Taking control of your time in your life and at work

One of the most important factors in determining the level of success someone achieves is how they spend their time. Life is increasingly busy, with greater demands on people’s time, both in and outside work.

This video will cover a simple yet extremely powerful method to help you to take control of your time, both in your life and at work, so that you can move towards having the kind of success (however YOU define it). You’ll need a pen, paper and calculator to get the most from this video, and although the video lasts around 13 minutes, there are several exercises, so you may want to allow at least 30 minutes, possibly even 45 minutes. This may seem a long time, and in the context of the millions of minutes we live, it's nothing compared to the value you'll get!

Transcript of the video

Modified slightly for readability (the way I speak is somewhat less formal than the way I write!)

Hi, I'm Jeremy Lazarus. 

Welcome to this video on taking control of your time. Now if you're like most people I've come across since 1999, since I've been coaching and training people, you're being asked to do more with less time. 

You're busy in your life, you're probably busy at work, you probably don't have enough time to do the things that you want to do both in your life and your work. In some ways that's probably holding you back from being as successful as you'd like to be at work, and maybe it's causing you a bit of stress in your life. In this videoI'm going to take you through an exercise that I use with many of my executive coaching clients and a lot of people on my training courses. I think without exception they all find it incredibly valuable. 

In order to do this you're going to need a couple of bits of paper a pen and probably a calculator or a mobile phone to do some simple adding up. As we go through I'll ask you to pause the video from time to time, just to do the little exercises that I'm going to cover on this video. So I'm going to ask you to pause the video now. Get yourself some paper and a pen and mobile phone or calculator and then press play when you're ready to start. 

Ok, let's make a start. Please could you take one of the pieces of paper and divide it into five columns, and you'll see on the screen the dimensions. So the first column is going to cover almost half the page, and then there are going to be three columns, relatively narrow, and then the final column is going to have a bit more space. If you label those columns one, two, three, four and five. So just take a moment to do that please. 

So once you've done that if you could take a few moments then to just put a title at the top of each of the columns: 

  • 'Activity' column 1; 
  • column 2 is 'Current'; 
  • column 3 is 'Ideal';
  • column four '+/-' and 
  • column 5 is 'Action'. 

So what is all this about? If you think about it, every single person on the planet, whether they're in charge of major corporations, or whether they're Prime Ministers, or Presidents, or whether they're unemployed, all of us have a hundred and sixty eight hours in a week (7 x 24 = 168). In my experience the people who use those 168 hours most effectively are the ones who are most 'successful'. Whether that's successful in a financial or career sense or whether they just fulfilled in their life because they're doing the things that are really important to them. So we're going to do an exercise which is going to look at how you spend your time, the different activities you do in your week, how you spend your time, and what you could change in order to be even more fulfilled. And once we've done this exercise, we're going to do the same exercise or similar exercise in your workplace. 

So let's start off with your life generally. So in the first column there under 'Activity', please make a note of all the key activities that you do in a typical week. I know for some people no two weeks the same. I'm going to ask you to just to look at a reasonably typical week. What are the activities? And please be reasonably thorough here. So obviously things like sleep and, for many of you, work, perhaps travel, time with family, friends, maybe the gym or some kind of sporting activity or exercise or chilling out and maybe doing hobbies. So make a list of all of the key activities that you do in any typical week. Take a few moments to do that now please. 

What I'm also going to ask you to do is, at the bottom, add the word miscellaneous'. I'm going to call that another activity (it's like a catch-all, i.e. miscellaneous or unaccounted for). In column 2, the Current' column, list many hours a week you spend doing each of those activities. So for example, if you spend six hours a night sleeping, that is 6 x 7 = 42 hours. If you spend ten hours a week working, five days a week, that's fifty hours etc etc. So go through please, making a note of how many hours you spend typically doing each of those activities. When you've done that please add up those numbers. And it should come to 168. You may want to allow yourself up to maybe five hours or so for unaccounted or miscellaneous time. Some people when they add them up they find that 'oh my goodness there's 200 hours! How have I crammed so much into my week?' Many people say, 'hang on a minute, this is only 120, 130 or 140 hours. What do I actually do with my time?' Take a few moments add up the numbers, and it may be that you need to adjust some of the numbers or add a couple of additional categories in for things like 'chilling out' or watching TV or something like that. So make sure that that second column adds up to 168 hours please. 

Now we're going to cover column 3, 'how you would ideally like to spend your time?. Please do it given your current set of circumstances and not making an assumption you're going to win the lottery tomorrow! Ideally how would you like to spend your time? If for example you'd like ideally spent seven hours a night sleeping, you'd write 49 (7 times 7 = 49). If ideally like to spend only 40 hours a week working you'd write 40 etc etc. So do that please and make sure that this column adds up to 168 hours. 

So at this point you've noted the activity, how much time you currently spend and how much you'd ideally like to spend. So in column four please do some simple adding up or taking away. What needs to change? What activity needs to increase or decrease? So for example if you currently spend 42 hours a week sleeping and you'd like spent 49, you're going to write '+7'. If you currently spend 50 hours a week working and you'd like to spend 40 let's say, you write '-10'. You go through all the pluses and minuses and of course the total should equal zero. Take a few moments to do that please. 

So the final column is 'Action'. What are you actually going to do to make the changes? Now my tip for you would be, rather than necessarily looking to make changes with every single category in one go, maybe pick two or three of them (perhaps some of the important ones or some of the ones are going to make a big difference). For example, if you want to spend an extra hour a night sleeping, maybe you'd go to bed an hour earlier, or you'd go to bed half hour early and get up half an hour later. You know your life. What are some of the changes you need to make? You might also want to look at some of the smaller numbers that would make a big difference. For example, maybe just an extra hour or two a week of quality time with your partner or your kids, perhaps that would make a big difference for you personally and the people in your life. Or maybe just spending a couple of hours extra in the gym would make a big difference. Make a note of three, four, maybe five actions that you are going to take and things you could actually do within the next week or so. Rather than actions that are going to take months and months to put into place, take some action now. Make a list of things that you can actually do in the short term to get the ball rolling. Take a few moments to do that please. 

OK, Given ou've got some actions, there are two final things for me to say in this particular section. Firstly, it may be that you need some help or support or assistance from people in your life, maybe from your partner or your friends or your colleagues at work. You may need some support from them to help you to actually do the actions. Certainly in the short term just so it becomes a habit. If that's the case make those requests - ask those people for whatever help / support you'd like. The second thing, most importantly, is just to do it; promise yourself to make the changes that are going to support you in being, doing and having more of what you want to be, do and have. Make the changes to be more fulfilled in life. This section has covered how you can take control of your time in your life generally. 

We're going to do the same sort of exercise with taking control of your time at work. With the second piece of paper you'll be doing exactly the same in terms of dividing these sheets into five columns: 'Activity', 'Current', 'Ideal', '+/-' and 'Action'. When you've done that, in the 'Activity' column write down the key activities / key uses of your time in the work place. If you work in an office, it might be some time spent in meetings; it could be answering emails; it could be dealing with customers or suppliers or clients or colleagues; it could be managing staff, if you're a line manager. Make a list of the key things that you do each week in the workplace. As you've done before, in column two, make a list of how much time you currently spend doing each of those activities. 

You may need to refer to the overall numbers from the first exercise. So if you currently spend, let's say, 50 hours a week working, the current total should equal 50 hours. So take a few moments to do that please. And when you've done that, look at the 'Ideal' column, same as you did last time, make a list or make a note of how many hours you would ideally spend doing each of those activities. Bearing in mind of course that if you wanted to reduce from 50 hours to, for example, 40 hours, the Ideal column would total 40. It may of course be that the 40 hours is a long-term ideal, so in the short term maybe 45 hours would be ok. So how would you ideally spend your time at work? How many hours in each of those activities?

As before, in the fourth column make a note of the pluses and minuses. The only difference from the previous exercise is that the total will be the difference between the overall number of hours that you currently spend and how you'd like to spend. so if it was 50 and 40 it will be -10. As before, in column 5 make a note of what actions you're going to take.

Let me give an example of how this actually works in practice. I was coaching a lady many years ago who was the chief executive of an entertainment business. Something like 65% to 70% of the profits of that business came from about 10 clients, and they had hundreds of clients. I asked her how much time she would ideally be spending on those ten clients? She said around 40%. And I said so how much time do you currently spend on them? And she said about 15-20%. So you can imagine what the coaching involved. We discussed how she could increase from 20% of her time to 40% of her time with those major customers. What she would need to change, what she would perhaps need to delegate, or stop doing or defer, or do more effectively. Within the space of a year, that organisation had made more profits than it had made in any of the previous years. And the following year from that it made even higher profits. So for two consecutive years, there were record profits. I am not saying it was purely because of this. I would however say a key factor was the chief executive was really focused on the essential key tasks that she needed to do to make her business really be successful. So I don't know how this may apply to you in your career. Maybe you're not the chief executive, and you are the chief executive of yourself. You are the chief executive of your career. What are you going to do so that you can be more effective at work? 

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