Do you feel that there is never enough time?
Can you relate to this? You start your week on Monday morning with a relatively clear picture of what you want to accomplish that week. Unfortunately, you have to deal with countless interruptions and distractions, causing your days to take a different turn. Projects you wanted to complete early in the week are pushed to the end of the week and by 5 pm on Friday, you still haven’t had a chance to start. Now you have no choice but to take work home.
This is something I often hear from new clients, who are outstanding leaders in higher education. They think it’s a reality they have to accept, but we always find strategies to improve productivity. Figuring out what to do differently is actually not as hard as they think (I share all my secrets here). What my clients say is difficult, is to change habits and create healthy boundaries. They often report allowing unscheduled conversations and meetings to run longer than necessary. Sometimes, they avoid certain tasks and procrastinate, or they spend too much time on one project, trying to make it absolutely perfect. While intellectually they understand that time is limited, they act as if time were an unlimited resource. Why? Because they believe they can catch up on the weekend.
Think of time like money
People are often cautious with their money because they know how much they have available and they want to make sure they will have enough left for important expenses. They are not willing to pay more than something is worth, or to purchase something they don’t want. They save their hard-earned dollars for purchases that mean something to them.
I wish people would look at hours the same way they look at dollars; something to be spent or invested wisely. In fact, they should be even more careful with their hours than their dollars because they can always go earn more money but it is not possible to go earn more hours. Time is the most scarce of all resources.
Personal account vs. joint account
There is a metaphor I like to use to help my clients stop treating hours as an unlimited resource. More often than not, they feel they must give 40+ or 50+ hours to their jobs and they look at their evenings and weekends as available hours that can be spent on anything. These hours seem “extra” or “free” because they aren’t committed to a person or organization. Administrators are quick to sacrifice personal time to their work because they see is as “bonus time available.”
But here is a different way to look at it. How you spend the 40+ or 50+ hours you have at your job is your business. As a leader, you make your own decisions. Your “career hours” are like dollars in your personal bank account. You do what you want with them. However, your evening and weekend hours are your family’s hours. Think of them as coming out of a joint account instead of your personal account.
Before making a large purchase from your joint account, you would speak with your spouse, because the money is theirs too. I invite you to take your family’s opinions into consideration before you decide to spend a considerable amount of “joint account hours.” There are times you have to work more hours, there is no doubt about that, but I am sure there are also times you could have accomplished more during the week and not taken work home.
Get more done during the week
I am in no way suggesting that you should neglect your work. You have a big job to do and your family needs to understand it. What I strongly recommend you do is eliminate waste during the week. When you procrastinate, get distracted, or let a conversation run for too long, it is the same as running your A/C with all doors and windows wide open. Your utility bill would be ridiculously high, without creating any benefits for you and your family.
Once you start observing how your time is spent (or wasted) you will find opportunities to become more productive. If you are not sure what improvements you can make, check out my blog or even better, you can take my 5-week time optimization course. It is customized to the unique needs of higher ed. leaders. For less than $10/week you will receive everything you need to make the absolute best use of your time.
So please, stop thinking of your personal time as free hours. These hours are expensive. They cost you and your family more than you realize. And if you happen to live alone and don’t have to take other people’s needs into consideration, I invite you to give more importance to your own needs outside of work. Maybe you would enjoy having more free time for a hobby, to take a class, to exercise, to learn a new language, to read more, to enjoy nature, or maybe to socialize more and make new friends.
Meaningful work is essential to life but there is more to life than work. Bring back balance and make every hour count. Need my help? You can sign up for my program for only $47 right now or if you would prefer to work with me one-on-one, please click here to schedule a complimentary call with me. Time is precious. Let’s act accordingly!
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, and online courses. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.