Exploring three essential keys to successful time management

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We recently wrapped up our leadership series called “Mere Leadership” and we really appreciate the positive feedback that we received. One of the practical questions I’ve been asked as a follow up to the leadership series is how to be a better manager of time. We regularly share ideas on how to be a better manager of money – but I think its good to pause and talk about how to be a better manager of time, because time is even harder to manage. The reason I say that is because you can make more money, but you can’t make more time. From the day we are born we are constantly making withdrawals from our time account. The greatest challenge with time management is that we don’t know how much of it we have. None of us know how long our runway is, so it is incumbent upon us to manage time in a way that makes the most of every minute. So we’re going to launch a new series on time management that we will sprinkle in with our regular economic updates. We hope and pray that it will be helpful for you as you seek to be a good steward of your time.

We’re going to share some essential truths about time:

1. Time is a non-renewable resource – You will never have enough time to do all the things that you want. If you realize this on the front end, it can help you come into the day with realistic expectations. Day after day we seem to think we can fit everything in that we want to do. But each day is like a closet full of shelves – there is only so much you can fit into it. We cannot suspend time and we cannot extend it. Each day has 24 hours in it, whether you are wealthy or poor – whether you are old or young. In that sense, we are all on equal footing. So if there is never enough time to do all the things that we want, you and I are going to have to decide how to use this limited commodity called time well. We will not be able to do everything that we want – so we are going to have to make some choices.

2. Time is meant to be invested wisely. Just as you try to invest your money to provide a great return, so also you want to invest your time in ways that will provide the highest return possible. Is your use of time yielding personal fulfillment? To answer that question, you have to ask yourself what fulfills you in the first place? Everyone will answer this question a little differently, but it is important to decide what a good use of time is. Then you can evaluate whether the way you’ve spent your time is leading to fulfillment, or whether it is distracting you from truly good things. I’ll give you an example: my family loves to watch the UT Vols play. And this football season, for the first time in a decade or two, we’re really enjoying watching them play. Now for my wife and kids, spending four hours in front of the TV together watching the Vols play Alabama is a fulfilling use of our time. We love getting to know the players each year. We love the pageantry of SEC football. And we certainly love watching the program get better. More than all of that, we love spending the time together as a family, talking about this play or that player, having a contest to predict the score, and speculating on how good we’re really going to be this year. Some of you would hate to spend four hours of your Saturday watching the Vols, or maybe four hours watching any sport for that matter. We all value different things, so the question we must ask is whether our investment of time is yielding fulfillment.

Develop the habit of asking yourself with each task that you are doing, “Is this important that I do this? If the answer is yes, do it with all your heart. If the answer is no, then dump it and move on to something that is important. If we are not mindful of the limited nature of time and the importance of using it well, we may spend an hour on social media in a given day and then complain that we didn’t have enough time to get more important things done on our to-do list. In that example, the reality is that we had the time, we just didn’t invest it wisely. If you want to invest an hour into social media and would classify that as important, that’s fine, But making time for that is going to limit time for other things. So again, train yourself to ask, “is this worth doing?” If not, take it off your to-do list. Life is too short to waste time, so decide how you want to invest it.

3. Time unfolds in moments. We are finite and limited creatures. We cannot travel across time. So, we are subject to asking ourselves throughout the day, “what am I going to do with the next moment?” Sometimes we think about this consciously, and at other times we just act without thinking. We can’t jump ahead to tonight’s moment, nor go back to this morning’s moment. If you take nothing else from today’s episode, train yourself to ask the question, “what is the next important thing I need to do?”. You may have a to do list with a hundred important things on it – but you can only choose the next one thing that you will do.  You cannot accomplish 10 of those things at once. I believe that human beings can only do one thing well at a time. So in some ways, each day is a time triage – you are looking at all the needs and desires of the day, and having to determine which one gets your attention. Which one gets done next?

This leads us to the concept of urgency. We are often guilty of making things urgent that really aren’t and of not giving legitimately urgent things the attention they are due. You might say we have an urgency disorder. In light of this difficulty of appropriately assigning urgency, how should we try and attack our to-do lists? Well, If you’ve decided that there are a dozen legitimately important things you need to do today, look for any clear deadlines, then hit those first. This might include bills that must be paid, or things that will have a high cost if you wait or a high reward if you act quick. But the reality is that very few things are truly urgent. I would encourage you to define urgent as something that needs to be done in the next 24 hours. I think the bulk of our to-do list would instead be classified as time sensitive – aka they need to be done in the next week or maybe the next month. There is a difference between urgent and time sensitive. And knowing this difference can help save you a lot of unnecessary anxiety. So make sure the truly urgent items are separated from the time sensitive items. If you look over the list and nothing rises to the surface as urgent, then just hit the oldest item first and work through your list that way. Getting a stale item off your to-do list can give you more sense of accomplishment than something that you just added today. And there are a host of tools to capture your to-do items. Microsoft To-Do, Apple Reminders, and Todoist are all online tools you can use to jot things down as you think of them. But even using a paper and pencil, if you are consistent in rolling undone items to the next day, can help you capture and then organize the things that are worth doing and the order in which you will do them. In summary, developing the ability to triage time can help do the next thing well, and then the one after that, and so on and so on. Well, if you haven’t noticed at MBC and Foundation Bank we love cultivating a stewardship mindset.

We want to help you be a good manager of the things entrusted to your care. This means if you come to us for your next home loan, we want to be a partner as we walk you through what can be an intimidating process. It means if you come and open a Foundation Benefits account with us, we want to provide benefits that will help you stretch your dollar further. And it also means that if you need help with your small business, we’ll come along side you to help you manage your business well. If you’ve never done business with us, we ask you to give us a shot to earn your loyalty. Visit our website at foundationbank.org. We also have more truths about time that we look forward to sharing in future podcast episodes.

If you’ve found this podcast helpful, we hope you’ll subscribe in your favorite podcast app and share with your friends on social media. Please remember this podcast is not a recommendation specific to your circumstances. You’ll need to consult your own trusted advisor for financial advice. Foundation Bank is member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender and until next time, God bless you.

Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of McKenzie Banking Company / Foundation Bank on October 18, 2022. This episode does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a financial professional to discuss your specific needs. MBC/Foundation Bank is an Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC.