”I don’t have time”. How often don’t we hear people say this? How often don’t we say it ourselves? And how many times have we not heard or read someone say that ”time is the only thing we all have equal amounts of”, and that we should spend it carefully.
And yet, most of us still sometimes experience that time is short and that we did not have enough of it to do what we needed to get done this week either. Sure, claiming that ”we don’t have time” could be an easy way to decline when someone asks us to do something, but I think it more probable that we say this only when sincerely feeling overwhelmed and believing that there is no possibility to engage in any further commitments — regardless if we would like to say yes or not.
The piles are mounting higher
So why do we run out of time? Because in a way, we do. We cannot do an infinite amount of things in the time we have at our disposal. Things take time, and if we have many things to do, we will have little time to spare.
Some of us are inclined to always say ”yes” to every question or request, while others are quite capable to fill their to-do-list to the bursting point with ”things one could, or should, be doing” all by themselves.
No stress, and no mishaps
It would be easy for me to simply proclaim ”say yes to fewer requests” or ”learn to say no”, but I believe the problem at hand is more complex than it might appear, otherwise there would not be so many who feel such a deficiency of time. We want to enable ourselves to accurately determine what we should or should not do, since we do not want to feel stressed and we want to get tasks which are important done in spite of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks requiring our attention.
This is why we should make it easier for ourselves to say yes and no to the right things when we need to make a quick decision, and hence give ourselves time for what we truly find important.
Three time-related things
As I see it, there are three things we need to consider when determining if we should do something or not — regardless if it concerns something we are asked to do by others, if we are offered to attend something, or if it is something we think of to do ourselves:
- Is the activity/task important?
- How much time do we have at our disposal?
- How long would it take to complete?
If you want to aid yourself in deciding if you have the time or not, then ask yourself:
- What determines if something is important to you? Most people have goals that they are responsible for attaining in their work. The tasks that contribute to reaching these goals can therefore be considered important. Perhaps you do not currently have goals or find your objectives too abstract? Then ask yourself which tasks that represent the core in what you do in your work. Those tasks will most likely be important and hence the ones you should focus upon. However, life is never black or white. You are of course allowed to do things that are not important in relation to the goals, but when I am short of time, I prefer doing the tasks that most contribute to what I strive to accomplish (meaning, those that contribute to attaining my goals).
- How do you obtain a clear picture of how much time you actually have at your disposal? Looking in your calendar to get an overview of how much time you have is one way. But there you will only find meetings or time reserved for doing specific tasks, so what about the rest of your time? While we wait expectantly for the development of a to-do-list tool that displays how much time the tasks will require every day (I still have not found one, have you?), we will have to use a template. Personally I have through tests and trials concluded that I need at least 10 hours every week during which I have not scheduled anything. When the time scheduled in the calendar reaches 30 hours, I therefor consider it full. When this limit is reached, I block the remaining hours that week. Another option is that you block these 10 (?) hours of alone-time on beforehand as recurring posts in your calendar (and perhaps play sliding-tile puzzle with your time, as I have written about in a previous newsletter), and then allow the calendar to fill up after having done so.
- How do you know how long the task will take to complete? If you are asked to help someone with something, ask them how much time they believe the task will take. Or, if you need to estimate the time required and consider yourself a time-optimist — double your initial guess of how long it should take.
- Were any of these questions difficult to answer? If so, define a to-do-task that describes how you will take the first step towards finding an even better answer than you could provide yourself with right now. It might be something as simple as going through your to-do-list and estimating the time every task will take (and make note of your estimation next to each respective task). My own next step is to modify a script I have found that allows me to export all the to-do-tasks from the to-do-list-tool I am currently using to be continued and processed in another format.
Facts will set you straight
If you now have concrete answers to the questions I asked above, you will find it easier to give a more truthful and accurate response to a request for doing something. You will know if you have time or not. There is less chance that you agree to do more than you should or postpone working on tasks which you otherwise would have had time for and which are important for accomplishing your goals. Trusting your gut is definitely appropriate and preferable in many instances, but when it comes to planning my time, I would much rather rely on facts.
Is there another way?
Have you found a quick and easy way to accurately predict if you have time for something or not? Write a comment to share your thoughts.