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Time Management: Where Did Your Time Go?
As this podcast has evolved, we find ourselves discussing more than just the stewardship of money. There are many other things that we steward, and time is one of those things. Time is even more precious than money – and yet we think nothing of frittering away an hour here or an hour there. In light of my own conviction about the precious nature of time, and also in light of encouragement from listeners to discuss the topic, this episode is going to be part 2 in a series dedicated to faithful time management. In the episode on October 17th, we talked about 4 time management truths. Today we’re going to discuss another 4 of those truths.
Time is unpredictable
In our last time management podcast one of the truths I mentioned is that time can be scheduled. But time also often exceeds the limits of our schedules. Earlier in my career I realized that I could get more done if I blocked off time on my calendar to attend to the important things of the day. So, when I first started trying to schedule my days, I tried to account for what I would be doing with every single minute. But I soon found that meetings that were scheduled to be 30 minutes sometimes went 35 minutes. I also found that inbound phone calls from clients and questions from my teammates that I couldn’t see coming in advance and threw me off my schedule. When those surprises happened, I had two options: 1. Be rigid about the length of my meetings, cutting agendas or conversations short, even if we weren’t finished. Or 2. build a buffer into my schedule. So now, when I’m scheduling my day, I leave two hours unscheduled. This leaves time available for those surprising things that come up that are important and urgent. Just like it is wise to have an emergency fund for your finances for the unexpected, you need a buffer for the unexpected and the unplanned when scheduling your time. To put this into everyday examples: If you think the drive to the airport is going to take two hours, allow two and a half. If you think a very important meeting will take thirty minutes, leave enough time for 45. You can use the 80/20 rule – whatever time you estimate something taking, add 20%, just to be safe. Being realistic about the unpredictability of time spent can reduce your stress dramatically. It can also help you be “all there” when you are meeting with people or “all in when you are working on a project, rather than constantly looking at the clock worrying about the next thing on your calendar.
Time can be evaluated
Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder, “Where did all my time go?” In my profession of banking and financial planning, I often talk with people who ask themselves the question “where did all my money go” and I have a simple answer for them – check your bank statements. Now unless you exclusively use cash, you can see every single transaction you have done with a debit, credit card, or check if you review the statement. The statements don’t lie. We may not like what we see, but transactions are there if you want to evaluate where the money is going. You can do the same thing with time. So, I decided to do a 2-week experiment along these lines. I decided I would keep a time log to see where all of my time was going. When evaluating where my time went, I was shocked at how much time I was spending on email. Not just the total time, but even the time to write or read each individual email. Reviewing my time log was eye opening. I could see every distraction that took me off course for the day. I could see how much time I was spending on my projects, how long I was meeting with people. The log told me that I was not spending my time in ways that would bring the best return consistent with what I valued. That time log exercise was years ago, but it was so helpful that I’m still doing it today. I have a time log that I keep every day that keeps me accountable to using my time in accordance with what I value. If you decide to try this experiment, be sure to be specific. You need to log things with accuracy. I log every individual email that I send, every break that I take throughout the day, every phone call that comes in. The more specific you are, the more enlightening the experiment will be. But it’s not enough to log your time, you need to evaluate it. At the end of the day, I look over my log and ask myself, “Did I invest my time in a way consistent with what I value today?” If the answer is “somewhat” then I look at ways I can do better the next day to stay on task, or areas in which I need to spend less time or more time. Much like coaches watch the film of their team after the big game, your time log is your film of the day. There is much you can learn from it if you will take the time to look. Game film doesn’t lie, and neither will your time log – if you take the time to capture it and to do so accurately. You might reply, I don’t have time to write down everything I’m doing each day. If you make that statement, that might be the very proof that you need to figure out where all of your time is going.
Time to rest is essential
Have you ever taken the Enneagram personality test? If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, it’s a personality test that identifies at your core what motivates you. There are 9 core personality types organized by those motivations, and I test out as a Type 3, which is called the Achiever. I am motivated by achievement. I am fulfilled by accomplishment. So if I’m honest, there are times when I’m so motivated to reach toward the next thing that rest seems like a waste of time. But I must remind myself (and any other Enneagram 3’s for that matter) that rest is essential. We were made as finite creatures. Our strength is limited, and our energy is limited. It is wise to accept our humanness and embrace rest at appropriate times. Practically, this means if I have 3 weeks of vacation every year, I need to actually use that vacation time. Maybe I should take a week here with my family, a week there with a mission trip, and several half days off for the rest. Half vacation days can be powerful, because it gives you time to touch a few important things at work to keep them moving forward, but also time to sleep in or head home after lunch to do some things that you enjoy. Rest not only gives your mind and your body a break, but it rejuvenates you by changing up the pace of life. It offers a break from potential monotony, and opportunity to get out of the rut of unhealthy routine. Some of you listeners may be workaholics and you need to take this to heart. If you redline your engine constantly it’s going to break down sooner than it should. So, take time to rest. Work hard and smart when it’s time to work but play hard and rest smart when it’s time to take a break.
Time offers new days
If you reflect on your day, what happens if you come to the conclusion that it was a train wreck? Maybe you were out of control and didn’t really have a plan. Well if the Lord allows you to wake up tomorrow morning, it’s a brand-new day. You have 365 chances each year to do things differently. That is a host of new opportunities to try again. A few weeks ago, I was disciplining one of my kids for a very poor decision that they made. He was obviously very sorry over his decision and was tearful as he thought about the consequences of it. The following morning as he was going into school, I got down on one knee, looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Son, today is a new day.”. I wanted to communicate that his decisions of yesterday were in the past. Today offered him a new opportunity to look forward. No matter how poorly you think you have managed your time in the past, today offers you a new opportunity to be a better steward. Learn from the mistakes of yesterday and seize the potential of today. You have a decision to make on what you will do with your time once you are done listening to this podcast. Use it well. Let your next decision be better than your last one.
At MBC and Foundation Bank, we know you also have money to steward, and we want to show you how to manage it well. Our Foundation Benefits High Interest checking account is a great way to steward your operating funds, because it offers a great interest rate and includes benefits, such as cell phone protection, credit monitoring, discounts in many of places you do business, and roadside assistance. To find out conditions and terms about our Foundation High Interest checking account visit our accounts page. If you’ve found this podcast helpful personally, we hope you’ll subscribe to it in your favorite podcast app and share it on social media. Until our next Podcast, God bless you.
-President Chad P. Wilson, CFP
Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of McKenzie Banking Company / Foundation Bank on November 29, 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.