Why Do We Make Managing Time as Complicated as Rocket Science?

When in Reality, It’s as Simple as One, Two, Three

I’ve shared before about some of the great discussions we have in our masterclass. This week’s was no different.

The question that got the gears in my head spinning was this –

When self-employed and working from home, how does one schedule time and determine boundaries?

Now, is this a great question or what. How does one do this?

When working from home it’s easy to be sidetracked by all the things that need done, like – yard work, gardening, vacuuming, washing the dishes, repair projects, laundry, changing the oil in the car, checking out social media, researching new and better computer programs, emailing old friends… You get the point! All the things on this list are worthwhile and important things that need to be done.

There were some great answers from of the group.

  • I work when my wife is gone to work. When she gets home, I stop working and spend time with her.
  • I have an office space that is only accessed by going through the garage, up some stairs and through the attic.
  • I start my day at 8:00 just as if I was going to an office.

The key to managing time is intentionality!

Having been self-employed for most of the past forty years I have a head start on most of the people in this group. But believe me I understand. I’ve struggled with this for years and just began to figure out over the past 8-10 years.

My figuring it out took a big step forward with a wakeup call from God. He got my attention with a board upside the head, literally. This incident persuaded me to step back and look at things differently. I got a more well-rounded, big picture view of life and it helped me to see things differently.

I’m a workaholic and love what I do. Now I look at my whole life, all the different aspects of it, as my employment. This a word that is typically connected to a job, but that’s not completely accurate. Being employed is – the active use of or engagement in services. Being engaged in activity. I see employment as more than just a job.

The freedom perceived as a part of self-employment is the one thing that most often prevents these ventures from succeeding.

One of the biggest issues with self-employment is lack of boundaries. It’s like kids when they first move out of their parent’s home. There’s a newfound freedom. Nobody is looking over their shoulder telling them to get up and go to class or to not stay out late so they can get up and go to work.

Most people have been raised with some kind of structure. Working for someone else is the same thing. When we become self-employed it’s like moving out for the first time. There’s no boss preventing me from washing the dishes or mowing the yard.

This new freedom leads to an uncertain, unclear understanding of what we should do, when we should do it and in what order.

There are three things that need to be present if you are going to be successful in self-employment. –

  • Intentionality – Be intentional about what you spend your time on. Why is it that we won’t be late to a meeting with other people, but will blow off meeting with ourselves? We’ve been given enough time to do everything we should…just not everything we want.
  • Prioritization – This one can be tough. What makes one thing more important than another. This is where being crystal on who you are, who you’re going to help and how you’re going to help them comes in.
  • Spending time wisely – Time is limited. It is the most valuable commodity you have. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re going to spend and what you’re going to spend it on.

The SELF in self-employment means “the buck stops here”. It’s up to me to manage my time…no one else. Our human nature is to make things more complicated than they are or need to be.

Managing time doesn’t have to be rocket science. Intentionally prioritizing how you spend your time is all it takes.

Check back, we will break these down more in the coming weeks.

There is a Limited Amount of Time, Don’t Spend it All Worrying

When it Rains it Pours…More Times Than Not, We’re the Ones Holding the Pitcher

What is worry? To feel uneasy or concerned about something; to be troubled. To cause one to feel anxious, distressed, or troubled.

In our weekly mastermind meetings periodically, each members gets the opportunity to ask questions of or present situations to the rest of the group for their input and thoughts. This past week it was my turn. My question was one that has been asked multiple times, by multiple people, in multiple ways, in multiple places.

How do I determine what I should spend my time on?

What makes one thing more important than another? This question came out of my frustration with not getting everything I want to, done.

The problem with this question is…I’m the only one that can answer it for me. Each of us is different and what is right for one person isn’t for another. My priorities aren’t yours.

It comes down to putting my big rocks in first. Most of the time we know the answer. We just need to step back, take a deep breath and get re-focused.

Remember that God has given each of us a purpose. Focus on that and it will make it easier to get the pieces to fit. The important thing to remember is to not worry and stress over it.

The Bible is full of Scriptures about worrying and none of them say that we should. They all say pretty much the same thing. Don’t worry. Worrying won’t make us live longer. Give our worries to God. He will help us figure it out.

I wasn’t worried as much as uncertain about what to do first. Uncertainty is a better description of my feelings. I was just looking for clarity of direction. How do I get more done?

Whether it’s worry or uncertainty that you’re dealing with…it’s within your control.

You’ve probably heard the idiom, “When it rains, it pours.” This generally refers to situations when bad things are happening, then more bad things are going to happen.

This is a pretty negative perspective.

If it’s true for bad things, then I think the same thing is also true for good things. I’m going to make it pour good things.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything that you’re trying to do. Just remember…

There’s a limited amount of time and we hold the pitcher.

You can decide what and how much you will do.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

Wow, a Lot More Than I Thought

Over the past several weeks either I or my assistant, on several occasions, have been late to our regularly scheduled daily meetings. Most of the time it’s just a few minutes. But there were a couple of times that it was closer to 30 minutes.

It’s not like either of us were just being lazy and chose to be late. In every case there were some miscalculations of the schedule prior or some unexpected situations that came up. We all know that life happens.

Being on time comes down to prioritizing and making decisions accordingly.

I’ve always struggled with giving my time the same level of importance as other peoples. I wouldn’t be late to meetings with customers, committees at church, or in the community. The lack of importance of my own time oozes over to the time of my assistant’s. This is unacceptable.

As I was thinking about this and considering ways to give my time a greater level of importance I came up with an idea. What if there was a monetary penalty for every minute that we were late. Let’s say $1.00 per minute. If I’m late I pay her a dollar and if she’s late she pays me. This caused me to consider…

What each minute of my time is really worth?

So, I did some calculations –

  • There are 60 minutes every hour
  • There is an average of 12 hours per my workday
  • There are 6 workdays per my work week
  • There are 52 work weeks per year
  • This means there are 224,640 minutes available to work each year
  • My gross revenue target for this year is $500,000.00
  • $500,000.00 divided by 224640 minutes means that each minute of the workday is worth $2.23

$2.23 for each minute doesn’t seem like that much, until I did some more calculations –

  • $2.23 x 5 minutes = $11.15
  • $2.23 x 15 minutes = #33.45
  • $2.23 x 30 minutes = $66.90
  • $2.23 x 60 minutes = $133.80

Who new that my time was that valuable?

It’s amazing how much the little things can change the big picture. This gave me a whole new sense of urgency. It has caused me to evaluate decisions differently. Which of these things on the list is worth spending that much time/money on?

It has caused me to focus more intensely on which actions I need to take to accomplish my mission.

I’ve never been one to give my time the value its worth. Working for myself it’s always hard to give it a monetary value. This new discovery changed that. This weekly solution has cost me $267.60 so far and by the time I find some pictures and get it uploaded it’s going to be closer to $350.00.

I sure hope you find that much value in it. 😊

Of course, everybody’s level of importance is going to be different based on individual preferences. But this new awareness of the value of my time has given me a new focused intensity to spend my time wisely.

So…it looks like the penalty for being late to the meeting is going to be $2.23 per minute.

What Makes One Thing More Important Than Another?

How to Decide What’s Urgent, Important or Not

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been working to find clarity in my prioritizing. I wrote about the value of time and how to decide where to spend it. I wrote about the importance of putting the big rocks in first and determining what makes one rock more important than another.

This is the hard part.

Rocks are hard…get it? 😊

Steven Covey’s time management quadrant in the previous post makes the idea of sorting things into the 4 areas clear. Different things need a different level of attention given to them.

  • Quadrant 1 is fire-fighting (urgent & important). This is easily recognized and where most of us spend way too much time. This is the get down to the core action of, if the house is on fire and the phones ringing…do we answer the phone or get the kids out of the house? The problem is we should have spent more on important rather than urgent and maybe we could have prevented the fire.
  • Quadrant 2 is quality time (important & not urgent). This is the area where we should focus. It’s where we get the most return on our investment of time and energy. It’s also the hardest because there’s no immediate rush like there is when fighting fires.
  • Quadrant 3 is distractions (urgent & not important). We can fill this quadrant with an endless list of small and trivial tasks convincing ourselves that they are important, because they probably are. The things in this quadrant require less time and energy than the ‘really’ important tasks. The question is, are you doing them because they’re important…or because it feels good to check thing off the list?
  • Quadrant 4 is time-wasters (not important & not urgent). The things in this quadrant are the things of least importance. These things serve no direct purpose in accomplishing the important things in your life. You want to avoid wasting time on these things.

We have a limited amount of time…spend it wisely.

As I read through the different quadrants in this example, I was perplexed with some of the things listed.

It seemed to me that some of the things in quadrant 4 were important things and not necessarily time wasters, i.e. entertainment (TV) and stress relief. In quadrant 2 was recreational activities. For me watching TV is recreational. And isn’t “relieving of stress” pretty important? The more I studied it the clearer it became…

It’s up to us what goes in our quadrants!

It comes down to being crystal clear on who we are and what our specific purpose is. This is the problem. Most of us haven’t or don’t want to spend the time and energy to figure it out. We just float through life without a clear direction of where we’re going or how we’re going to get there.

In the Ayn Rand book Fountainhead architect Howard Roark is super clear on who he is and what he’s willing to do or not. Because of his lack of conformity to the status quo, he struggles to make a living. He is almost broke but is given an opportunity to design and build a bank building that would be very profitable for him.

As he meets with the bank board, they ask him to make a few changes that would require that he conform. He turns the job down and goes to work doing manual labor in a quarry.

I want Howard Roark’s clarity.

I do think there is a place for conformity. It’s not always wise to cut one’s nose off to spite one’s face. However if we have Mr. Roark’s clarity, we can then determine what makes things urgent, important or not in our lives.

You get to decide, but if you want clarity…you have to decide.

Deciding What Your Big Rocks Are

What Should I do First?

This past week as I was writing in my journal, I was considering what the day’s priorities were. What were the most important things to focus on today, if I’m going to achieve my goals? As I thought I wrote…

What are the big rocks that I need to put in the jar first?

I read about this time/priority analogy several years ago in Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I hadn’t thought about this for some time and I don’t know why I thought of it then. I assume it’s due to the recent attention being giving to accomplishing my goals for the coming year.

Here’s how this story goes:

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Dr. Steven R. Covey, First Things First

I love this big rock example of prioritizing our actions. Too often we approach time as though there’s no limit. My time management budget certainly makes it clear that this is not the case. (currently I’m over my time limit for the year, by 746 hours)

As I study this time management spreadsheet it gives me a much clearer picture of where my time is getting spent and a way to determine what rocks should be put in first and what ones should be left out. There are so many great things to choose from but if I’m going to be the most productive, I need focused intensity on the big rocks that help me to achieve my goals.  

What are the big rocks in your life?

Growing in your faith? Spending more time with your family? Serving your customers better? Paying off debt? Taking better care of yourself physically and mentally? Helping with community projects?

Here are three short video examples of how putting the big rocks in first matters. The first explains this perspective well.

Put the Big Rocks in First

Time Management & the Jar of Life

Jar of Life

How to Decide Where Your Time Is Best Spent

It Comes Down to Knowing Who You Want to Be

Last week I wrote about the importance of spending time wisely. I shared how I was working to clear the fog to determine what things I should focus on. What should I do and not do? So, like budgeting money I decided to work on a plan for budgeting my time…enter the spread sheet.

Like money, we can choose what to spend our time on.

The difference is that with money there’s the possibility to make more, not with time. This makes spending time wisely, even more critical.

So, what did I find out about budgeting time using a spreadsheet?

What I’ve found so far is that I’ve overspent my time budget by 175 hours (2%) and I still haven’t got everything entered. It is making it very clear that I can’t do everything that I want.

This spreadsheet is allowing me to look at the big picture and see where I can move things around and/or remove things completely to fit into the limited time available.

I listened to a podcast recently that pointed out how important time is due to kids doing school at home and people working remotely. This got me to thinking about how I’ve never really separated my work and personal time. My time is all just…my life.

I think this is because growing up on a farm there wasn’t a ‘clock punching’ separation of time. In addition to that, I’ve spent most of my life self-employed which is the same. I may be doing family, community or church things throughout the day or, I may be doing work things late in the evening or on weekends.

Using the spreadsheet, it is allowing me to see the amount of time being spent rather than the specific time of the day or night. It allows me to be better at living a well-balanced life.

Ultimately the spending of our time comes down to a personal choice.

It’s all about who we want to be.

We can spend our time where we want. So…to that point…today I want to spend my time with my family having a movie marathon weekend.

That’s who I want to be.

Time is the Most Valuable Commodity

Be Sure to Spend it Wisely

The topic of spending time is nothing new. It’s a topic that is written about a lot. My search online for “spending time” uncovered 289 million results. Just so you know, I didn’t read them all. 😊

As I’ve been working on setting my goals for this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what and where I should put my focused intensity. I struggle with this. What things should be in what order.

Earlier this week I heard a Business Made Simple Daily from Donald Miller entitled How to Know What is Worth Your Time. Notice it doesn’t say “what your time is worth”, but “what is worth your time”. Donald uses the example that his truck tags had been expired for several months, but he chose to spend his time on other things he determined to be a higher priority.

This conversation about time reminded me of how in his Hero on a Mission course for goal setting and life planning starts out with writing your obituary. This form of starting with the end in mind makes the point that for each and every one of us…life is over at some point. As we race through the routines of our daily lives, we just don’t think about time from a finite aspect.

We tend to approach life as if we have all the time we want. This isn’t the case!

So, if we accept that time is limited, what do we do? Determining “what is worth my time” is a good place to start.

This is the hard part for me…there are so many great things that I want to do.

One of the problems with time is that we we’ve been given it. You’ve done nothing to earn the time you have. It isn’t like money. You can’t go earn more time. You can’t put time in the bank and save it for later. Time is being spent constantly and we take it for granted!

Once time is gone you can never get it back. Don’t waste what little you have!

Each of us spend time differently. The important thing is to determine where it is that you are going to spend yours.

Back to goal setting and how time relates.

As I have been listing out all the things I want to accomplish this year, I realized many of them were on the list last year and the year before that…and the year before that. I see a pattern here.

Maybe I’m trying to do too much?

The more I worked through the list the more lost in the fog I got. How can I figure out what is worth my time?

I decided that if I was going to do this, I needed to take the limited time thing seriously. To do this I determined that a good place to start would be to figure out how much time the things on the list would take and compare that to the amount of time available to spend.

Those of you that know me, know how I’m going to this…a spreadsheet, of course.

I’m now going to go get to work on my time budgeting spreadsheet. I’ll let you know how that goes in a future post.

How to Watch the Clock

Finding a Balance of Looking to the Future and Being in the Present

Time is the most valuable commodity we have at our discretion. You’ve heard the saying “time is money”. I would argue that time is MORE than money. Money is a form of exchange for a service or product. We have some control over how fast our money goes…not so with time.

There is no limit to money. I know this sounds a little over the top, but as long as money can be printed there’s no limit. Even if we ran out of the resources needed to make money, we could find something to trade or barter with.

There is a limited amount of time.

Time is continually moving. There is no stopping or slowing it to get more done. If we spend a dollar, we can go make two more. Once time is spent…there’s no getting any more.

I never wanted to be a clock watcher.

When I was younger and saw people looking at their watch, I felt they were being selfish. They appeared more concerned about their time than the person(s) they were engaging with. This bothered me.

I then took this perspective too far. I often ran behind because I didn’t want to cut off a person that I was visiting with. (It didn’t help that by nature I’m a talker.) I wanted my customers to feel that they were more than just time blocked out on the calendar or a dollar in the bank.

Watching the clock made me feel selfish.

It made me feel that my schedule was more important than finding out what the customer hoped to accomplish with their project. It put my needs above theirs.

High quality, attention to detail and not being satisfied with mediocrity all take time. By nature, these are a part of who I am. Watching the clock is counter to that. My best work is never accomplished when I cut corners.

The flip side of this is…when I’m late to my next appointment or don’t get that thing done that I promised it is no different. I’m saying to someone else, you’re not as important as what I was doing.

There is a balance to be achieved.

How do we accomplish the things we need/want to? Too often we let others make these decisions for us. It starts with a clear understanding of what our priorities are. What is our purpose? What has God put us here to accomplish? From this we can align our actions with these priorities.

Next comes figuring out how to get control of these actions. This is where action lists, scheduling and calendaring come in. It’s up to you to be intentional with how you spend that limited amount of time that you have. (For more information and tools for scheduling and planning see the list at the end of this post)

As this year comes to an end I’m beginning to think about planning for the new year. What should I do? Where should I spend my time?

It has been said, “You can do anything you want; you just can’t do everything you want.” This perspective is critical to our spending of time. What are we going to spend our time doing? Plan wisely and don’t be afraid to watch the clock.

Align your desires with God’s and be your most productive self.

How To Get Control Of Your Life

Budget Your Time…You Have a Limited Amount

For years I have heard people express frustration with organizing and managing their schedules and “to do” lists. For years I was one of those people. These issues are multiplied when running a business.

Not that I have it all figured out but, I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

The question of what the best tool to use to manage scheduling and “to do” lists, has come up a lot lately. Most people are looking for a simple app or tool that will magically do it all.

There is nothing that will miraculously do this for you.

I’ve been refining my scheduling system for decades. Trying different things, starting with paper calendars, notebooks and notes on scrap paper. Now it’s all on my computer. I like my system way better now than before (I still use some paper for quick notes). However, it doesn’t do the work without my involvement.

Here’s the thing, most of us have way more things on our lists than there is time to get them done. Or we forget to do something because it wasn’t written down. Or the paper it was written on got lost in a stack of papers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget or misplace reminders.

Keeping track of things is the most important part of being organized.

We naturally want order in our lives. We want to be in control. The problem is we live in a world of chaos. Organization is a weapon to fight against the chaos. The more organized we are the less chaos there is.

What does organization look like? According to Webster, organization is, “the act or process of organizing or being organized.” Organize is, “to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole, to arrange by systematic planning and united effort.” This sounds good to me.

Having OCD, Organizational Compulsive Disorder, I organize at a level more intense and detailed than most.

My system works for me. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s has to be at this level. Some people feel restricted by a schedule. Just like some people feel that a budget restricts them financially.

I find both to be freeing.

My detailed system allows me to know what to expect. Not to mention it keeps me motivated to get more done. I used to struggle to determine what thing should be done next.

It is a combination of lists and calendars. My “to do” lists are a place to write things down so that they aren’t forgotten. I then prioritize the things that need to be done to reach goals. Each task gets an amount of time and then put on the calendar. The calendar allows me to see the tasks as a block of time and not just an item on a list.

A calendar works like a “budget” for time.

It is easy to let things slide if you aren’t intentional about planning. The most important thing is to know yourself and figure out what works for you.

Next week I will open up my toolbox and show you the tools I use to keep control of my life and minimize the chaos.

Why Do We Put Things Off Until the Last Minute?

This Seems to Be Especially Prevalent in The Construction Industry

I was visiting with some people recently about the disappointing number of companies signing up for the upcoming Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal workshop. I’ve seen the results of poor communication between contractor and customer. This workshop would help with this problem.

Every one of the people I was talking with said the same thing. “They’re contractors, they’re not going to sign up until the last minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just show up.”

Later I visited with a few different construction company owners and asked if they were coming to the workshop. Their answers were eerily similar…I’m not sure if I have time. I’ve got a lot of work scheduled. I’m not sure that I can afford to take a day off work. I’ll have to wait and see how things are going.”

Why would this be a problem in construction more than other industries?

I don’t know if it is more of an issue in construction than anywhere else or if it just seems that way because that’s where my focus is. There are a few things that I think contribute to this situation, construction or not.

Why are there so many that aren’t signing up for the workshop?

We’re too busy – We’ve said yes to too many things. We feel pulled in so many different directions. It’s common to hear people say, “I don’t have enough time.” Most of us overbook and then spend most of our time fighting the hottest fire. My argument is –

God has given us enough time…it’s up to us to invest it wisely.

We struggle with prioritizing – I’ve got this important project that I’m working on. It’s more important than learning something new. Every day we are learning in a variety of ways. The question is, which is the better investment, learning from “on the job mistakes” or from someone else’s. On the job mistakes can be very costly.

Learning from what someone else has learned is a good investment.

Not sure if that training is for me – How will you ever know if you don’t check it out? Most of the time our uncertainty is fear. We’re afraid to learn new things. “I’ve managed to get along just fine so far”. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a predesigned system that would improve your communication and increase your accuracy? The question is…

How long can “getting along just fine” be sustained?

I can’t afford it – Things are tight right now. Profits are down. Maybe I can do it next time. What if your out of business before the next time. There is a cost to any kind of schooling formal or otherwise. How long can you afford to not invest in yourself?

Investing in this workshop now, improves your odds for a brighter future.

I don’t know if the construction industry procrastinates more than any other. What I do know is, if you’re in the construction industry, time is running out to invest in yourself and your business. Don’t put it off any longer. Stop procrastinating and get signed up for the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal workshop.

If you or someone you know would benefit from learning how to do better proposals, sign up here.