Think about it; the term is an oxymoron. Time cannot be managed. It cannot be controlled in any way. Everyone gets the same number of hours and minutes every day. Nobody—no matter how shrewd—can save minutes from one day to spend on another. No scientist—no matter how smart—is capable of creating new minutes. Even with all his wealth, someone like Bill Gates can’t buy additional hours for his day. And even though people talk about trying to “find time,” they need to quit looking. There isn’t any extra lying around. Twenty-four hours is the best any of us is going to get.
You can’t manage your time. So what can you do? Manage yourself! Nothing separates successful people from unsuccessful people more than how they use their time. Successful people understand that time is the most precious commodity on earth. And that we all have an equal amount, packed into identical suitcases. So even though everyone’s suitcase is the same size, they get a higher return on the contents of theirs. Why? They know what to pack.
Essayist Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is not enough to be busy. The question is, ‘What are we busy about?’” How do you judge whether something is worthy of your time and attention? For years I used this formula to help me know the importance of a task so that I can manage myself effectively. It’s a three step process:
1. Rate the task in terms of Importance.
- Critical = 5 points
- Necessary = 4 points
- Important = 3 points
- Helpful = 2 points
- Marginal = 1 point
2. Determine the task’s urgency.
- This month = 5 points
- Next month = 4 points
- This quarter = 3 points
- Next quarter = 2 points
- End of year = 1 point
3. Multiply the rate of importance times the rate of urgency.
- Example: 5 (critical) x 4 (next month) = 20.
After assigning each task a new number, make a new to-do list. This time list everything from highest to lowest task management score. THAT’S how you plan your day.
How you spend your time is an important question not only for you but for your team. People tend to take their cues from the leader when it comes to time management—so make sure there’s a match between your actions, your business priorities, and your team’s activities.