Like almost everybody, I have to make constant corrections to how I manage my time. There always seem to be more opportunities than time available, more inbox than there are hours, and more people wanting ‘just ten minutes’ than there are ten minute segments. Time is a fixed commodity; you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.
Today I want to share with you one of the biggest shifts I’ve made over the last ten years that has helped me manage time. It has less to do with a technique and far more to do with an attitude. I love reading great time management blogs and I pick up tips wherever I can. But you can do all of that and still be ineffective until you change this one thing.
What’s the one thing? It’s how you value your time. The realization I came to years ago was simple but life-changing:
Other people value your time exactly as you value it.
I know leaders who don’t seem to value their time at all. They spend a lot of time in casual conversation when they could be moving the ball down the field. They lack discipline when it comes to finishing tasks on time. They show up late to meetings. (Please hear me, we’ve all done these things occasionally. I’m talking about habitual patterns here, not occasional exceptions.)
Interestingly, these same leaders end up in meetings where the person they’re meeting with shows up late or cancels last minute. Or have trouble getting other people to hit deadlines or do what the team needs them to do. While there are a myriad of issues underneath that, one of the key ones is simply this: if you don’t value your time, why would others? Others value your time exactly as you do.
Contrast that with the habits of other people I know who really value their time. They’ve prioritized who they meet with, and while you might get some time at the water cooler with them to catch up, not everybody gets meaningful slices of their time. And that’s intentional.
If you have a conference call or skype set up with them for 3:00, the meeting begins at 3:00…and often they’re online a minute before. In addition, they’ve spent some time prior to that prepping for the call. They hit deadlines. They organize almost every hour of the day to get the most out of it, including down time and time with family. They might struggle from time to time with keeping all their tasks on schedule, but when you look at their capacity and output it is staggering compared to others. People don’t want to be late for meetings with them because they realize how valuable their time is valuable. When you get an hour with them, you value it. Because they value their time, others do.
So what are some signs you don’t value your time? Here are seven:
- You don’t have a plan for the week before it begins.
- You have no regular rhythm to your day or work week.
- You haven’t decided the kinds of people you are going to spend most of your meetings with and therefore try to squeeze in almost every request.
- You haven’t figured out a graceful, polite way to say no to the meeting/project requests that don’t fit your criteria.
- You habitually show up late or miss appointments.
- You enter into conversations/meetings without a goal or clear purpose in mind.
- You spend two hours at your desk but have accomplished nothing (except twitter, and Facebook and google searches).
People who value their time simply do the opposite.
- They have a plan for the week every week (I shared how I developed one here). Often it’s a standing plan.
- They have figured out that most of their work is predictable and built their priorities and calendar around it.
- They have pre-decided who they will and won’t spend their time with.
- They know how to say no gracefully.
- They show up on time, prepared.
- They have a clear goal for every conversation or meeting they have.
- Even social media has a purpose (beyond just endless recreation).
I haven’t nailed every behaviour yet, but I am convinced that no one else will value my time if I don’t. What are you learning on this? What are some best practices you’ve seen? What’s helped you value your time more.