For many of us writing is not a full time job – yet. We can dream. Until the day we are ‘discovered’ w e have to pay the Government, feed the kids and help pay many, many, many other peoples’ mortgages. I suspect you find, like me, there is never enough time to write. Life is taken up with all those ‘things that get in the way’. Writing is shoved in between cleaning the bathroom and mending the brakes on the car. You wonder where the time went as you look back on most days and realise that you’ve achieved nothing. Maybe it’s time to see if you can manage your time a little more effectively. I know. I know. Time management is usually so boring with activity logs, timesheets time logs, Time Tac, Toggl and Time Tiger. This is different – it’s free. It’s about you and determining what is important to you.
Try this exercise. Imagine it’s ten years in the future. You find yourself in a church at your own funeral. One by one people you know get up and talk about you and your contribution to the world. What are they going to say ? What will your partner, your kids, your colleagues say ? I can bet all the money in my pocket they won’t be like Mr Burns when he thought he was dying announcing, “I just wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
Ask yourself this question – “How would I like to be remembered ?” What would you like those who care about you, and you care about, to say ? What would you want to leave behind you? You need time to think about this. Once you’ve really got this big picture sorted you can move on.
The next step is an exercise from Stephen Covey. It’s known as ‘Stephen Covey’s Big Rocks’-
Imagine a bucket. Put three or four big rocks in.
“Is the bucket full ? ” I ask.
“No” you reply.
“Of course not” I say and put some smaller rocks in it to fill in the gaps.
“Full now ? ”
“No”. I put in some sand. Then I add some water. It’s full.
So, what’s the learning here ? It’s to do with the order. What would happen if I’d reversed the order ? What if I’d put the water in first, then the sand, then the small rocks. There would be no room for the big rocks. These big rocks are the important things in your life. You need to schedule them first, not try to squeeze them in after arranging the water ( writing pointless reports ), sand ( unnecessary travel ) or small rocks ( staff meetings where no-one listens and everyone looks at the clock ).
What are the big rocks in your life ? For many it’s things like family, time to watch the children grow up, time to finish that novel, time for themselves, time to make a difference. You decide. You identify 3 or 4 things you believe are important. The 3 or 4 things that will make a difference at your funeral.
When you’ve decided what they are then schedule them. Schedule time for yourself, time to take that creative writing class, time to spend a week with the children at half term. Once these times are scheduled, fit the rest of your work around them.
It’s not big and it’s not clever to work more than forty hours a week. I repeat, it’s not big and it’s not clever. So stop it. Stop that ‘poor me, look how many hours I work’ nonsense. Work as little as you can. Do as much as you can in the time agreed, but once you’ve done – run away – go home. The surprise will be how little people miss you. It may be hard at first to realise the world of work can carry on without you but give it time. This feeling will be replaced by one of immense joy. “I’m dispensable !” This will give you enormous freedom.
But never forget the big picture. Why save 30 minutes by delegating some work when ‘re only going to spend it playing online poker. (Well, that’s the theory, but maybe becoming an online poker millionaire is one of your big rocks?).
Remember you can’t save time – you’ve only got so much. You know that. So, what do you want to be remembered for ?
You can get the ‘Essential Management Skills’ Kindle book here