Guest Post by Elizabeth Grace Saunders
I’m thrilled to introduce Elizabeth Grace Saunders to the Soulful Coaching community! Her wise words remind me that time is so very precious, and of the importance of truly making the most of it. She is the founder and CEO of Real Life E®, a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who are overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She developed the awesome Schedule Makeover™ process that empowers individuals like you to move forward on their goals and companies to maximize the effectiveness of their knowledge workers, sales staff, remote employees and managers. Contact Elizabeth at esaunders@RealLifeE.com. or visit her at www.ReadLifeE.com.
Time Investment Is the New Time Management
I must start by saying: "It’s not your fault."
It’s not your fault that you can’t always keep up on everything at work. It’s not your fault that your house seems less than immaculate. It’s not your fault that you can’t make everyone happy in your life at every moment of every day.
You see, the lie that many people–especially women–live under is that if they can’t keep up on everything all the time that they have a huge problem with time management–and worse, that something is terribly flawed with themselves. This sense of inadequacy then leads to a gnawing feeling of shame that typically manifests itself in two ways: On the one hand, it can lead to frenzied activity in a frantic attempt to keep up. On the other, it can cause you to shut down and not do anything but what you need to get done.
Neither response allows the best in you to show up on a daily basis in your personal life and professional work.
As a time coach and trainer, I’ve seen this pattern over and over again, which has led me to offer an alternative to the traditional view of time management. When we think of the old view of time management, the focus is efficiency and the questions sound like this:
- How much did I get done today?
- How fast did I get things done?
- Did I waste any time?
Whereas when you start to follow a time investment philosophy, the questions become:
- Did I invest in what was most meaningful to me?
- Was I peaceful?
- Did I minimize or eliminate time spent on unimportant activities?
The truth is no one can make everyone happy all the time. No one can do everything they could possibly think of to do at any time. But what you can do is to learn how to identify your top action-based priorities, set realistic expectations, and to strengthen simple routines so that you can reach your personal definition of success.
McGraw Hill just released my first book on the subject, The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, which includes a comprehensive system for achieving more success with less stress. But to give you an initial sneak preview, here is an explanation of my INO Technique that can help you start shifting from time management to time investment.
The INO Technique
The point behind my INO Technique is to help you get clear on what time investment has the most value and to allocate your 24 hours in a day accordingly. Here are the three categories that you can use to group your daily activities:
- Investment activities: These activities can produce a higher rate of return when you invest more time in them. When it comes to your most important personal priorities, such as spending time with the people who matter most to you, and professional priorities, such as business-development strategies, maximize the amount of time that you invest in these items.
- Neutral activities: These to-do items produce a return in direct correlation with the amount of time that you put into them. An example on the personal side could be exercising or on the work side could be basic project management or hourly contract work. You don’t need to minimize the time you spend in these areas, but you also don’t need to maximize it. Look to contain your time investment in these items so that you can move on to investment activities as soon as possible.
- Optimize activities: These tasks produce no greater value when you invest more time in them, so the faster they get done, the better. On the home front, this could mean maintenance work around your house, and on the work front, it could mean answering e-mails. If you can have other people do these activities for you, delegate them. If you need to do them yourself, challenge yourself to complete them in the shortest possible amount of time.
To help you understand the concept, here’s a personal example of how I used these categories this past holiday season:
Because my first book was coming out on January 11, I had less time over the holidays than usual. In order to stay peaceful and make the most of the personal time I did have, I made these choices:
- Investment activities: I decided that where I wanted to spend the most time was in being present to my friends and family. That meant attending events and meeting with friends was where I would invest the majority of my "disposable time."
- Neutral activities: I enjoy sending Christmas cards to friends and clients, but I know that most of the value is in the thought that goes into mailing them a card. Because my time was limited, I decided to sign and send out the cards instead of taking time to write a paragraph on each one.
- Optimize activities: Presents are definitely an important part of the season, but I knew most of the value was in someone receiving a gift they wanted, not in how long I spent shopping for it. With that in mind, I decided to order most of my gifts online instead of spending hours shopping at the mall.
Did you see how that worked? Effective time investment didn’t mean I ran around trying to do everything perfectly. Instead it looked like focusing on the value from the activity and then choosing my time investment accordingly.
I hope that this small example frees you to let go of time management in 2013 and focus on time investment!