Time Is On Our Side: How One DRIVEN Event Changed The Lives Of Many
DRIVEN’s September 28th live discussion on Time Management with Laura Vanderkam was another rich and powerful session with profound benefits to everyone in attendance. The predetermined consensus of the audience was that we are all overwhelmed and stressed because we just don’t have enough time in a given week to do everything that’s expected of us. But as open-minded professionals, we entered into the session honoring Laura’s contention that we have more time than we think. From there, Laura proceeded to lead us through the methodology that would make this a reality for us all.
Don’t Let Time Pass You By
Laura started by suggesting a little reframing of our mindset with relation to time. For starters, instead of picturing a week as seven 24-hour days, we should think of it as 168 consecutive hours. With this simple shift in outlook, if we sleep 8 hours a night and work 50 hours a week, we’re left with 62 hours for a whole lotta livin’. I know you may be shaking your head right now, particularly if you have chosen professional services as a career, working those 80 hour weeks. Right? Well, not so fast.
We may believe we “work” 80 hours each week, but in actuality, not all of those 80 hours are spent immersed in actual work. As many folks in the audience during our discussion confessed, we “don’t know where some of the time goes during work”, and thus, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about how many hours we spend producing. Don’t forget, we’re often distracted, interrupted, and minimally-focused while at the office, and causation aside, time spent at the office doesn’t necessarily equal “hours worked”. To troubleshoot this dilemma, Laura suggests we “block” our time by creating and utilizing a personal time log.
I began using a time log more than 4 months ago, and I must proclaim it’s been a game changer! This study in self-accountability was scary at first, even a bit embarrassing, but is now a vital tool for maximizing my time and my focus. When I invested my first week committed to a time log, I gained a greater sense of just where my time was being allocated. This clearer picture can empower each of us to adapt and adjust our work habits so we don’t necessarily need to commit 80 hours every week to career. Laura argues that if you take charge of your time, it is completely possible to work 50-55 hours a week (the point that makes people eligible for the biggest and highest-earning jobs, by the way) and still enjoy an abundant and fulfilled personal life!
Perhaps the eureka of the evening was Laura’s liberating concept of blocking-in “positive white space”. Over-scheduling our workday can easily backfire on us, leading to counter-productivity. The notion that we can cram 12 hours of meetings into a 12-hour workday and expect to maximize the outcome of each meeting is simply unrealistic. Are we forgetting that we need time for mental breaks, time to be creative, time to address emergencies, time to check in with loved ones, and time to nourish ourselves? Looking at a schedule in half-hour time log increments helps to identify not only where lost time occurs, but where we need to build in our white space. As a result of this revelation, a large majority of attendees are beginning to adopt the palatable 45/15 method of focus, spending 45 minutes on a project and then 15 minutes checking in on email. We all agreed that Shiny Object Syndrome was a tremendous time suck, not to mention an energy drain, and by shutting down email alerts and closing down email for 45 consecutive minutes each hour, we could be able to fully focus on our important projects and tasks. Don’t forget: An email response to a client, colleague or contact within an hour is considered a rapid response rate.
Following the time log and email-blocking discussions, a collective sigh of relief and subsequent energy shift could undoubtedly be felt in the room. This cleared the deck for shifting the discussion to maximizing home life and personal time. It was here that Laura offered her rich domestic advice, bringing the time-management concept full-circle. For instance, did you realize that breakfast can be an even better meal to eat together as a family than dinner because at the beginning of the day everyone has more focus and fresh energy? She even reminded us that spending private time with each of your children individually has a more powerful impact on your relationships with them, since you’re putting a focus on quality over quantity. There was advice about how to avoid shortchanging ourselves for those of us who chronically put others’ needs first, and the suggestion to anchor together three gratifying weekend activities (like a date night with your spouse, going for a hike, and watching a great movie). Plus, the fact that this leisure time is blocked into a schedule increases the likelihood of it occurring.
Without question, I was thrilled with the messages in my inbox the morning after our event. People were committing to time logs, to email discipline, and to experimenting with active time-blocking. This is the ultimate first step to managing our priorities instead of prioritizing our busy schedules. Talk about a productive evening! My genuine thanks go out to Laura Vanderkam for traveling so far to deliver such life-changing advice, to Dorsey & Whitney LLP for hosting the event in their fabulous offices, to Creative Caterers for providing exceptional hors d’oeuvres for our discerning guests, to our strategic partner Suburban Wines & Spirits for providing truly compelling wines, and to our strategic partner HINT Water for quenching our thirst as always.