Years ago, Richard Whitely, a young British TV reporter, was interviewing a farmer on the wild uplands of Wensleydale about the hardships of hill farming. After the interview, Richard was curious about the time because he had to get his film crew off to lunch.
Not having a watch, Richard asked the farmer what time it was. “Aye, lad,” he said. “Ah’ll tell thee.“
And with that he crouched down beside the cow in the farmyard. With his great Yorkshire hand, strengthened and pitted with years of toil, he lifted the cow’s udder ever so gently. “Ten to one,” was his reply.
Richard and the film crew were amazed. “How can you tell the time by feeling a cow’s udder?” Richard asked.
“Come here, lad, ah’ll show thee.” Stooping down again, he said, “If you crouch down like this and lift up the udder, you can just see the church clock across the valley.“
Well, you may not have any trouble telling the time. However, if you’re like most people, you probably have some trouble managing your time. You may feel like you’re constantly hurrying or that you’re always short of time. You might even be the kind of person who paces in front of a microwave.
So here are a few things you can do to turn that around and get more of the work-life balance you’ve always wanted.
1. Make a balance assessment.
I know it’s not easy to keep up with the demands of work and family while also finding a little time for you. But the price you pay is devastating for working too much, ignoring your family, and neglecting your need for personal downtime. Life seems out of control, peace of mind is a foreign concept, and your body can look and feel like a bundle of worn out rags.
Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Out From Under, says some people need to “downshift.” In other words, they’re spending too much time on their work and not enough time on the life portion of the work-life balance equation.
Here are the statements she uses to determine if your use of time is out of balance. Answer them for yourself. Answer “Yes” or “No” to each statement.
- In the past week, I was able to dine with my family once or twice.
- Work-related pressure has caused me to skip a family event in the last two months.
- I can think of an activity I’d love to engage in but can’t because of work demands.
- In the past two months, business travel has taken me away from home for eight nights or more.
- I have no time to spare for civic, social, or charitable activities.
- My work creates family pressures.
- I have no time for a hobby.
- If I had to take time off from work to deal with a family crisis, illness, or death, it would cause me great stress or even jeopardize my job.
If you said “Yes” to three or more statements, you are probably out of balance. You need to manage your time more effectively.
There is some good news, however. It is possible to achieve a reasonable balance between work, family, and self. And you don’t have to do two or three things at once. As Dave Barry says, “Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be days, or even weeks, when things get out of balance. That’s just part of life. But if you spend a little time learning about how you use time and what’s important to you, you will accomplish a great deal more and still have time for the key people and activities in your life.
This balance assessment is part of what I’ll be talking about this Thursday, November 19, 2015, from 2:00pm to 3:00pm Eastern Time. In my newest live webinar, I’ll show you 21 keys to achieving the work-life balance you’ve always wanted. Click here to register.
2. Fill out a time log.
Your first step in managing your time is to record your actual use of it.
It’s simple and often eye-opening. All you have to do is take a piece of paper and write down your 24-hour day in 15-minute increments. Start with 12:00 a.m.; then write down 12:15 a.m., and so on through the day until you reach 11:45 p.m. Then record in a few words what you did during that 15-minute time frame. Do this at least one day every month, at least once every quarter.
Look at what you write down and ask yourself what lessons your log has for you. You may find, for example, that many of the things you do may not be “your job.” The things you’re doing may be the responsibility of somebody else. Or they may not even be necessary. Do you do things you shouldn’t be doing? Do you waste time? You’ll find out when you do a time log.
3. Get some feedback.
You’ll also learn a great deal about how well you use or waste time by asking other people. So ask three people how they see you wasting time. When you hear more than one person mention the same thing, give their comment serious consideration. Find a way you can stop doing that “wasted” thing or at least do it differently.
4. Hunt down repeated crises.
Look for problems that keep happening on and off the job. Look for things that cause panic, uproar, chaos, and confusion. Look for things that keep on wasting your time.
It may be back on the job that the annual inventory becomes a major headache. Chances are, people could be upset because your procedures are not the best and people hate to have their time wasted. You probably need to find a better procedure. You’ll save time as well as enlist the cooperation of others if you do.
Or it may be a frantic chase every morning at your house. People are scrambling to find their clothes and homework, and people are madly running out the door hoping not to miss the bus. It doesn’t make any sense to have the same crisis day after day. Maybe it’s time you set up some new time-saving procedures so the day starts with calm and connection.
5. Learn to work in blocks of time.
Spend 30 minutes taking messages and returning calls, for example. Or spend certain predesignated amounts of time checking your email rather than look at every email as it comes in.
6. Figure out your priorities.
One of the most important things you can do to get the work-life balance you’ve always wanted is to FIGURE OUT YOUR PRIORITIES. Figure out what is important because no matter how hard you work, you will never get everything done. So do the most important things … and let the rest go if time doesn’t permit.
One of my speaker friends, Frank Bucaro, has what he calls the greatest time management principle in the world. He advises us to “Live each day as though it was your last, and some day, you’ll be right.“
Final Thought: There is never enough time…unless you’re serving it.