Time: Managing Our Most-Precious Commodity

Our Time is Precious!

Life is precious. Time is precious. It’s honestly the most precious thing that we have -- our time is our life. How we use our time is how we’re using the life that we’re given. With that in mind, we must be deliberate and intentional with how we’re managing our time (life).

We must be realistic with what we can accomplish, though. Knowing that we realistically can accomplish less than most of us estimate, how can we make the most of our precious time without getting frustrated?


Sliding Timelines as a Single: Not a Big Deal

Growing up, I enjoyed working on my car. In college, I owned a sports car and performed all of the maintenance myself. It was nice to know that things were being done the right way. I also enjoyed making improvements to my car here and there.

Life was simpler back then. I mostly ate, slept, exercised, and talked to Franicia on the phone (since she was on the other side of the world), and it wasn’t a big deal if a project took a little longer than planned on the weekend -- no one would be waiting for me.

Sliding Timelines as a Husband and a Daddy: A Bigger Deal

When Franicia and I were newlyweds, we still owned a sports car (a different one). I still enjoyed working on it, but I couldn’t work on it at our apartment so I’d go to a hobby shop. Franicia would ask me how long I’d be. I love spending time with Franicia now and loved spending time with her then so I was motivated to finish my work as quickly as possible. I’d give her a time estimate, but, reliably, my time estimates would be ½ as long as the project would actually take me to finish.

I was being honest, but I was also being overly optimistic. For years, I thought that I was alone in underestimating how long projects would take for me to finish. I’d often be frustrated when I didn’t accomplish all that I wanted to in a day. Because of my frustration, I was often tempted to “wing it” rather than be very deliberate about my time management.

Planning Fallacy -- A Common Problem

It turns out that I’m not alone in overestimating the amount of work that I can do in a given time or underestimating the time that projects that will take to be completed. In 1979 (a good year, by the way), Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky officially gave a name to this -- planning fallacy. Planning fallacy is a “phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time needed.”

Why is planning fallacy a problem? Because most people truly believe that they can accomplish more than they actually can in a given time frame. If you, like me, are prone to planning fallacy, you tend to be frustrated when you plan to accomplish given tasks in a day and fail to do so.

Be Generous with Your Estimates and Gracious to Yourself

I now try to overestimate the time required for a project. Although I don’t miss my estimates as much as I used to now that I estimate generously, when I miss my time estimate, I chalk that up to experience try to laugh about it rather than getting frustrated.

Tips for Your Daily Agenda

  1. Give yourself a maximum of 3 big projects to accomplish in a day: I think of a project as something that is out-of-the-ordinary and not something that I do regularly. Projects will take significant time, energy, and mental effort to accomplish. I’ve found that I rarely have enough time, energy, or mental stamina for more than 3 major projects.

  2. Use task management to save time -- not as a project within itself: Have you ever started writing the things that you need to do then, while you’re thinking about other things that you need to do, start writing the things that you’ve already done? I certainly have done that. I’m not aware of a true benefit to that other than it making me *feel* productive. Write what you need to accomplish, then get to it.

  3. Write things down. This will give you more head space to focus on what’s important. The other night, I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about all the things that I needed to do the next day. Has that ever happened to you? I decided to get out of bed and write down all of the things that I needed to remember the next day. After I put those things down in writing, I knew that I could rest -- I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting them any more. This works during the day too.

  4. Keep first things first: While being productive with our time is important, there’s more to life than accomplishing tasks. Relationships matter. Health matters. Sleep, exercise, community matters. Set aside time for those things that matter in life and don’t lose sight of what’s really important.

Tools That I Use for Managing My Tasks and Projects:

  1. Calendar: I like to use my calendar to block off time both for projects as well as keep track of my priorities. Due to a recommendation from Michael Hyatt  I built an “Ideal Calendar” in my Google Calendar and blocked off time for work, play, family time, etc. I also place my projects and reminders in my calendar. Seeing my time this way helps me keep in mind what is important and how limited my time is each day.

  2. Notepad: I highly recommend that you write the things down that are swirling around in your head. It’s hard to remember everything -- I’ve found that my stress level goes way down when I write the things down that I’m trying to remember. Paper is fine for this, but paper notes can easily get lost. I like to scan my paper notes and save them to Evernote. I also like Google Keep for writing quick notes or to-do lists. Evernote and Google Keep are great too because their cloud services. Even if you lose your phone or computer, your information will still be available.

  3. Trello: Trello is a freemium task/project management service that is modeled after using note cards to manage projects and tasks. I’ve tried a lot of task management services and apps, but this is the one that has been working best for Franicia and me.

  4. StoryBrand Productivity Schedule: My favorite marketing company, StoryBrand, helps businesses clarify their message so that people will listen. They also offer a free productivity schedule worksheet that I use every day. I highly recommend that you take the time necessary (5-10 minutes) each day to carefully consider the things that you want to accomplish. This productivity schedule will guide you through that and even includes instructions.

Life gets busy, and, if we’re not careful, our precious time that we can never get back will slip through our fingers. Let’s resolve to be deliberate about how we spend our time and live with intention. None of us know how much time we have left. Let’s live “all in,” “redeeming the time.”