TIME MAKEOVER: Free Up Hours You Didn’t Think You Had by Laura Vanderkam

Along with the inspirational quotes, the beautiful images, and my own personal and business blogs, at Behind the Scenes / Virtual COO you will find the writings and videos of various thought leaders.

TIME MAKEOVER: Free Up Hours You Didn’t Think You Had by Laura Vanderkam

Most of us have more free time than we realize. Even those who work 60 hours a week and sleep eight hours a night still have 52 additional hours each week. The problem is that we tend to burn many of those hours thoughtlessly on things that aren’t vital or particularly enjoyable, such as watching TV or browsing the Internet.

Our lives would be more productive and fun if we consciously chose what to do with our time. Here’s an eight-step time-management makeover to do just that…

* Step 1: Log how you spend your time for a week. Record your activities in a notebook or on the free downloadable spreadsheet available on my Web site (www.My168hours.com, click “Your Time”). Be sure to include any breaks that you allow yourself in the middle of other tasks. If you think the week isn’t representative of a typical week, record another week.

* Step 2: Create your “List of 100 Dreams.” There’s a reason most of us don’t spend much time pursuing the things we really want—we don’t know what we really want.

Create a list of 100 things that you would like to accomplish—not just big, ambitious goals, but also smaller things that you suspect would make you excited or joyful… or that you might remember with fondness or pride when you look back on your life.

Examples: Your list might include vacation destinations that you would like to visit… projects that you want to complete related to your career or a hobby… skills that you would like to acquire… even books that you would like to read.

At least a few of the 100 dreams should be things that can be achieved in one day. These are likely to be checked off the list quickly, boosting your confidence in your ability to accomplish your more difficult dreams.

Examples: Reading a children’s book you never got around to when you were a kid… attending a performance of your favorite opera… making an apple pie from scratch.

Helpful: If you can’t come up with 100 dreams, try just 25 and proceed with the following steps anyway. Return to your list periodically until you get to 100.

* Step 3: Identify your core competencies.
What do you do better than anyone else… and what are you better positioned to do than anyone else?

Examples: Perhaps no one is as good as you at dreaming up new sales channels for your company’s products… or at teaching young children.

We tend to feel most useful and happy when we devote time to tasks for which we see ourselves as irreplaceable. Examine your one-week time log. How much of your time are you devoting to your core competencies? You want to devote as much time to them as possible.

* Step 4: Clear the slate. Rethink your time commitments. There are 168 hours in each week, and how we spend those hours is for us alone to decide. Yes, we all need to eat and sleep, and most of us need to do something to earn money—but it’s empowering to start from scratch and rethink every time commitment, even those that seem inflexible.

Examples: If you are willing to earn less, you could quit your job and find a less time-consuming career. If you are willing to eat simpler meals, you could save the time you spend cooking.

* Step 5: Print out a new, blank weekly log from my Web site… or take out a fresh piece of paper. Fill in your new schedule with your priorities and options in mind. Start by thinking in broad terms about when you would like to work… sleep… spend time with family and friends… and engage in specific, structured leisure activities.

Example: If your goal is to spend more time with your young children or grandkids, you could leave the office at 4:00 twice a week, then make up that lost time by spending an hour or two responding to nonurgent work e-mails from home after the kids are in bed.

Also, put your morning hours to better use. The morning is when we are most alert and energetic—yet most of us waste this time puttering around, checking our e-mails or sitting in rush-hour traffic. Make the morning your time to pursue your most important dream… or to get some exercise. If you currently have no free time on weekday mornings, go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier.

Next, schedule your core-competency time. Block out specific work time and personal time to pursue whatever it is that you do better than everyone else.

Finally, choose one or two entries from your “List of 100 Dreams,” and write them into this week’s schedule wherever you find openings. Larger dreams should be broken into specific “actionable steps,” which can be included on the schedule.

Example: If the dream is “launch my own business,” the first actionable step might be “speak with experienced business owners I know about how to get started.”

* Step 6: Ignore, minimize or outsource things that you don’t enjoy, that aren’t very important or that others could do as well as you. What household tasks do you like least? Which chores absorb the most time? Answers might include mowing the lawn, doing the laundry or picking up clutter. Pay someone to do these things, or lower your standards—who says that you have to clean every week?

* Step 7: Fill free moments with small sources of joy. There are brief open blocks of time during even the busiest days. We tend not to take full advantage of this time because we are not properly prepared for it.

Compile a list of things that give you joy that take 30 minutes or less… and another list of things that give you joy that take 10 minutes or less.

Examples: Reading a few pages of a novel… doing yoga stretches… or working on a crossword puzzle.

* Step 8: Tune up your schedule each year. Does your life feel in balance? Are your major priorities being met? Are you making inroads on your 100 Dreams list? If not, again log your time for a week and search for time that could be put to better use.

Eventually, creating a life in which you have it all will no longer seem so hard.

– Laura Vanderkam

If you’re interested in a complimentary 20-minute business strategy session with Robert Finkelstein, for more information, please refer to Behind the Scenes Consulting. If you have questions, please email Robert at Consulting@RobertFinkelstein.com. Your comments are welcomed below. Thank you.

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