Never Enough Time!

25 Jan, 2011 || by

How many times have you taken a book or two with you on a trip, only to return home with them still unread?  We are all horrible at calculating free time.  We start off with high expectations only to become disappointed when confronted by reality.

Each week we have the gift of 168 hours…no more, no less.  This amount of time is the same for all of us regardless of whether we are princes or paupers.

The 168 hours available to us each week can, according to the America Time Use Survey (ATUS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, be divided into 3 equally divided parts:  One-third for sleep, one-third for work, and one-third for everything else.  The “everything else” includes preparing and eating meals, shopping, child care, house work, yard work, personal hygiene, paying bills, commuting to and from work, etc.

Interestingly, according to ATUS, almost one half of our “everything else” time is spent watching television.  Subtract that time and we only have about 25 hours left to do “everything else.”  In comparison, only about 8 minutes a day is spent on volunteering or on religious or spiritual activities.

80/20 Rule:

According to a popular theory called Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 Rule, focusing your time and attention to the most important 20 percent of your priorities will bring an 80 percent return on your effort.  In other words, in anything we do (including our use of time), 20 percent of what we do is vital and 80 percent is trivial.  You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything:

–      80% of your phone calls go to 20% of the names on your list

–      80% of your tools only get used 20% of the time

–      80% of the clothes in your closet get worn only 20% of the time

–      80% of the cars have 20% of their seats occupied

How the 80/20 Rule applies to the idea of time is that 80 percent of our time tends to be spent on less productive actions.  It is the other 20 percent that generates our greatest returns.  That means we need to be able to prioritize our time more effectively, especially that all important 20 percent.

Chinese author and philosopher Lin Yutang once said, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists of the elimination of the nonessentials.

Time Stealers

In order to make better use of that all important 20 percent, it is helpful to identify a few of the main “time stealers,”  all of which can be divided into two categories, internal (worry, perfectionism, procrastination, fatigue, messiness, poor skills, etc.) and external (prolonged phone calls, waiting in lines, inadequate help, socializing, etc) time stealers.  Overall, the vast preponderance of time stealers are internal.

Most internal time stealers boil down to “not being able to say no” (which leaves us vulnerable to unnecessary visits, long phone calls, trivial errands, nonessential tasks and so-called obligations) and “insufficient delegation” (which results in our having to do many family and professional tasks which could be done by others).   Remember, if you don’t decide how to spend your time, someone else will.

Of the many types of external time stealers, the primary culprits are interruptions and distractions.  On average, we experience an interruption or distraction about once every 8 minutes.  There are 4 types of interruptions/distractions: Crucial, Important, Little Value, and No Value.  Only about 20% of interruptions and distractions fall into the categories of Crucial or Important (which also agrees with the 80/20 Rule).  It is therefore very important that we learn to better discriminate the good from the bad and strive to eliminate those with little or no value.

Make Better Use of Time

In addition to the 80 percent of the time we spend on the stuff we have to do, there is the other 20 percent we could use in a more personal manner, possibly creating within us a greater feeling of satisfaction, interest and fulfillment.  Some of the more personal uses of time include:

–      Time for the body

–      Time for leisure

–      Time for sensuality

–      Time for consumption

–      Time for travel

–      Time for rest

–      Time for love

–      Time for others

–      Time for family

–      Time for reading

–      Time for personal development

–      Time for creating

–      Time for meditating

–      Time for spirituality

–      Time for solitude

If you had only 6 months to live, to which area(s) would you choose to devote more of your time?

See how it feels to substitute the word “life” for “time” in the following statements:

–      “I need more time

–      “Am I using my time well?”

–      “I need to master my time

–      “I’m going to spend some time on that”

Since you can’t change time, you must instead change your approach to it.  Even small changes can realize big results.  By better managing even 15 minutes a day, you can gain 91 hours, or 4 days, per year!  Start small – better manage that 20 percent.  Learn to say “No” more often, especially to those interruptions and distractions that fall into the “Little” or “No” Value categories.   Learn to delegate some of the less productive 80 percent to others who are fully capable of helping.  In general, take a little time thinking about how you need to spend your “time”.

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