Wednesday, November 12, 2014

6 Principles for Wise Time Use

Steven Covey's Time Quadrant
Quality time is my love language. People spending time with me really makes me feel loved. Which is why drinking coffee and talking with Mr. Hippie are my all time favorite activities.

In my book, time is valuable. Unlike the well-known saying-time is not money. Time is worth much more than money. Money can be spent and earned. Time, once spent, is gone forever.

I think a lot about efficiency. And how to best use my time. And how to fill my time. Being on time. Managing time.

But, I find that this whole time management discussion is a continual learning curve. Even for me. Maybe even, especially for me. Since I rather fixate on time.

Right now I am evaluating my time and time use. Not for how I can find fringe hours to fit more in, but in order to find fringe hours for rest, writing, and reading.

Here are 6 Principles of Wise Time Use that are my guide as I look at my time schedule.

1. Steven Covey's Time Quadrant (shown above). I love this visual. Everything we do fits into this quadrant. Everything, somewhere.

Urgent-Important things are the important things that must happen right now. They include filling the empty gas tank in the car because the light indicates it is empty.

Important-Not Urgent things are the important things that don't have to happen right.this.minute. They include exercise, writing, education, reading, making dinner. If neglected or put off, these things will often become Urgent-Important, ramping up stress levels by many degrees.

Not Important-Urgent things are the unimportant things that seem like they have to happen right now. Answering the ringing phone, or checking that numbered notification on the email inbox. This category often also includes things others think should be a priority for you, but that you don't think necessarily should.

Not Important-Not Urgent things are the things that are neither important or urgent. Go figure. This would include computer games, or surfing the web.

The key to the wisest use of your time is to be doing the Important-Not Urgent things as much as possible. Do the important things before they become urgent. The other key to wise time management is to do the not-important, not urgent stuff as little as possible.

Evaluate...what quadrant is getting the majority of my time and attention?

2. Focus on the things that will only survive with attention. This principle allows for drastic pruning when needed. Relationships, basic needs like eating and sleeping. These things will only survive if you give them attention.

This blog will only survive if I give it attention. It is not a group effort. I must write (at least intermittently), or it peters out.

She Plans Dinner will only survive if I give it attention. Not delivering menus, recipes and grocery lists would lead to unhappy customers, who would then unsubscribe. The business is not financially solvent enough yet to farm out it's tasks.

My kids' education will only survive with my attention. Because, for ill or nil, I am home-schooling again this year. Which means I am the primary source of education at this time.

Bible studies, potlucks, parties-these all will survive without my attention. It is the truth of life seasons.

3. The myth of busyness. We all have our time filled. We all choose how we fill it. We all choose how we prioritize our time. Most of us can and will make time for what is most important to us. I make time for triathlon training. I do not make time for ironman training. I probably could, but parenting, schooling, my marriage and my business would all take a direct hit. And it's not a hit that I am willing for them to take right now.

I am choosing not to make _____ a priority right now. I am choosing to make ______ a priority right now.

This is our personal choice. Yes, kids', boss's and spouse's needs come into play. But, it also boils down to firm and gracious "no's." "I am choosing to prioritize my time differently right now."

4. Preschedule 80% of your time and leave 20% free. This is a new concept for me, but I guess it is rather popular. And I understand why.

How would one go about scheduling only 80% of their time?

I live by the weekly rhythm idea. There are 168 hours in a week, and often your weeks' schedules follow a similar pattern. Always attend church Sunday morning, work on Thursday, etc, etc.

I am working on filling out a weekly calendar to get a good idea of where I am spending my time, and where I have free time. I will first fill in the non-negotiable stuff, and then the important stuff, and then the fringe stuff.

Important for me includes writing, reading, exercising and cooking.

I am looking to fill in all these things, plus, eating and sleeping, and regular activities, and then evaluate what is left. And, if need be, cut out some stuff to have only my 80% filled.

5. Efficiency does not always equal wise use of time. Relationships and hospitality and other things can't always be made efficient. But, that does not mean that they should not happen.

This is another one of those paradigm shifts I've been pondering lately. Efficient and wise are not always the same thing.

A good question to ask is, "God, how do you want me to use my time this day/week?" And then ask God to help you accomplish what He wants you to accomplish on a given day.

6. Just do it. Sometimes the wisest use of time is to simply do the thing that needs doing. That looming, dreaded task. Just do it. We often over-estimate the time an unpleasant task will take. The key is to be realistic. Some things always take longer than planned (a trip to the grocery store). Some things don't take as long as you imagine they would (cooking a delicious dinner from scratch).

How often do you evaluate your time usage? What word would you use to describe your time usage?