Not Enough Hours in a Day
If you’re anything like me, you probably quite often find yourself wishing that there were more hours in a day. The beginning of a new year can especially feel tight on time. Maybe you’re busy working on a New Year’s resolution, focusing on a new intention, or reflecting on the past year. Maybe you’re trying to catch up on work after taking time off for the holidays or getting into the groove of a new semester at school. Whatever it is that you’re doing, it can be easy to feel like you’re running out of time. Luckily, there’s an easier way to solve this time management dilemma than wishing for more time.
A mentor of mine once told me, “there are only 24 hours in a day, but if you spend them wisely, that’s enough”. The key is carefully choosing how to spend each hour. In a great Ted Talk on time management, Laura Vanderkam talks about how it is less about creating or finding more free time and more about setting priorities. If you start by scheduling out your top priorities and then fit everything else around them, you’ll be sure to have enough time for the things that really matter.
I was able to put this theory to use recently at work. I was feeling like there was too much on my plate, so my boss told me to keep track of everything I did at work for a full week. At the end of the week, we looked at my hour-by-hour breakdown and picked out what were the top priorities that needed to stay, what could be delegated to someone else or skipped, and what could be done more efficiently. The next week I planned out my schedule according to those priorities, and I felt much less stressed knowing that what really needed to get done could actually fit into my schedule.
I realized that this same process could be applied to my personal life as well. By inventorying my time hour-by-hour, I could see exactly how I was spending my time, identify my priorities, and plan my schedule around those priorities. To help me categorize my priorities, I used a tactic that I learned back in elementary school: “must, may, should.” Certain things that must be done, certain things that may be done, and certain things that should be done. Back then, this would apply to things like “you must do your math worksheet, then you may play on the computer, but first, you should read a chapter of your book.” Now, it looks more like “I must make dinner, then I may watch TV, but first, I should do a load of laundry.” When I plan my day, I start by identifying my musts and making sure that I schedule those first. Then I look at my shoulds and try to fit in as many as I can. Finally, I fill any remaining time with my mays.
It is easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time on the shoulds or prioritizing them over the musts. That leads to “productive procrastination,” which can give off the false feeling of accomplishment. When I have a paper due, but I put off writing it by cleaning my apartment, I feel accomplished because I did so much from my should list, but I neglected the more important things on my must list. By prioritizing my time in terms of must, may, and should, I can finally feel like there are enough hours in a day.
If you feel like you need some structured time management assistance with work, school, or your personal life, try taking an inventory of your time.
- Write down everything you do for a full week and take note of how long you spend on each task
- At the end of the week, take a look at your time inventory
- Pick out all the things that are musts and highlight them in pink
- Pick out all the things that are mays and highlight them in yellow
- Pick out all the things that are shoulds and highlight them in orange
- Think about other things you would have liked to fit into your week and determine if they are musts, mays, or shoulds
- Create a schedule for the next week starting with your musts, fitting your shoulds around those, and then filling in extra time with some mays
- Try out your new schedule and see if it makes you feel more in control of your time
*Meet the Author*
Morgan has been with Leadership Inspirations for three years. He has a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Leadership Development while working in Higher Education Student Affairs.
Favorite quote: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” – John Lennon
Fun facts: 1) I once trained my pet goldfish to play basketball 2) When I was little I wanted to be a Disneyland parking attendant 3) I’m a big Justin Timberlake fan