are quickly enjoyed, but are one-off. So once it’s done, it’s gone.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your tasks are automatically prioritized by your brain. Some tasks can get you closer toward your goals, while others don’t really get you anywhere at all. Outside of work, most people seldom plan out their tasks deliberately, which allows them be driven automatically.
This is where you end up feeling ‘busy’ all the time because some of the actions that you’re doing don’t necessarily align with what you want in the future. The consequence is that we spend a lot of our precious time on wasteful time expenditures, and far too little on time investments.
This causes a lot of people to be stuck in the same loop, day after day, month after month, year after year.
By simply determining the value of your daily actions or tasks, you’ll already be intentionally prioritizing at a much more efficient rate. This will not only reduce time expenditure, but increase time investments that you’ll be able to use in the near future for much more important areas in your life.
Let me paint you a scenario. Say you’re going on a week long vacation to Australia. It’s your first time travelling to Australia and there are so many activities you want to do, sights you want to see, and restaurants and eateries you’d like to visit .
All this research can get pretty overwhelming and you may not know where to even start! Do I book a hotel first? Or get my flights? But what if I decide on a specific hotel and realize it’s far away from all the major attractions? Should I then look up what attractions I want to visit first? This list can go on!
In order to not get overwhelmed or over plan your trip itinerary, here’s where Determining the Value of each action or task can help you Prioritize effortlessly.
Start with Your Intention
What is the purpose of this vacation? Once you know the purpose of this vacation, you’ll be able to list down a bunch of tasks or actions–such as booking a hotel, booking flights and land transport, booking tickets to certain attractions, making reservations for restaurants, etc.
Once you’ve compiled your list, the next step is simply to categorize them into 3 criteria:
Must haves, Should haves, and Good to haves.
Must haves are tasks that are absolutely critical to achieve the objective, and should take top priority for resources and time.
The Should haves are important but not critical; leaving them out may lessen the impact of your outcome.
And, the Good to haves are just optional. Not having them won’t affect the outcome of your goal.
Once you’re able to sort out your list according to these 3 criteria, you’re already one step closer to prioritizing effectively and spending quality time on those Must have tasks. And, this will be a game changer. You’ll be able to easily communicate what you are spending time on, and you’ll find that you have more time to spare because it’s crystal clear what’s worth skipping out on!
This can be applied to any aspect of your life, whether you’re a full-time working professional, stay at home parent, or working parent. If you’ve ever used the expression “I’ve been so busy” when talking to someone, then I’ll recommend you give this a shot.
Quantify Your Tasks
Now that you know how to determine the Value of your actions spent, the next step up to effective Prioritizing would be to quantify your tasks so that you can objectively decide which is more important. This is especially useful when you have multiple items within each Must have, Should have and Good to have criteria.
Quantifying your tasks by assigning a value will allow you to objectively see the importance, making it easy for you to know which task to work on first. This way, you can be assured that the time and effort that you’ve put into is quality.
Time management is only one piece of a bigger puzzle of change that you can go through, to turn your life around and find more fulfilment. Often, when you find yourself going through an obstacle or limitation in life, it’s not just because of one flaw or a one off decision you made.
It’s often a process and a result of many actions that resulted to where you are now, and so you should go deeper to reflect and see how things can be done differently.
Learn more time management tips:
- 10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills
- How to Master the Art of Prioritization
- How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)
Featured photo credit: Marten Bjork via unsplash.com