When I was in my early twenties, I spent a tremendous amount of time trying to “make it” in the world. I sought advice on Time Management, I made to-do list after to-do list, and burned through 5 different calendars and scheduling tools. Yet whenever I stopped to reflect on what I’d accomplished, it seemed as if I was still in the same place I was before, except older.
I found myself constantly wishing for more hours in the day. I couldn’t possibly fit more into the hours I had. I went to school full-time, held down a job 30 hours a week, and was trying to start a business in my spare time. What I didn’t realize then was that my problem wasn’t my time management. I was pretty efficient at fitting lots of stuff into each day. What I lacked was the ability to manage my resources, my focus, and my energy. In short, I had plenty of time, but very little quality time.
“Many people spend their days being busy without first pausing to evaluate which tasks will give the highest return on their time and which tasks are nonessential.” – Forbes Magazine
The first bit of help I got in learning to recognize my time was being filled with nonessential tasks was when one of my mentors at the time looked me square in the eye and said, “Ben, you have the same time in the day as everyone else. You can’t manage it. It’ll do fine with or without you. Manage your energy, not your time.”
In other words: are you investing your energy in the tasks that get you closer to where you want to be? In my early twenties, I had my sights set on learning the skills necessary to lead businesses, and maybe teaching people how to grow. Sounds grand enough. With that in mind, I made a list of all the things I was doing: going to college for a degree in Theatre with a minor in Religion, working with highly aggressive youth with Autism, starting to train new coworkers on how to do the same work, building a stronger relationship with my girlfriend, and hosting a weekly social night with my friends. Those were the main things, along with a host of the small things we all do every day.
In that entire list, only one thing was focused on getting to where I wanted to be: training my coworkers. Is it any wonder I didn’t feel like I was making any progress? Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management, said “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Too often we confuse the two. When life is running smoothly, we are comfortable and its easy to keep sailing along. But achieving our dreams, our hopes and our goals requires trading clean efficiency for powerful effectiveness. Even if its messy.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
Here’s my challenge question for you: If you could put one thing on your schedule tomorrow to get you closer to your future, what would it be and what can get traded to make room for it?