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Are You a Time-Owner Or a Time-Victim?

Monday, Oct. 31st 2016

We all struggle with feeling like we don’t have enough time. That it is taken up, used, and gone before we know what has happened. Most us have a sense of blurry-eyed desperation when we talk about time, schedules, and meetings.

In many cases, the root of the problem stems from how we think about time.

Many people see themselves as time-victims. They often feel that they are subject to what other people do to them. They feel like their schedule, and the activities of their day, are out of their control. They believe that they have very little choice about how their day unfolds.

Many time-victims I know believe that if they can just learn a different time-planning technique, or find a better app, that their problems will be over. By force of will, working even harder and longer, and having the right technique, they will be able to rope that whirlwind and tame it.

I’ve yet to see that happen.

The problem is that their thinking about how they use their time is part of the problem. They are not time-owners.

Time-owners know that how they use their time is ultimately their choice. They realize that they own their decisions about priorities and how they use their time. They understand that time is a limited resource and that they have a choice in how they invest it.

Time-owners use their own time investment thesis. Financial investors often have an “investment thesis”. Investopedia tells us that “an investment thesis is the beliefs that investors decide to use when determining what investments to purchase or sell, when to take an action and why. An investment thesis helps investors establish goals for their investments, and measures whether they have been achieved, either in written form or simply as an idea.” Time-owners use their own investment thesis as they prioritize and use their time.

Using their time-investment thesis, time-owners determine what are the principles or beliefs that they will use to decide what activities that they are going to invest in—and what they are NOT going to invest in. Deciding what not to invest in is one of the most important decisions that time-owners make. For example: do you really need to attend the 3 p.m. meeting today? Are all 17 projects on your list really equally important?

Here is an important truth: many “time management” problems are actually priority problems. It is less about having the right app or time management technique. The fact is, we often struggle prioritizing, and saying “no” to less important things. We are worried about what other people will think if we say no to some things or what will happen if we don’t get everything done. Time-owners demonstrate courage by saying no to many small things so that they can say yes to the big important things.

The time investment thesis also guides time-owners on what the goals are for their time investments. If a time investment goal is to obtain new customers, then the significant activities that they engage in during the day are focused on that goal. Those customer-acquiring activities are scheduled on the calendar as critical activities and other activities, meetings, or events are eliminated, delegated or minimized.

If a time investment goal is to strengthen relationships with your children, then the activities that you engage in should reflect that. You can ensure that you are home for dinner, even if it means that you have to leave a meeting early or not get as much done on a project that you would have liked. Or maybe it means that you actually spend time with your family while on vacation, not taking conference calls and answering emails all day long.

The time investment thesis also guides us in measuring the returns of our time investments. If our goal was to obtain new customers, how many new customers were acquired in the first quarter? If our goal was to strengthen relationships with our children, how would we assess the quality of our relationships over the last three months?

For those of you who want to build your own time investment thesis, here are the steps:

1. Decide that you will be a time-owner, not a time-victim. Most of us have acted like time-victims for much of our lives. This will require a significant mental shift!

2. Assess your current time investment portfolio. In other words, how are you allocating your time today? What does your typical daily and weekly schedule look like? What kinds of returns are you getting from your current time investments? Are you accomplishing the goals that are most important to you?

3. Determine what principles or beliefs will guide your time investment thesis. What are those values, principles, and beliefs that you want to guide your decisions about how you will invest your time? For some suggestions on how to think about this, check out my article on “Consulting Your Compass.”

4. Develop goals that reflect your principles and beliefs. What are the most important things that you want to accomplish? What goals are the most meaningful to you?

5. Determine what you will say “yes” to—what you will invest in. More importantly– what you will say “no” to and NOT invest in. Saying “no” to activities is difficult and requires courage, but the strongest time-owners end up saying “no” often. They eliminate, delegate, or minimize things that don’t support their time investment principles or further their goals. There are several great articles on how to specifically invest your time—try searching online for “Best Ways to Invest Your Time”—that you can use to give you some ideas.

6. Decide how you will measure the return on your time investments. Maybe it is the number of new customers acquired. Or something harder to measure, like the feeling that you have about your relationship with your children. Based on your time investment returns, determine what you need to do to ensure that you are progressing towards your investment goals.

Ultimately, we all have the same amount of time every day. We choose whether we will be a time-victim or a time-owner.

What choice will you make?

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Leading People Partners

Leading People Partners, LLC
Email: todd@leadingpeoplepartners.com