Cut the Fat and Build the Muscle..with your time (and life!)

Posted on Mar 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Are you too busy, overwhelmed and feel like the “pile” keeps growing?

These ideas will get you back on track FAST…


1. Know what’s important
2. Prioritize essentials
3. Prune time wasters
4. Create boundaries
5. Simplify processes

Know What’s Important

What do you value? Leaders, organizations and gurus on time management often rally the necessity of values-clarification as “the” first step in any great creation. Deciding what you truly value is key before building any empire (business, family or craft). Knowing what you value is a critical step in the process of time management.

Answer these questions for clarity:

1. What are your core values? They should reflect the kind of person you envision yourself to be in all situations (home, work, friendships etc.)?
2. Is there anything in your life right now that does not resonate with you or feels “off”? Why is it there? Whose approval are you looking for? Can you remove it?
3. If you could subtract any bad habit, what would it be? If you could add a good habit (however small) that would make your life easier, what would it be?
4. What is stopping you from acting with clarity (and confidence) toward what you want out of life?

These questions are not a finish line, rather they begin the process of getting you closer to what you truly value so that you can invest your time more productively.

Prioritize Your Essentials

Once you know the kind of person you want to be, create a schedule that reflects your values. These ideas will help:

• Decide the most essential things to do each week and schedule them FIRST
• Refuse anything not aligned with your values (release guilt)
• Refuse anything that drains you mentally, emotionally or physically consistently (look for patterns)
• Focus your attention and energy on what is most important to you/family/business

Key tip: Schedule your top tasks, goals and appointments early before the day’s mayhem. FranklinCovey has amazing content on time management – check it out.

Anyone who was ever in a position to accomplish big things (while surrounded by many little things) has learned this lesson well – get the key items in FIRST. Ask yourself at the end of every week, month and year “what did I accomplish?” If the answer continues to be “lots of meetings, calls and details” you are off track. Yes, those things are part of execution, however if they do not add up to something tangible, measurable and valuable to you, it will feel like a waste of time and leave you feeling depleted.

Key tips for managing your schedule:
• Pad important meetings, projects etc. with extra time (absorbs surprises). This avoids making your day/week look like standing dominoes – which easily tumble with one false move!
• Block time in your calendar to do fun, healthy and enriching things (as a PRIORITY!)
• Stop doing things that do not add value to your life in some way

Prune the Time Wasters

Learning to be ruthless with time is not about living a tight, no-nonsense, boot camp lifestyle. My passion is creativity, and creativity thrives in an arena of freedom. That said, pulling the weeds must be part of the process to enable healthy “lawn” growth. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this action, item (think maintenance time) or relationship aligned with my values?
2. If not, which items can be eliminated, minimized or influenced so they better support my values?
3. Do I enjoy doing this or do I feel as if I “should” because everybody else does?
4. Why is this in my life? Is this really my choice?
5. Does this add value to my life or my business in anyway?
6. How can this be simplified?

When we clean up the time suckers, we make room for more important, enjoyable and productive activities toward our most cherished goals.

Create Boundaries

The ability to say “no” is essential in being successful at anything. I know this because I used to say “yes” to everything, which I soon discovered was the fastest way to being unproductive. It makes a lot of sense, since you can only do so many things well. If you are the guilty type, offer alternatives when saying no then move on, please!

Here is a good way to mentally measure your progress:

If your productivity were to be measured on a typical graph (for demonstrative purposes), you would want to avoid any “spikes in the data”. This indicates that things have shot up significantly, but then dropped. Creating boundaries by being honest and offering alternatives (if appropriate) will allow you to stay consistent in your performance. Instead of being a star one day then crashing from exhaustion, over work and the disorganization that often follows, choose to stay steady. Anyone can realize a spike in their performance graph, however the goal is sustainable performance. That is effectiveness. It gives you credibility and earns you influence.

Simplify Processes

Think effortless speed when organizing and designing work systems. They should be simple, flow easily and require little thinking in execution; the thinking is done in the construction.

You can create easy movement by arranging “centers” for areas with high traffic. Grouping allows you to “report” to a given area for all your needs. It prevents scattering items you need, forgetting to replace things and finding yourself unprepared. I create and maintain a travel center, an emergency center (we live in hurricane territory), a workshop center (handouts, backups etc.) and a well being center (basket full of healthful essentials). By lumping things together and adding a tiny inventory list on an index card, it’s done and I can move onto better things. Periodically, I refresh the centers with what may be needed, replaced or simplified. You are basically putting key life/work areas into modules. These modules work well in making your overall life easier and enhance the feeling of effortlessness.

Once you get off that hamster wheel, clarify your values, prune and create boundaries, you can group what is left and organize it into centers/modules. These efforts will have you on your way to enjoying a life in control. I have seen many folks overlook such essential building blocks, only to create more stress and strain for themselves and everyone around them. The less stress you have, the more you can enjoy what you are actually doing. The more focus, the higher the quality of work you produce.  The more balance, the better your relationships.

We are not supposed to “get it all done” in life. Do you buy everything at the drug store or do you CHOOSE? What we can do is joyfully get “the right things” done. Now that is living!