168 Hours: Time and Productivity #1

Eternal Clock image created by Mindmatrix, Wikimedia Commons, originally on Flickr, CC

Eternal Clock image created by Mindmatrix, Wikimedia Commons, originally on Flickr, CC

168 hours. This is the length of one week. It is the invariable common ground that every human shares.

How is it some seem to do more in this unwavering time frame than others?

Is it the number of waking hours we each have during a given day? Is it that some have fewer distractions? Is there a magic time-bending formula?

Perhaps it is all of the above. However, experience tells me something different. Through this series, I’d like to share the secrets, tips, and tricks I’ve learned. Ways to make time work in our favor, instead of being an obstacle. See, you knew it was the time-bending formula didn’t you. *smile*

This series will showcase the things I’ve learned that will increase productivity, regardless of available time and limiting interruptions. Below are the first steps I took–I hope you’ll find them useful. One caveat: Limit the time spent on each of the below steps to 15 minutes or less and build momentum step to step–time management is structure that flows with the needs of life.

Personal Math

In order to know how much can be done in a day or week, we first have to know how much time we have available. Knowing yourself is the key. The rest is math:

Daily Available Time = 24 hours – Average Sleep Time – Day Job Time – 2

Why the extra -2? This is personal time. Time to wake up. Time to spend with your kids. Time to do whatever it is we like to do. For me, this is 2 hours; for you it may be different. Whatever amount you need to feel right with life, factor it in.

You’ve likely heard the phrase: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Dull like a knife. Taking a bit of personal time each day sharpens the creative edge and protects against the rust of burnout.

Once we know how much Available Time we have, we can then take a look at the best ways to utilize it.

Life Categories

What are the primary areas of your life? The broad categories that mean the most to you. For me they are: Family, College, Creative Design, Writing, and Blogging/Platform. Notice, I do not list Day Job. This is not to say that our jobs are not a priority, but they are already factored out as an obligation.

Categories will vary from person to person, but whatever they are, be sure you know yours. The focus of this step is to identify the areas of your life that are most important to you and likely to remain so for one year or longer. Write each one at the top of a large index card, sheet of paper, Word Doc–whatever works for you.

Most of us already know these things, so this should be a quick step.

“Family” is time spent with family members, house hold tasks that need to be done, etc. The whole of our responsibilities, needs, and wants as relates to our personal lives. I mention this category alone, because often it will help determine how much personal time each individual needs.

GOT Hierarchy?

Now that we know the important areas of our life, we need to take a look at what we want to accomplish in each. I call this the GOT Hierarchy: Goals Objectives Tasks.

Goals are long range plans. “I want to write a novel.” “I need to save for a new car.” Goals are actions that will take multiple steps and months or years to attain.

Objectives are large steps along the path to reaching a Goal. “I need to do character bio’s for the novel.” “I need to put back $50 a paycheck for the down payment on the new car.” Objectives are actions moving us towards our Goals which can be accomplished in one to four weeks.

Tasks are single steps within an Objective. “I need to do the character bio for Character A.” “I need to write one scene or chapter.” Tasks are actions requiring 15-180 minutes to achieve. If the action needs more than 3 hours (180 minutes) it should likely be an Objective.

Take a few minutes for each Category and determine what long-range Goals you have for each. As with Categories, Goals should be a quick step. Most of us already know what large targets we are aiming for.

Once you know your Goals ask two questions: What big steps do I need to take to reach the Goal? These are the Objectives. Then, what small steps do I need to take to reach each Objective? These are the Tasks. Depending on the person, this step may or may not require a bit of time, however, a bit of time now will save a lot of time in the future.

I know for some, the structure of this method will seem daunting. Do not be discouraged, the small amount of work at the front end will lead to greater flexibility, productivity, and freedom in the long run.

Additionally, this does not have to be a clinical analysis. Put things in terms and levels of detail that work for you. In order for any method of this nature to work, we each must define it in our own terms, and adjust it to our own preferences.

Because I want to keep these posts short to protect your time and mine, I’ll stop at this point. In the next post, we’ll look at how to assign task times & priorities, determine functional schedules for each day and week, and look at a few self-motivational tricks.

Time management can be our greatest friend and ally leading to fulfillment of our dreams. Just like any friend, maintaining and nurturing the relationship takes a bit of time each day and week. I hope you’ll join me as we continue forward.

What did you learn from taking a look at your Personal Math? Did your Life Categories and Goals come easily or take a bit of time to work out? I’d love to chat with you.

Peaceful Journeys.

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. β€œOnly the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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11 Responses to 168 Hours: Time and Productivity #1

  1. Great tips, Gene! Looks like this is going to be a very helpful series. πŸ™‚

  2. Jenny Hansen says:

    Fantastic stuff, Gene! And an excellent way to calculate how you spend your time. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  3. Marcia says:

    Here’s how my time management looks: Goals – Sell house #2 by 11/1/13, Sell house #1 by 6/1/14, Publish a novel by 3/31/14, Vacations – 2/14 and 6/14, Earn extra income with blog’s products and refurbished furniture. My objectives are broken down from there and then the tasks. My categories are Family, Health, Writing, Blogging/Product sales, Creative Pursuits, Playtime. Naturally, for myself, my Goals are more specific. I always have these goals and objectives in my head and weekly I make a list of tasks to accomplish them, but I can see how laying it all out on paper and keeping in constant view would motivate me further. I can schedule my time better when the plan is laid out in front of me.
    Great plan, Gene! I think it can work for me. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Well done, Marcia. Knowing what we want and the steps to get there is a big part of the battle. One thing I’d like to point out (in case anyone is frightened of this first post) is that when we start from a point of structure, we can then move towards a point of flexibility–such as, always keeping things in mind without a need for a hard schedule. Think of it like starting on a solid pier to dive into water; structure to fluid motion. Hopefully as this series moves forward I’ll be able to offer some tips and tricks for even experienced time managers such as yourself. Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Wow, that’s a lot like plotting an outline, which will probably never happen for me. i just wing it and let the creativity roll.

    But, I definitely get what you’re saying. Sometimes it’s easier to “make” the time when you realize how much time you spend doing something less important. Good points.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. Great tips Gene. I love the analogy you mentioned in your reply to Marcia, that visual is going to stick with me.

    I’ve never been a huge goal setter. Oh, I’ve always had long range plans and steps to get there but never anything detailed. Since starting back with a full-time job I’ve realized how even those muscles have atrophied. I’ll definitely be sitting down with your formula! Thank you for sharing.

    But really, where is that necklace time thing Dumbledore gave to Hermione. Or the TARDIS, that would work too πŸ˜€

  6. Breaking down life’s priorities into different categories like you illustrate was one of the first things covered in that 18 Minutes book I blogged about a couple weeks ago. Some of my areas – Family, and Friends/Social – don’t have specific goals, other than to be present/spend time with them, but this helps clarify that, as well as the other areas that do have specific goals. And this is presented a little differently than that book, which focuses on day job stuff more than the personal. Very helpful!

  7. Pingback: ROWing at a Steady Pace | Gene Lempp ~ Writer

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