If you are like me, you will discover that the end of your week comes much too quickly, long before you've even gotten a fraction of the things done that you had put on your agenda. There are 168 hours in each week, more than enough time to get the important things done in life; yet most of us confuse activity with accomplishment - we stay busy, yet nothing seems to get done!
Monday morning may start with enthusiasm, but by Friday evening most of us feel completely drained. One problem is that we often commit to more things than we can possibly accomplish. I used to complain to my wife that I needed an eight day work week with a 30 hour day. The only way to keep life from draining us completely is to change the decision-making process when it comes to our choices: we need to know when to say yes and when to say no.
Here are five techniques you can use to get more out of the 168 hours you have each week:
1. Be honest about how much time a project really takes. Most of us have a weekly routine, but do we know how much time that routine takes up? Start listing the majority of the things you do each week and the amount of time each of them takes. Be brutally honest: include sleep time, preparation for work time, commute time, work- with all of your breaks and lunch time included, commute home time, social activities, family time, etc.
If you're like most of us you'll find that you have very little time left over. This should give you pause to consider before adding any new activity to your already full schedule
2. Follow the potential outcome of any new addition to your schedule. Every decision you make brings with it an addition to your path in life. When you choose to take on a new responsibility, where will it lead you? Will it require one hour of your time each week, or is it an open ended ‘time suck’. Is your commitment a one-time event or would you be expected to give one hour (or five hours or 10 hours) every week?
If you find that this new responsibility will lead to something you clearly regret, don't add it to your life! In addition, if you're unclear what his new responsibility will add to your life, it is probably better to stay away from it also. Remember, there are consequences for nearly every decision we make. It is best to know what they are.
3. Know what's in the ‘deal’. Some commitments bring with them a whole host of hidden and implicit obligations. You might agree to teach a class one hour one night each week. Did you know that requires being available to answer students questions at any given time they decide to phone or e-mail you? Did you know the teacher always comes in early and put a pot of coffee for the students?
To make a good decision we need to know what is in those hidden and implicit agreements. Are these additional responsibilities something we want to take on?
4. Know why you want to make a decision. I once took a class on transactional analysis. I don't remember a lot about it, but I do remember that within each of us there seems to be a part of our ego that motivates us to react to suggestions and make choices based on deep-seated inner feelings. In real life we often say yes or no for reasons that have very little to do with the reality of the choice. We may not want to teach the class Wednesday evening at the community center but we are afraid to upset our strong-willed co-worker who is in charge of teacher recruitment. Other times we are the victims of those who know how to punch our buttons: they know they will get us to do something because we want to please them or impress someone else.
We need to know ourselves well enough to refuse to play their games. We need to look at the decisions we’re about to make and base them on the merits of the program or activity.
Some practical things you can do:
When someone says to you, “It would be really great idea if you’d…….:” kindly suggest to them that if it is such a great idea, perhaps they should do it!
When someone presents you an opportunity, be firm and ask them, “Just what are the responsibilities I'm assuming?
Be honest when you want to say no. If you do not have the time, the interest, or the energy; don't be afraid to reject their offer. “Sorry, if I take this on, that will leave me less time to spend with my children in the evening.”
There is an incredible feeling that accompanies saying no to something you don’t want to do. You feel as though you've escaped the limitations of a prison cell. When I stopped saying yes out of fear of offendinging someone or some other 'lame brain' reason, I discover new wealth. Suddenly, I had more time to do the things that I really wanted to do, anyway.
5. Recognize that you will make mistakes. Sometimes we don't want to do anything because we don't know if it's right or wrong, so we hesitate to just say yes or no. My son has a favorite word, ‘chill’. When I'm under stress or feeling a lot of pressure, he'll say, “Just ‘chill’, dad; it'll be okay.”
I have made a number of business decisions in life that turned out well, and some that were absolute disasters. Fortunately I learned from the bad ones, and that helped me make some really good ones.
It has been said that we make choices, and then, the choices make us! Take the time to make sure your choices are good ones.