The Way we Spend our Time Defines who we Are: Time Management

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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How would you like to spend your time?

Each of us has our own aspirations and goals. If you’ve decided to pick up a time management book, then perhaps you feel that you’re not spending your time in a way you’d like to. By now, you’ve started your time management journey by understanding your weekly routine. This is crucial because you need to know where you’re spending your time. The next step is to determine whether your current approach is the perfect one, or if it could perhaps be improved.

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To do this, take the list you’ve already created. Now, try to mark each item on the list with an “I” for important and an “N” for non-important. As you can see, the proposed division adheres to a “black and white” approach. Each activity can be either important or not; there’s no place for grey areas. Although this approach may seem a bit unfair, it is done intentionally. You need to clearly flag which time effort brings you real value and which does not.

Important things.

Going through each activity and assigning value codes for each can be a challenging task. When I did it myself, in many areas, I was unsure what to do. For instance, the work I was doing back then was not particularly engaging. At the same time, I knew it was an important part of my life. Firstly, it was how I provided for my family. Secondly, I understood it was part of my career development, a step in the right direction. For those and other reasons, I was inclined to label that time and effort as ‘important.’ However, although it made some sense, it wouldn’t be a fair decision. Professionally, I wanted to shift my focus to Continuous Improvement and Personal Development. My job at the time was not significantly connected to these areas. Thus, I decided to categorize it as ‘non-important’ and find the time for development in my areas of interest.

The above example shows how important it is to have a ‘black and white’ approach. Also, you can see how challenging this task may be if you adopt a truly honest approach. To make it a bit easier, you can find some example questions below. Each time you are unsure whether you should categorize a task as ‘I’ (Important) or ‘N’ (Non-Important), try to use these:

1. Does this activity give you true satisfaction? 2. Which activity would you prefer to start your day with? 3. If you had to remove one activity from your schedule, which one would it be? 4. What would you like to continue doing in five years’ time? 5. Imagine you are a week or a month from now, how would you assess the time you are planning to spend today? 6. Put yourself in your best friend’s shoes, which activity would you advise yourself to focus on? 7. Imagine you are a week from now speaking with your best friend about what you have done last week. Which activities would you like to share the most? 8. Imagine you have your last three hours before your holiday, how would you like to spend your time? 9. Imagine you are in the last three hours of your holiday, how would you like to spend your time? 10. Imagine you do not have to work for money at all. How would you like to spend your time?

I hope that the above questions will help you to decide what is important for you. I was considering providing some definitions of important things in this book, something akin to activities that bring joy or satisfaction, that get you closer to your goal, etc. However, I realized that this is a topic for another book. It would take a number of pages to describe it properly. Moreover, each person is unique and has different desires and aspirations. For that reason, the only person who truly knows what is important to you is… you! So, go ahead and use the above questions. Choose those that work best for you. Add more to that list to ensure they relate to who you are. Spend some time as well thinking about what’s really important to you. Don’t treat it as a one-off task. Revisit this thought process every few weeks or days. The more confident you are about what you want, the easier it will be for you to use your time effectively. It’s actually an excellent situation if you know what you truly desire and begin your day investing time in it.

Making Your Schedule Important By now, you should have a list of all your weekly activities, sorted by time, effort, and assigned either ‘I’ or ‘N’ to represent whether it is an important item or not. Let’s refer to that as your Time Effort List. Now, you need to create a new one, similar to the previous one, but focusing not on the time and effort, but on the importance. To achieve this, take the list you already have and sort it by importance, so that ‘I’ items will be at the top of the list. If possible, further sort the important items to ensure those activities you value most are at the top. In this way, you should create your Time Importance List.

Once you have both lists, simply compare them. The perfect situation would be if they didn’t differ at all. It would mean that you spend most of your time on things that really matter to you. Nonetheless, if there are any differences, you see a gap you need to work on. Are there any items flagged as ‘Non-important’ quite high on your Time Effort List? If so, that is definitely an area to think about!

Moreover, are there any important activities that you are not currently involved in at all? Are there any new projects you would like to engage in in the near future? These can be business initiatives, but also smaller activities: a new book you would like to read, new training you want to start, weekend hobby time, or frequent contact with someone close to you. Regardless of what it is, make sure you add that to the list. For these new items, follow the same routine: add them to your current weekly time effort (even if it’s currently zero), and mark them as either ‘I’ or ‘N’. Also, make sure they are reflected in the Time Importance List as well. If you have such items on which you do not spend any time at all, then the gap between the two lists will be even greater. Thus, you will clearly see the area where you should begin your efforts.

Finally, make it a habit to review that list every few weeks. Update it if you feel you’ve made changes in the way you use your time, regardless of whether these are bad or good changes. This will help you stay aware of your time routine.

A very simple rule I would encourage you to follow is: do important things first. In that way, even if you do not invest most of your time in important items, you can make sure key things are done. Then, it is worth thinking about how you can spend more time in important areas and get rid of items you flagged as ‘N’ (Non-Important).

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The Way We Spend Our Time Defines Who We Are: Time Management. (2022, Aug 20). Retrieved from