Everything you want to accomplish in life requires an investment of your time, so when you want to improve your results, you must consider the fact that your supply of time is limited.
Even in this era of innovation and technological advancement, time, more than any other resource, is the limiting factor. Let’s face it, everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. Even more vexing is the fact that the supply of time is completely inelastic. No matter the magnitude of demand, the supply is fixed. Moreover, it’s perishable. And yet, time is perhaps the most squandered of all personal resources.
To become great, you must choose to allocate your time to your greatest opportunities. You will have to choose to spend time on the difficult things that create your biggest payoffs. To be great, you will need to live with intention. This will require you to be clear on what matters most, and then to have the courage to say no to things that distract you. You will need to guard your time intensely, delegating or eliminating everything possible that does not help you advance your goals.
To be your best, you must intentionally align your time and activities with your strengths and your unique capabilities. When you do, you will also experience a new and ever-increasing level of performance and satisfaction. To achieve this level of performance will require that you carve out time for the strategic—those actions that are important, but not necessarily urgent. Strategic activities don’t typically have an immediate payback, yet they create substantial returns in the future. To stay focused on your strengths, you will need to manage your interruptions and keep the low-payoff activities to a minimum.
In spite of the priceless value of time, many people engage each day on its own terms. In other words, they satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented; spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving much thought to the relative value of the activity. This is a reactive approach in which the day is controlling you, thus preventing you from performing at your best.
The key to successful time use—intentional time use—is not trying to eliminate these unplanned interruptions, but instead to block out regular time each week dedicated to the strategically important tasks. We call this Performance Time and find that it is the best approach to effectively allocating time that we have ever encountered. Performance Time is an easy-to-use system that allows you to operate like the CEO of your business and life by spending your most valuable asset—your time—with intention. It utilizes a simple time-blocking system to regain control of your day and maximize your effectiveness.
There are three primary components of Performance Time: strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks.
STRATEGIC BLOCK — A Strategic Block is a 3-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled in advance. During these blocks you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no emails, no visitors—no mental interruptions. You focus all your energies on the preplanned items—the strategic and money-making activities. Doing so concentrates your intellect and creativity and produces breakthrough results. You will be astounded by the quantity and quality of the work you produce. For most people, one strategic block per week is sufficient.
BUFFER BLOCK — Buffer Blocks are created to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day. Almost nothing is more unproductive and frustrating than dealing with constant interruptions, yet we’ve all had days when unplanned items dominated our time.
A Buffer Block allows you to take what would otherwise be inefficient activity and make it more productive by grouping it together. In this way you can handle each item expeditiously and move through the list with some momentum. This allows you to stay focused throughout the day on the important activities.
For some, one 30-minute buffer block a day is sufficient, while for others, two separate one-hour blocks may be necessary. The power of buffer blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive so that you can increase your efficiency in dealing with them and take greater control over the rest of your day.
BREAKOUT BLOCK — One of the key factors contributing to performance plateaus is the absence of free time. So often, entrepreneurs and professionals get caught up in working longer and harder. This approach is an energy and enthusiasm killer. To achieve greater results, what’s necessary is not more hours. On the contrary—often it is more free time.
A Breakout Block is a minimum 3-hour block of scheduled time that is devoid of any work-related activities and thoughts. It is time set aside to rejuvenate and replenish. Use this time for fun. Enjoy the hobbies in your life. Spend time with family and friends. Play golf. Go shopping. Get some exercise. Go fishing, or sailing…whatever you like to do that is non-work-related. You need this time to rebuild your reserves and to open yourself up to fresh ideas and perspectives.
Benjamin Franklin said, “If we take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.”
Everything that we achieve in life happens in the context of time. The reality is that if you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance. While it’s true that we control our actions and not our outcomes, our results are created by our actions. It stands to reason that the actions that we choose to take throughout our day, ultimately determine our destiny.
To realize your potential, you must learn to be more mindful about how you spend your time. Living with clear intention goes against the powerful natural tendency to be reactive because it requires you to organize your life around your priorities and consciously choose those activities that align with your goals and vision. When you use your time intentionally, you waste less of it and spend more of it on your high-value actions. Intentionality is your secret weapon in your war on mediocrity.
The key to successful time use is not necessarily in eliminating unplanned interruptions but in regularly blocking out time for the important activities. Just gaining control over a few hours each week often has a dramatic effect. Learn to use your time with greater intention and you will not only be more effective, but you will also feel a greater sense of control, less stress, and increased confidence. Try Time Blocking, it works!