How busy are you really Part 2
How are you spending your time?
How busy are you really Part 2
I have previously written an article titled ‘How busy are you really?’ which struck a cord with a number of members who I’ve chatted to about it. But one of them was saying that time was an abstract concept and hard to pin down. The resulting conversation clarified things for her, so I’m going to share this conversation and my thoughts with you here.
For me time and money are very similar. They can both slip through our hands without us really realising where they have gone, and we can make all sorts of excuses about what’s happened when we look back.
But get to be the master of them and the world is your oyster.
Now if you feel the same way as Helen did (who I was talking to about last months article) about time being abstract, let me tell you why I think time is just like money (or at least similar enough for it be useful to look at it closely) and how getting to grips with managing money can help us see how to manage time in the same way.
A few years ago I became a ‘Christians Against Poverty’ (CAP) Money coach. If you haven’t heard of CAP they’re an amazing organisation and well worth looking up. As a money coach you teach people about managing money – and these can be people with no money who are in debt, people with low incomes or people with lots of money. The amount of money really is irrelevant – it’s the principles that are important and correctly and faithfully applied literally transform lives.
In a nutshell you work out how much money you have coming in every month from all sources. So you’d include employment income, benefits, pensions, gifts etc. That gives you a figure. Then you work out what your expenses are. These fall into things that you absolutely have to cover like food, rent and bills for example and things you’d like to cover (like newspapers, clothes, holidays). You total all your expenses up (having looked at your actual spending in detail) and if your expenses are more than your income then you work out what you’re going to do. CAP uses the phrases ‘cut out’ or ‘cut down’. For example can you cut out/cut down on ‘expensive’ fast food or take aways/cigarettes or petrol on unnecessary journeys?
What’s fascinating is that everyone who comes on the course thinks they know all about their spending habits (because they generally think they have no money to spend!), but when they sit down and actually analyse where they ARE spending their money and then they THINK about where they actually WANT to spend their money, all sorts of things are brought into sharp focus that they hadn’t seen before. You can only really see this by doing all the exercises that are part of the course but believe me amazing things happen.
What often happens is that when people plan ahead using a budget – and they stick to it (which CAP has ways of very effectively helping people do), things that they never thought they could afford, they then can afford. Truly I have seen people in debt changing their lives around and manage to afford to go on holiday for the first time. It’s all about planning and focus. And most importantly deciding IN ADVANCE where to spend money rather than spending it haphazardly with no plan.
As one of my Mastermind group reiterated to me: “Where your focus goes your energy flows”
And that’s where the comparison of money and time is so apt.
OK so time isn’t a physical commodity like cash -ie pound notes and coins, but the principle of planning IN ADVANCE how you intend to spend it is exactly the same.
Firstly you can keep a diary of how you are spending your time. Look back over say last week and map out how you spent each morning, afternoon and evening.
Now going back to my last article, write down a list of your priorities in life, things you’re wanting to achieve or do. You might have things like ‘learn an instrument, spend more time with my family, find a new relationship, get involved at church etc. It’s your life and whatever you choose to do is your choice.
Thinking through your priorities is a really useful exercise to do as I said in the last article.
Now allocate your time to these things in the order of your priorities.
Plan the week coming up based on these priorities – write it down in your diary – make block bookings for yourself if you like.
Perhaps your priority is to spend more time with your family. You look back at last week and see you only spent 2 hours with them one afternoon. You’d like to spend more time than this. You can do it if you plan it in. Something else might have to give way but that is what you’re deciding up front.
If you do this – i.e. the planning in advance – you’ll be amazed at how the way you spend your time fits more closely to your aims and desires, rather than your being pulled this way and that by others people’s demands or things you like doing but aren’t necessarily your priorities.
Now suddenly time isn’t an abstract concept. How you use it can be blocked into your diary and you can control it.
Before Helen did this exercise, she found that sometimes when she’d hoped to spend Saturdays doing things for herself (like going out socially to increase her opportunities to meet men) often her clients would ring up and ask for last minute appointments (she’s a self employed health professional) which she’d find hard to say no to.
Now if on her list of priorities finding a relationship comes higher than increasing her income that month – it’s much easier for her to say No to that client because she knows she’s booked her Saturday out for her own social activity. She’s planned it in advance and knows where she’s going.
So here’s my challenge for you this month. Spend some time working out your priorities for this month or this year. Then take a look at how you spend your time last week and last month. And then plan ahead for next week and next month.
I presume you’ll put some time aside for finding a relationship (otherwise I guess you wouldn’t be a member of friends1st or be reading this magazine) – but you get to decide where that fits on your list of priorities and how much time you’re going to devote to it.
Like with money – it’s yours to control – and you can do just that!