Finding 30 Minutes Of "It" Time

An activity in my Making It Happen training sessions is to have participants identify the reasons why they aren't working on their "Its" or Important Things in their workday. The most frequent reasons given are that they can't find the time in their day with all the responsibilities they already have or the It just seems overwhelming because of its complexity.

The next step is to have them determine how much time they would like to have to work on this It on a consistent basis. The most common response is 30 minutes. We then work on breaking the task into segments that would each take about 30 minutes to complete. "Now comes the hard part," they say. "Finding that 30 minutes." My response is, "Let's do the math."

There are so many ways to create a 30 minute (or longer) chunk of time to focus on our highest priorities during your workday. We don't often see the possibilities because we aren't disciplined enough to manage our time with the other tasks in our day that take a few minutes here and there. They might include:

  • Checking email multiple times per day. Time yourself when you check your email. Just reading a few emails takes 5-7 minutes. If you limit the number of times you check your email, you could easily save 10 minutes. You might also want to rethink how you manage your emails.
  • Conversations with coworkers. Relationships are important, but we sometimes lose track of time talking with others. Before you engage in conversation with them, decide what subject(s) you will talk about, and then wrap up the conversation until later. Don't be afraid to tell the coworker that you need to get to work on your It. They should be working on theirs too. A conservative estimate of time saved is 10 minutes, depending on how many conversations you typically have each day.
  • Time at the end of the day. Most of us are mentally spent by the end of the day, and don't want to engage in being creative or be a problem solver. We check email (again), surf the Internet, or check social media. Try using this time to identify files, materials, and data that might be needed when you work on tomorrow's most Important Thing. This way you aren't wasting quality time looking for that information tomorrow. Potential time saved...10 minutes.
  • Redundancy of activity. If you were running errands, you wouldn't go to the grocery store, get two items, head to the hardware store, get an item, and then head back to the grocery store for more stuff. Think of your tasks in the same way. If they require logging into a company site, think of all the tasks you need to do while there. If several tasks require you to be away from your desk, try and do them in one trip. If you need to talk to several different coworkers, make every effort to group them in one afternoon or as close as possible. Minimum time saved should be 10-15 minutes.
  • Failure to delegate. Even if the task would save you 5 minutes, that's an additional 5 minutes you could devote to something of higher importance. The savings here varies by level of task delegated, but certainly 10-15 minutes is not an exaggerated possibility.
  • Social media. Need I say more? Try to limit checking updates and posts to lunch and breaks. At a minimum you could save 5-10 minutes.
  • Lack of rest. How much time did you use inefficiently because you didn't have the appropriate physical or mental energy? And how about breaks during the day? Sometimes its better to stop pushing yourself through a task and instead take a quick break to replenish your resources. Time saved... 10-15 minutes.
  • Lack of planning. Do you find yourself frequently thinking about what you ought to be focusing on? Each time you stop, you have a greater tendency to let your mind encourage you to engage in less than optimal activities. Develop a comprehensive yet flexible plan for your day that keeps your mind engaged. Five minutes is a minimum that could be saved here.

As you can see, finding the 30 minutes to work on It shouldn't be an issue. It just requires you to be more disciplined and have a greater sense of urgency with how you execute the rest of your day around it... your most Important Thing.

How could you streamline your day to find the 30 minutes you need to work on your most "Important Things?"