Following my recent post about The Bank of Time, Matt Williams posted the comment:

Yea, but who has 30 minutes to watch a talk on time management?

While Matt was being sarcastic his comment has a lot of backstory that I want to explore for a few minutes. I used to be one of those folks who always struggled to find the time to do the things I needed to do. I'd make excuses. I'd carry a bad attitude about the many things that weren't getting done. I'd overcommit and struggle to deliver. You see, I lacked an element of focus in my life. I opened myself up to anyone and everyone who wanted or needed something from and me and I genuinely wanted to accommodate them all.

I wasn't taking the time, to take the time.

My lack of focus was a result of running wildly through life hoping to accomplish more than was humanly possible. It wasn't until everything started falling apart that I realized I couldn't afford to not take the time to learn how to manage all the things that attempted to get my time and attention. Borrowing a bit from Merlin Mann, think of all the people or things that have the ability to get your attention right now. Who can pick up the phone and call you and you'll answer? Does your boss fit into this category? Your parents or children? What about your computer? Does your email program alert you to new emails when they arrive and is it checking for emails every single minute of the day? What about your instant messenger program, is it alerting you when people log in or log off? What about twitter, are you running TweetDeck with notifications turned on?

All of these things have the ability to jump right in your face, all day long and distract you from focusing on what's important. Sure email is important but how many responses do you really need to provide within 60 seconds of receiving the initial message? In todays world where everything is immediate you can't afford to turn on all the channels and listen. You have to take inventory of what and who can get your time and attention and learn to manage them effectively. What's important is what's important right now. Forget about the rest, it'll be there when you're ready.

In order to get this level of clarity you have to take the time to take the time. Watch that 30 minute video on time and attention and learn from it. Read a few books on how to get things done and apply the principles.

And when the world starts pounding on your door, learn how to prioritize, learn how to say no and optimize your time, attention and results. You are important and so is your work, so start acting like it.

To end this post I'll leave you with a quote I have on the outside of my office door. I can't recall if I made this up or if I actually found this somewhere, but I've been saying this for a few years.

If you don't have the time to do it right, how will you find the time to do it over?

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on January 5, 2009 at 8:30 AM. It was filed in the following categories: Productivity, Personal. It has been viewed 5560 times and has 3 comments.

3 Responses to Take the time, to take the time

  1. Excellent points, and I love that last quote. I think I'll borrow it!
    Just like it takes money to make money, so it goes with time. Books like Getting Things Done (and the newer 'Ready for Anything' by the same author, on my desk now ready to be cracked open as soon as I have time) have helped me see that the only way through the massive tangle of things to do, see, read, respond to and think about is one.. at... at .... time.......

    The hardest part for me personally is ignoring the clamoring voices of the impatient crowd in the waiting room, but like a good doctor, when you have my attention you deserve to have it all, even if it means everybody has to wait a bit longer for their own turn in the chair.

    Another recent good book along these lines was "juggling elephants", which uses a simple circus and ringmaster metaphor to make a number of good points. The one that's stuck with me most - The ringmaster can only be in one ring at a time!

  2. Thanks for the follow-up Aaron. For me, I really don't think I have anything to complain about. My day job is very straight forward about no after hours work (what a blessing!). Outside of that I am involved in a couple of contract projects. Then it comes down to family time, errands, chores and things I want to do such as read blogs, watch movies/TV, play the Wii, exercise, etc.

    I will try to make time to watch that talk. I know I could use some help on figuring out how to best use my 5 evenings and 2 weekend days.

  3. First, I love the phrase "take the time to take the time". Second, you're right, "No" becomes a very powerful word when people learn how to respect and use it. Thanks for the post.