Struggle With Time Management? Try This.
Several months ago, I asked three clients to assist me in a small research project on time management.
I was curious to learn how much time they were each spending actually working while they were at work.
The task was simple. They were to write down everything they did during the hours they considered themselves to be at work, as well as record how much time they were spending on each activity.
They were to do this each day for an entire calendar month.
I realize the behaviours of three independent people do not constitute research by any stretch of the imagination, but I viewed this as a starting point in my quest to learn more about why some folks succeed at extraordinarily high levels and others barely hold their own.
I asked only two things of them:
• Do this religiously for a month.
• Be brutally honest.
Once the month had passed, I began the laborious process of reviewing the notes, tabulating the responses and assessing the results of their time management data.
We divided their activities into three categories:
• Not Working.
• Directional activities.
• Important activities.
Not Working reflected the time spent on any activities that were neither directly nor indirectly part of their reason for being at work.
Directional Activities measured the time spent specifically doing an activity or activities that directly moved them closer to a desired end result.
Important Activities indicated time spent on activities that were necessary for the ongoing operation of their job or business yet played no role in directly contributing to their success or growth.
What we learned was both alarming and surprising.
On average, they spent 41 hours at work each week.
Of those 41 hours, 58% of the time (23.78 hours) were spent engaged in doing either directional or important activities and the remaining 42% (17.22 hours) were spent not working – doing activities that were not directly related to the job or business.
Only 7% of their working time was spent on Directional Activities.
So how is it possible that we spend almost half of our time not working while we convince ourselves we are at work?
What we learned is the extent to which habits we have ingrained in ourselves serve to take over and drive our activities, and consequently, our results.
These results show clear patterns, or rituals, that seemed to kick in the moment each of these three folks arrived at their workplace.
These habituated practices included:
• Getting ready to begin. This was the first quarter-hour each morning was spent chatting with coworkers.
• Various pauses throughout each day to check and respond to social media. This averaged almost ¾ of one hour daily.
• Additional office socializing used up fifteen minutes.
• Time spent on personal matters such as making online purchases, paying bills, sending and responding to texts and emails and calling friends and family to chat. Surprisingly, this ate up an additional 30 minutes.
• Surfing the net occupied 30 minutes.
• Meal and coffee breaks consumed 1½ hours.
Each of the three was surprised to discover how little time they were actually working, and each had also acknowledged that they were not pleased with the results they were producing in their working and business lives.
How Reviewing Our Habits Can Improve Time Management
This is an important and helpful insight into the value we can all gain by adopting The Habit of Reviewing Our Habits.
The habit nudges us to carefully examine the daily rituals we have developed that rob us of valuable time, while helping to delude us into thinking that time spent at work is time spent working.
I know of no one who has achieved extraordinary success without putting in extraordinary effort. The old saying about working smarter not harder does not apply to these folks as they have learned that doing both increases results exponentially.
All three of these folks have committed to The Habit of Reviewing Our Habits, because they have learned first-hand how easily habits formed unintentionally can so easily form the barrier that stands between where we are and where we want to be.
Have you reviewed your habits lately?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.