In fact, that’s the title of a great book new book by journalist Laura Vanderkam — “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” (168 = the number of hours in a week.)
According to Vanderkam, the issue isn’t too few hours in the day; it’s how we choose to use those hours. In fact, her #1 time management tip is this: minutes and hours are choices. If we don’t like how we’re spending our time, we need to change our choices and priorities. Granted, choices bring consequences. But it all starts with recognizing that time does not dictate our daily agendas. We choose how we spend our time.
Vanderkam believes that trying to find more time in the day represents an exercise in futility. Suppose you could magically make each day 15 minutes longer. At the end of the week you would have gained a grand total of 1.75 hours.
Instead of trying to “find” time by rearranging busy work or trying to multitask, Vanderkam suggests a different approach. Start by filling your weekly allotment of 168 hours with the things you care most about in life. Instead of squeezing the activities that nurture your family, health, and career in between all the “busy stuff,” put them first!
This may require some difficult choices. It may also require saying “no” to some people and activities that are hard to turn down. But as Vanderkam points out, our options are to continue complaining about our busyness or get busy building the lives we want in the time we’ve got.
Which brings us to one of my favorite business leadership topics – staying focused on the destination.
Today’s work world moves so fast that I sometimes think the new business attire should consist of running shorts and track shoes. With so much on our plates, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the “to doing” each day: the meetings, the voice mails, the emails, the twitters, the juggling of multiple tasks and activities, the Internet, and all the information that comes our way. It’s no wonder that we tend to lose focus on where we’re going and what winning looks like.
It’s also easy to get caught up in the fantasy of “if only I had more time!” instead of taking responsibility for how we spend our time. So we run as fast as we can from one task to another, and we constantly yearn for more hours in the day when none are forthcoming.
The solution? Slow down to go fast.
What if you started each day by pausing to review your destination, which includes your definition of what winning looks like for your organization? And what if you then organized your day around the tasks and activities that truly help you reach that destination rather than whatever happens to jump out and land on your plate? Think that might produce a dramatic change in the choices you make about how to use your time?
I’m not talking about a lengthy process. Just five or 10 minutes each morning to review the most important things you can (and should) be doing and making sure they’re first on your to-do list. (Hint: it helps to have visual reminders of your destination and definition of winning all over your place of business.)
When you slow down to go fast, good things happen.
You develop criteria for making better decisions about where to spend your time. It becomes much easier to prioritize, based on what gets you closer to your destination versus what does not. And you progress much more quickly towards where you want to go.
When you focus on the activities that move you closer to your destination, you also spend less time trying to solve other people’s problems, which benefits you and the organization as a whole. When you do for others what they should be doing for themselves, it inhibits their professional development while distracting you from essential activities.
“Slow down to go fast” doesn’t seem to make sense. But neither does wearing track shoes to work. Stop trying to “find” more time and start making better choices about where you spend your time. You’ll be amazed at how much faster it gets you to your destination!