The one truly finite resource we have in our lives, yet we all give it up so freely. We allow people to steal our time out of nicety, social norms, “prior commitments”, or simply because we don’t realize they are stealing something from us.
The stoic philosopher Seneca, says it best:
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy” (Seneca. On the Shortness of Life).
If you saw someone burn money you would think they are crazy, but we ourselves burn time every day.
Once you realize the value of your time and the importance of not wasting it, three important questions surface:
- How do you make the most of your time?
- How do you control your time over it being controlled by others?
- How do you create a space where you can focus on the most important work, without thousands of distractions coming in?
There are three fundamental tools I use to attack these issues.
These tools allow me to focus on the most important items (business and personal) first, protect my time from unwanted outside influence, and live a less busy life while actually accomplishing more.
The three Time Management Tools:
1. Use an hour by hour, scheduling your most important items first
a. I use Google Calendar to run my life
Example: This is an actual week in my Google Calendar
b. I plan out my most important items first, like date nights, workout sessions, morning routines, family time, and non-negotiable meetings.
c. I schedule out and automate routines, like my month end journaling process (which you can read more about here), and even when I get a haircut.
d. Then I add in Bunker time (which I will explain in more detail in point #2).
e. From there I fill in the cracks with my to-do list items for that day and week. So, essentially, I use Google Calendar as my to-do list.
f. I also color code everything. For me, calls are yellow and baby blue (depending on if they are a client or not), orange is for out of the house meetings or appointments, lavender is for tasks, and purple is for personal items.
The point of the hour by hour is not to be rigid and stressed about your schedule; it is about being intentional with your time. Once you are aware of what you are spending time on, you will make better decisions about where to use your time.
If I don’t get to something in a time block, I simply click and drag it to another open spot. If I do this enough times with a task, I reflect to see if this task is actually important. If it is, why do I keep moving it? If it isn’t, I delete it. Once again, the point is not to be rigid, it is to be intentional.
Once I implemented this scheduling tool into my life, I felt calm about my days. I no longer had to think about what to do next. It was right there. I could flow from block to block without losing flow. Google Calendar and the hour by hour style of scheduling has radically improved my efficiency, organization, and most importantly gave me clarity around my days and intentions.
Even if you use an hour by hour, it can be easy to focus on meaningless tasks that make you feel productive but don’t actually move your life and business forward. That is where tool #2 comes in.
2. Use time blocking to ensure you get your most important work.
When we are pressing forward in this busy life, it is easy to go days and even weeks without getting any real, deep work in (Learn more about Deep Work here). I use a concept called bunker time to guarantee I get deep work in and make progress on my most important projects. Every week I have set times where I “go in the bunker.” This is distraction-free time, with no phone, no email, nothing. This allows me to focus on the most important tasks, usually my OKRs for the quarter, or other major initiatives. I am in bunker time right now as I write this post.
My clients and their teams implement bunker time in their office to ensure everyone gets work done. For example, John will let everyone know during the daily huddle that he will be in bunker time from 10am-11: 30 am to work on his OKRs. During this time, he is not checking his phone or emails, and the rest of the team is not allowed to interrupt him, not even the CEO.
As you can see in the picture above, I have 4 time slots for deep work in my week. This is my bunker time where I don’t check email or phones, and I let my team know that I am going to be in the bunker. For me, this is time to write, create content, and complete other work that is in the “important/not urgent” quadrant.
The below image comes from the bestseller, 7 Habit of Highly Effective People.
It is important to set these bunker time slots in advance and schedule everything else around these. You do not, under any circumstances, negotiate on these times. You protect these times and block them out in your schedule.
What is the easiest way to protect your time, especially bunker time, from people? That’s where tool number 3 comes into play.
3. Using meeting links to protect your time from people (without letting them down)
People want your time. And if you don’t say no or set boundaries, you will soon find yourself completely engulfed with meetings, calls, and lunches, and unable to get any work done. This is a real problem in our society today as phones and Skype have allowed us to connect with virtually anyone, anywhere.
It’s also hard to say no to people. We are wired to appease people, so we say yes when we want to say no and wind up wasting valuable hours. As Seneca says, we squander our time.
I faced this challenge in both of my businesses, and could not find a solid solution until I found meeting links.
I use multiple meeting links, each with their own unique availabilities and boundaries, to protect my time and still get meetings on the books with people I care about.
For example, my phone call link allows people to book a time with me (based on my Google Calendar availability) between 2-5pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. My in-person meeting link allows people to book with me between 3-5pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They are also not allowed to book calls with me on the same day they are booking the call. This prevents my current day from getting jumbled by last minute calls and meeting schedulings.
I have these specific availabilities set up because I do my best work in the mornings, so they are dedicated mostly to deep work, team communication, marketing, and other projects. The afternoons are for outreach and people.
You can adapt your meeting links to fit your needs and your schedules.
Whenever someone asks to meet up, I simply send them my links, based on the type of meeting they want and go on my merry way.
This is also beneficial for the person asking to meet or talk because we can skip the back and forth of scheduling. They can literally book a time that works for them immediately, which then gets added to both of our calendars.
Meeting links have allowed me to connect with even more people, in a more organized way, and still protect my time and my days.
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
― Charles Darwin,
If you don’t respect your time, no one else will. It is up to you to take control back of your days and use the little time you have on this planet in the best way possible.
These tools can help you do that. They will help you live your best life. But only if you use them and protect them when the whirlwind of your life tries to break them down.
You can always make more money, but you can’t get back your time.
Take control of your most valuable asset today, and you will take control of your life.
Ready to start taking back your time?
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