‘I have TOO much time!’, said nobody ever.

Time…it is by far the most common excuse for why professionals do not exercise, stretch, get to bed on time, eat good food, take breaks, and follow through on positive actions to reach their body, health, and life goals.

Do you also find it hard managing time?

For now, you should! But that may be about to change with a simple change in your perspective on time management.

When clients ask me about improving time management I start by sharing a powerfully true statement by Earl Nightingale, ‘Time can’t be managed, only activities can be’. Time manages itself, we are the ones not managing the activities we engage in during our 24 hours. For example, the average person watches 4.7 hours of television per day – so we have time people! What would we find out if I followed you around all day with a stopwatch and tracked your activities?

For the past 21-consecutive days, I’ve been doing two 30-minute sessions of meditation. This is HUGE for me because 21 days ago, I believed the story I created that I never had enough time to have a daily seated meditation practice. Funny, now I can barely remember what I did with that hour in my day!

The biggest key to managing your activities to fit in the things you want to do is find a deep motivation. I found mine after spending a weekend doing two 30-minute meditation sessions at the Chopra Center founded by Deepak Chopra. I was finally ready to make meditation part of my daily life.

But where the heck was I going to get an extra hour?! I certainly didn’t want to throw off my sleep schedule by waking up earlier or staying up later…so somehow I had to create time within the workday.

Here are five steps that I not only preach, but practice to reach my goal:

1. Categorize ‘Must, Should, & Would Like To’

One of the best ways to prioritize your activities is to make three categories in your to-do list:

Must – activities/tasks that must get done ASAP or today

Should – activities/tasks that should be completed, but can wait at least until the Must are complete or a later point

Would Like To – activities/tasks that are lowest on the priority list that have a longer deadline if any deadline

The majority of professionals are investing way too much of their day on Would Like To activities which provide an instant gratification, but it mismanages their daily activities and time.

2. Think It, Ink It

In the excellent book, The Greatness Guide author Robin Sharma has a chapter titled, ‘Your Schedule Doesn’t Lie’. I don’t have to guess what activities are important to you, I just need to take a quick look at your schedule! If an activity you want to do (i.e. exercising, meditating, eating lunch) is not physically listed on your calendar the likelihood of you actually doing it is slim at best. If you think it, you must ink it onto your schedule. Only move the activity if you have a contingency plan or if you are replacing it with something that equally moves you toward your goals.

3. Hardest First

Similar to a workout, it’s best to do the most demanding Must activities and projects first while your energy, focus, and willpower are the highest. Most professionals are doing all their Would Like To and Should items first and wait until the end of the day for the much heavier and more complex Must items. This not only leads to a worse performance on the highest priority projects, but you’re less efficient which leads to another late night on the computer or you have to finish the next day which puts you further behind the ball!

4. Remove Parasitic Activities, Commitments & Relationships

There is commonly an infestation of time parasites sucking up your limited resources that can be modified if not totally eliminated. Take a good, honest look at your calendar. Search for and destroy all activities, commitments, meetings, and/or relationships that are no longer serving you and your personal and professional goals. Do you really need to be on another Board? Can you be more effective with 20-30 minute meetings? Would one TV show be enough on a weeknight? Cut the time suck!

5. Delegate

Most professionals try to shoulder the weight of the world and do it all by themselves, but it’s clear that isn’t working judging on the rates of depression, divorce, obesity, and pain. One of my clients uses the question of ‘Who can help?’ to lower his stress on the job. As humans we thrive in tribes, not in isolation so ask a virtual assistant, co-worker, neighbor, supervisor, spouse, friend, or family member (even children) to help.

Two great recent client examples of effective delegating were: A) using a food delivery service not only helped her family eat more healthfully, but it reduced clean up time allowing her to get to bed at a better hour and B) using a house cleaning service to open up his weekends for more socializing and exercise. Think about it, if it takes you 3 hours to clean your home and your hourly rate is $100/hours, you will double your money, reduce stress, and increase time by investing $150 ($50/hour) to have a professional cleaner.

Get Self Managing

I’ll let you in on a little secret, this article isn’t about time or activity management at all…it’s about self management. I want to reinforce my very first point, that to effectively manage your day with the five steps listed above it will take something that lights a fire in your belly. I didn’t create more time in my schedule and manage my activities for meditation…I did it for what I believe the act of meditation will give me, my life and my legacy.

So don’t tell me what you want more time to do, but what you want to be.

The clock is ticking…