Guard Your Time

This is Part 2 in the Apt Design 2011 Ebook Series – Creating Work/Life Balance.
Click here to get the book and see the whole series.

Now that you know what you want in life and you’ve set your priorities based on that, its time to start making changes that will get you to that life. As I mentioned in my last post, one of your greatest resources is your time. More often than not its a resource that we too easily let slip away and then wonder where it went.

Guard Your TimeNumerous distractions, “important” projects and mindless activities can quietly suck away our time, time that we could be using to create the work-life balance we want. Focus on removing these little things that are stealing your time and you’ll have more to spend where you want –  on things that help you reach your goals and priorities in life. Guard your time, protect, and value it as the resource it truly is.

Look at where your time is going

The first step to good time management is to realize where you are currently spending your time. You probably don’t realize the amount of time that you’re spending on certain things – it may be water-cooler talk at the office, constantly checking your farm on Farmville, or even just mindlessly basking in the glow of your TV every night.

rescue timeThere are a variety of ways to actually see where you spend your time. When you are on your computer (a place where we all waste massive amounts of our day) you can use a time-tracker like RescueTime, which can also block distractions to help you focus on your current task. But if you are really struggling with needing more time I would recommend tracking where you spend all your time every day. At the end of every hour record what you’ve been doing for that hour. There are a plethora of generic time-tracker apps out there, pick one that works best for you – or just use a pencil and paper! Is this a boring and anal-retentive exercise? You bet. But I guarantee at the end of the week you’ll be surprised to see where all your time went!

Learn to Say No

After you’ve seen where you’re spending your time the next step in guarding your time is learning to say “No” to the things you don’t want to spend your time on. A lot of time is wasted at work in inefficient things like pointless meetings, and you may need to talk to your boss about this. Timothy Ferriss has some great points about saying No at the office in chapter 7 of his controversial book, The 4-Hour Work Week.

Learning to say no may involve you choosing to discipline yourself enough to turn off a video game and go exercise. It could even involve you saying no to activities you enjoy or organizations whose goals you agree with. But if you are drowning in commitments you need to review your priorities and not say yes to everything. Leo at ZenHabits offers some practical help on how to say No.

The choice is always yours. Learn to say No.

Set boundaries

Too often the reason we say Yes to too many things is because we think we can do more than we can. And we all know the feeling of stretching ourselves too thin. The first step in not doing this is to know your limits. I wrote about this important concept (and how marathoner Ryan Hall used it) in my post at Graphic Design Blender: Creating a Healthy Work-Life Balance as a Freelance Designer. The idea is simple in theory but can be hard to implement – know your limits on how much time you can give to other people and activities, give yourself some padding, and then set your boundaries there and don’t let anything else in.

Overall guarding your time is an integral part of creating work/life balance. The better you get at it the more you choose how your life will be balanced.

Do This Now:

Right now look at your least important, most disliked, or biggest time commitment and drop it. Call or email those that need to know right now and tell them you’re done. There you go! A quick, bloodless step to getting more time to create the work/life balance you want!

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