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Part I - How you spend your time is how spend your life

5 months of my time from 2017 tracked using Now Then

I once heard that if you really want to know a person, find out how they spend their time and how they spend their money.

As a leader, where and how you spend time and money is critical. It not only informs and shapes your personal focus, but it models to others the values and goals of the enterprise.

For serious leaders, this a major area for attention.

We could even say that how we spend our time and money is how we will spend our life. It is really that simple. Of course, we must recognize the many powerful forces trying to get our time, our attention, and our money. A cat YouTube video or tender gossip or news feed or addiction can break into our dreams and kill them just by stealing the one thing we can never get back: our time.

Image credit: NPR; the eclipse of 2017

Since we are beginning a new year, it is a good time to take personal inventory, asking ourselves two questions:

  • How am I spending my time?

  • How am I spending my money?

Today, we will begin with time and take a few days to explore this important topic. This will help us use our time well in 2018.

How do I spend my time?

I am not the kind of person to obsess over personal metrics and technology. The whole "Digital Me" thing is neither an interest or something I would even understand.

But one of my personal core values is integrity. I needed to know if how I spend my time is aligned with my values. So many years ago I started using an app called Now Then. It makes tracking your time very easy. (This is certainly not an advertisement for them, just a brief explanation of what I use and how the above graphic was generated)

You can look at your time spent by day, week, month, or year. You can create no end of categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories.

Analyzing My Time Data (see graphic above)

I spend the most time in "Home" activities which could include anything from quiet evenings at home to attending one of my teen's events or a date with my wife. It also includes home improvement projects and chores. And entertainment, like going to a movie as a couple or family, is captured here.

This looks right. I have made family a priority. I have personal commitment for a weekly date with my wife JoAnn. This is usually a Friday lunch. Sometimes we miss but not often. Missing too many leads distant hearts and lives which is a cauldron for pettiness and short-tempers (although JoAnn does fine). And for 10 years I had weekly "dates" with my kids. I have a boy and a girl (now young man and young woman). The time was filled with wrestling, video games, dolls, dancing and making really goofy videos. Now they are teens and the regular time together has morphed but remains.

I was shocked how much time Sleep takes up. My family tells me I don't sleep enough. Good to have data to shut down that argument!

Sleep is fundamental and in what I have recently read about learning, sleep is where new knowledge is consolidated and organized. For athletes, sleep is when the body recovers, muscles and ligaments are refreshed. Usain Bolt said: “Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body." And Lebron James is said to sleep 12 hours a night (Fatigue Science, 2013). Sleep! You are in good company.

Work comes in at third place. That seems right and not surprising. I work hard and some long hours and odd times occasionally. But it still stays in its place: third.

I have work sub-divided so I know, for example, how much time I am spending on value-producing work versus administrative activities. Or how much time I spend on certain projects or with certain clients. I had one project this past year that took 2-3 times as much time as I expected. There is a wealth of good information here.

Health, Personal Development and is where the magic happens. These hours are more discretionary. We spend time at home, sleeping and working. We might think about this like fixed time costs. Like fixed costs for a project or a business, these costs exists no matter what. But then we have variable or discretionary time costs. We have what is leftover. This is where the future is won--and lost.

This is where the reading, the self-education, the physical exercise, the time at church, temple, and in spiritual growth come into play. This is the long walks, the time with your mentor, the time with your counselor, and the time acquiring new skills and knowledge.

Tomorrow, I will describe what is inside each of these categories.

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