Most of us complain that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need and want to do. Yet, often we spend hours on activities and conversations that don’t come close to being top priority. One simple way to identify time wasters and focus on balance is to take an inventory of how you spend your time.
A time inventory is a tool to help you see how well what you do every day matches up with your big-picture goals and values. How you take your inventory is up to you (iPad, tablet, computer, journal) but “the key is to be honest and consistent,” says Joan Gurvis of the Center for Creative Leadership. It’s like writing down everything you eat before starting a diet so you have a clear picture of your eating habits.”
Here’s a four-step process to evaluate where the hours go and use that information to gain greater balance:
Track. Keep a log a week or two and jot down what you do for any period of an hour or more. Some themes or categories will emerge: career, family, community, health, self, spiritual pursuits and so on.
Understand. Write down why you did what you did. Do your actions reflect or contradict your values and goals?
Review. At the end of your time tracking, look at your notes and consider how you feel? Do you feel “in balance”? What does your assessment tell you?
Consider the following questions:
• Are the activities in your log necessary for daily living, for your career, for your family, for your health or for your pleasure?
• What percentage of time did you spend in work-related activities versus family activities?
• How much time did you take for yourself?
• What inspires and rejuvenates you? Did you spend enough time on those activities?
• How much control or choice do you have about how you spend your time?
• What is beyond your control? Have those obligations, such as childcare and elder care, changed over time?
• List the activities that you believe you “ought” to be doing. Think about how they became “oughts.” How much of the time you devote to your “oughts” is fulfilling for you? How much of that time is fulfilling for others who are important to you?
Decide. Put a check mark next to the activities that are truly not negotiable. Consider the rest. What do your activities say about you? Do you try to please others to the exclusion of pleasing yourself? What could you change? What steps can you take now and over time to put more balance into your life?
The choices you make about how you spend your time may well turn out to be consistent with what you value. On the other hand, the values you declare or profess may not be the ones you actually live. Your time inventory can help you see yourself more clearly and begin making positive changes.
Joan Gurvis, Manager of Open Enrollment at the Center, oversees The Looking Glass Experience and Building Resilience: Leading in the Face of Change. She also trains the Center’s flagship public offering, the Leadership Development Program (LDP)®, as well as Foundations of Leadership and Coaching for Development. She is a certified feedback specialist. Reprinted with permission from the Center for Creative Leadership.
FEATURED SOLUTION: Priorities for Life: Priorities
This motivating meeting opener encourages viewers to focus their energy and attention on what really matters in leadership and in life.