On January 1st, I outlined my goals for 2009 in a blog post titled, “Make concrete goals, not sweeping resolutions.” Inspired by a few articles I came across during the latter half of 2008, I created 7 tasks to complete throughout the year. It’s almost the end of March, and while my goals are progressing – I will write a post about that in a few weeks – I sometimes find it difficult to make time for these 7 projects.
That’s always been an issue with me – time. In high school, procrastination and I, we were close friends. During my second semester of college, I spread myself so thin that one night, I had a panic attack (luckily my first and only). I realized at that point that I needed to cut back on a few activities and reevaluate how I manage time. Since then, I have always been fascinated with how people choose to fill/use their days.
Some people are virtuosos at juggling many different projects simultaneously. Entire books, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explore the getting-things-done philosophy, and blogs-upon-blogs offer various tips and tricks on productivity, optimization, efficiency and the like. Tim Ferriss, Leo Babauta, and Jay White are some great places to get started.
So recently I started thinking about where I could improve my time management. Because I am out of the country about 5 months in a given year, I am most interested in optimizing my stateside time. If you find yourself looking for extra time to get something done, then try out this simple, two-step exercise.
1. Start by breaking down your 24-hour day
I used the following 5 categories, as I like to keep my metrics simple. Too many numbers and I begin to lose focus. Feel free to use your own categories.
- Bathroom Time
2. Allocate your 24 hours, look at the remaining time
Obviously these categories will not take the same amount of time every day – after all, we aren’t drones – but I tried to allocate my hours as accurately as possible for an average day.
- Sleep – 8 hours
- Work – 9 hours (everything that takes place in the office, including 1 hour of commuting)
- Bathroom Time – 30 minutes (at home)
- Exercise – 1.5 hours
- Food – 1 hour
Total allocated hours = 20 hours
Total unallocated hours = 4 hours
Well, there you have it. I just discovered that given my current lifestyle, I have 4 hours of getting-things-done time every day. That’s a lot! Granted, these numbers are not exact, and neither are my categories, but hopefully, by deconstructing your 24-hour day through this exercise, you will discover how precious those unallocated hours are. Remove your daily obligations, and you are presented with personal time – just like that. In my life right now, I find myself using these hours to chip away at my 7 resolutions and to have fun and relax with friends. How do you use yours?
Is this exercise helpful? How would you have done it differently?