2.2 Where Does the Time Go?

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Perhaps, you have something like where you have a table and you can put in things in it like commuting, telephone calls, drop in visitors, meetings, paperwork, reading, spending time with the boss, assisting team members, traveling, planning, delegating, relaxation. And the idea is to start with how many hours you're going to give to work and then look at how much time it takes for you to perform your basic job functions. So now we wanna take a look at your time that you have available after your work week, your sleeping, your eating, your shopping, your commuting, your chores.

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Let’s continue on to our next topic. Where does your time go? Remember, when we discussed that busy day? The day where you jumped out of bed. You worked really hard all day long and you were exhausted, but you weren’t really sure what you did. The best way to know where your time goes is to keep track. You can do this at work and you might already be required to do so. You could do this at home, as well. Time tracking is not just for beginners or people who are new to the workforce. I have worked with a group of senior managers, who agreed to do a time tracking exercise and they were surprised by the results. I remember one man in particular, who was just shocked at the amount of time he spent everyday driving to and from meetings at various locations. And he realized that there was no way that he could do that much driving and do any other kind of work. Another was really surprised at much, how much time he spent with what we call drop by’s, people who just, you know, come by your office or your cubicle to touch base or chat. So, if you really wanna know how you spend your time, it means you’re gonna have to have some kind of time tracking approach. You don’t have to go get some fancy software or download an app, although you can. You can do it in a simple table too. One week is probably not enough, a month is probably really good. Break down your time to at least 30 minute intervals. And to learn even more, consider tracking yourself in 15 minute intervals. Perhaps, you have something like where you have a table and you can put in things in it like commuting, telephone calls, drop in visitors, meetings, paperwork, reading, spending time with the boss, assisting team members, traveling, planning, delegating, relaxation. Doing computer work. Planning and organizing. Chatting, personal business, other. So, I just read off a whole bunch of categories. So what goes in yours, what goes in your table in the categories that make sense to you. And if you don’t know, then just get started and keep track. And begin to develop the categories as you see what you’re doing with your time. Honesty and discipline are the key to learning from your time tracking. Remember, you’re doing this for yourself, so no lying. If you find you spend 30 minutes a day surfing the internet, looking at cat videos, then write it down. Maybe you can decide if cat videos are the best use of your time, given your goals in life. As you keep track, you do want to pay attention to anything that could be news to you regarding how much time you spend doing something. Like the man who was surprised how much time he spent driving to different locations. This is definitely a situations where knowledge is power. Once you understand where your time goes, you can begin to determine where you can fine-tune your schedule and your approach to your work. Maybe every four hours, you give yourself a 15 minute to watch cat video break. Great. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When that timer goes off, so do the cat videos. Now, it’s time to combine your definition of work life balance with your understanding of how you spend your time, because you only have so many hours in your day. Let’s make sure you are planning them well. The concepts we are discussing is called Strategic Reserve Time. And I’m drawing from a book called The Juggler’s Guide to Managing Multiple Projects by Michael S Dobson, to give credit where credit is due. And the idea is to start with how many hours you’re going to give to work and then look at how much time it takes for you to perform your basic job functions. The time leftover is the time you have to spend on special work, such as projects. This is your strategic reserve time. We’re gonna do this two ways. One’s for work and then we’re gonna look at one’s for home, work at home together. First, we’re gonna start with work. Let’s start with a certain week. And at the beginning of the week, how much time do you have available? Then how much time you spend on what we call administrative things like emails, phone calls, meetings. How much time do you spend on your regular duties and do you have any time you spend on catch up work? And do you typically get special requests? And then basically, what your looking at, let’s say, you have a week or you have 45 hours available. You spend ten hours on admin and twenty five hours on your regular and then eight hours on other things. That means you’ve allo, you spent 43 of your 45 hours and then that means you have two hours remaining. That two hours is what we call your strategic reserve time. That is the time you have to do other things, special projects, things that weren’t part of your, again, your administrative, your regular duties, special requests you get from your boss. Two hours. So you started with 45 hours available. And if you turned and you committed to somebody to work on something that wasn’t already in your plan, you only had two extra hours. Okay. Now let’s take this and use personal and work. So let’s say, personal time is 168 hours in a week. 45 hours for work. 56 hours for sleep, 35 for eating, grooming, breathing. Let’s say, you commute 45 minutes each way or an hour and half every day. Maybe you spend an hour a week grocery shopping, half an hour a week for other household activities, laundry, dishes, etc. And I don’t know, cuz this is different for all of us. Right? So now we wanna take a look at your time that you have available after your work week, your sleeping, your eating, your shopping, your commuting, your chores. Maybe you plan in time for exercise? You plan in time for maybe social. Maybe you do volunteer work. You wanna make sure you commit to some family time and then after all of that, you factor all that in. If you have anything left between your original time and the time that you’ve allocated. What’s leftover is your strategic reserve time for both you personal life and your professional life. And so now you want to take a look at each week. How much time do you have to do something new or something different? And if you have no time, is that okay? And if you wind up with a negative number, it means you don’t have enough hours in the day, in the week to do everything that you want to do. And now that means you’re gonna need to prioritize. Are you gonna spend less time exercising? Are you gonna spend less time socializing? If this is an ongoing situation, do you wanna find a shorter commute? But these decisions, they begin and end with understanding how your time is being spent? How much time you have remaining? How much strategic reserve time do you have to do other things? Some thoughts for you about your strategic reserve time at work. The person you work for may or may not use an approach like this in order to schedule your time and assign your work. So, I’m not advocating taking over resource planning from your management. I am advocating awareness. Awareness on your part as to what it takes for you to do your job. If you and your management disagree and if you’re able to discuss it with them, your findings with them, then good. Some managers will appreciate that you’re so aware and self-managing and some will not. And so before you go on to our next module, take a shot at creating your own strategic reserve time chart. I think you’ll be glad that you did.

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