We are all given 24 hours in a day. No one gets any more or any less. But the way each of us spends time makes all the difference.
Did you hear that? I used the word, “spend.” We often use that word when talking about our time. This is because time is a valuable resource that we use like money. And even though we each have different amounts of money, we all have the same amount of time to spend each day. Time levels the playing field. If you can spend your time wisely, you’ll make a better investment of that resource than the person who spends his or her time foolishly.
Unfortunately, we don’t view time as a valuable resource because we think we have so much of it. We don’t think about how we spend it – until it’s too late. The downside of time is that we never get it back. I can lose or spend $20. At that point it’s gone. But I can turn around and find a way to get another $20 – by working for it or borrowing it from someone else. Not so with time. Once it’s gone – it’s gone.
When we truly grasp this concept, it raises our appraisal of time – from valuable resource to precious commodity. When you lead yourself well, you make the most of your time.
The best tool I’ve found to manage my time is the calendar. One calendar.
Everything I do is organized around appointments.
I create appointments to meet with people.
I create appointments to work on projects.
I create appointments to implement my growth plan.
I create appointments to exercise.
I create appointments to do my writing and my reading.
I create appointments to give myself free time.
I don’t put to-do items on my calendar. That’s a different system for me. I organize my day to know how I’m basically going to use my time. I typically work hour to hour or in blocks of time. Structuring my calendar down to the minute seems a bit too tedious for me. In this way, my calendar serves as an accurate compass rather than a detailed map of my day.
Some people have multiple calendars they refer to. They have a calendar on their wall, a calendar at their office, a calendar on their phone, a calendar on their computer, and so on. They’re surrounded by all kinds of calendars. I look at that and I think to myself: bad idea.
Like the ring that hangs around Frodo’s neck in The Lord of the Rings, I want one calendar to bind them, one calendar to rule them all.
For me personally, I use Google Calendar. You may have another calendar or calendar system you use. That’s great. Let me explain why I’ve chosen Google Calendar.
I like the way I can create different calendars to organize the various roles and responsibilities in my life. I currently have the following calendars all in one place on Google Calendar:
• Four calendars for each of my kids’ events and activities
• Three calendars for work-related events and activities
• One calendar for personal events
• One calendar for birthdays (which I pull from my Facebook account)
• One calendar for special activities
• One calendar for sports team schedules (I’m a big San Francisco Giants & 49ers fan)
All of these different calendars are incorporated into ONE calendar. They’re all color-coded. They’re easy to look at all together or one at a time.
What I like about Google Calendar is that it integrates well with my phone, with whatever computer I’m working on, and I can even print it out (though I rarely do). The goal here is accessibility wherever I’m at. Accessibility is important because you need to use and manage your calendar on a daily basis. Create a system where you immediately put any new event or activity into your calendar. Include all of the important information and attach special notes or instructions (you can do that in Google Calendar) for you to refer back to.
I manage my calendar based on three primary views:
Daily: Establish a habit where you look at your calendar each morning and each night. Plan your day and work your plan. Incorporate blocks of time to get the projects and work done. Block out times for you to rest and nurture your soul. Time is a limited resource, but your energy is renewable. Think through your most energetic and least energetic parts of your day and plan your time accordingly. Take time to exercise. Do the things that
make each day successful.
Weekly: This allows you to step back and see the rhythm of the next seven days. You can plan ahead to structure your time around the bigger events and appointments that will occur. Know what’s coming. Reflect back on the previous week and see where you might need to follow up or finish up a project. Get an overall sense of your week.
Quarterly: I look at this view once or twice each month. One of the things I hate is when I’m not prepared for an upcoming event or appointment. If you are working with timelines and deadlines, you will need to keep a bigger picture view, especially if you’re in a leadership role. A quarterly view helps you to see where you’re going. It provides a better context and sense of purpose to what you’re doing on a daily and weekly basis. It’s easy to begin living from event to event, from one deadline to the next. The quarterly view gives you a perspective beyond the daily grind.
When it comes to time, someone or something is going to spend your time if you don’t take control of it. You take responsibility for your time when you take charge of your calendar.