In 1910, Arnold Bennett wrote one of the first self-help time management books, “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.” In my teenage years it was my favorite non-fiction book, and I still live by some of its lessons.
From Bennett’s book I learned even though they say, “time is money,” it isn’t true. Time is so much more than money. If you have time, you can acquire more money. But money can’t buy you more time. Time is a great equalizer. You can’t go into time debt. Every day the rich and the poor alike are given twenty-four hours to spend.
As a presidential candidate I can deliver more money to one group or another through tax cuts or government hand outs, but I can’t give anyone more time. Using your time wisely is important for everyone, and critical for those small business owners who have greater control over how their time is spent.
The first step is listing all the goals you would like to accomplish. Just putting your goals down on paper doubles the chance of achieving them. You will find that the way you are currently spending most of your time does not working toward your goals.
Don’t put off the things that truly matter to you until you have more time. You will never have any more time than what you are given each day. Instead, you have to learn how to spend your time on the things that matter most.
When budgeting your time you need to take your whole life into account. Start by listing all the regular activities that are important to your wellbeing. Include your family, chores, recreation, and exercise as well as work related tasks. Then add in the tasks that will help you achieve your goals. Then allocate a portion of your time to each important activity.
It is best to make habits of the most important uses of our time. Habits work best when they fit into a routine in the normal cycle of time. Routines can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. If every task has its own time, you won’t feel as conflicted with multiple tasks.
For example, set aside Saturdays for household chores and Sunday as a day of rest. Schedule your most important work for Monday mornings. If it can’t be finished on Monday, the remainder of the work is still available. Each responsibility has a day and time when it receives top priority. Assuming the weekly work is done, set aside time on Fridays for reviewing your goals and how to use your time more effectively. Many tasks can be streamlined, automated, or eliminated entirely.
It is a small portion of what we do that accounts for the majority of what we accomplish. Time management involves taking each task and making the decision to do it, delegate it, or dump it. Wisdom in business lies in finding those activities where our time is the most effective, and then structuring our work around those activities. As our business matures, everything else should ultimately be delegated or dumped.
Daily routines provide a chance to balance work with personal life. When you are in business for yourself you can take the afternoon off to coach your daughter’s soccer team, but you can also work until two in the morning. Projects can easily swamp whatever time you allow them to take. Successful small business owners learn to finish projects quickly. Make it your habit to do the best you can in the moment you are in with what you have available. Learn the principle of “good enough” and you will learn how to finish projects in a timely way.
In addition to daily and weekly routines schedule occasions for tasks that span longer times. Determine the frequency of a task and then put in on your schedule. Annual events should be given a specific time of the year when they are to be accomplished.
Arnold Bennett would have made a good Vice Presidential running mate. He believed that the power to live instead of just “muddle through” is in our own hands. He wrote, “You can turn over a new leaf every hour if your choose.” For those of you interested in reading his book, “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day”, a free version is available through the Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/2274 .