All too often, you hear folks saying: “I wish I had more hours in a day.” We complain about not having enough hours to work. Not enough time to spend with our loved ones. Even finding a little slot to sit still and eat something nutritious seems to be a challenge. Fitting in time to exercise is almost impossible. We believe we would accomplish so much more if we were given just a little more time.
After analyzing over 3 million minutes of time-activity data from over 200 people, we realized one fundamental issue: the majority of the plans we make are focused around what we have to do. This translates to prioritizing work responsibilities over all else because they carry immediate short term consequences for not showing up. For example, meeting with a potential client, going to work, presenting a proposal. In your agenda, you will mainly find your “have to do” activities listed. While there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with this, it is often at the expense of your other to-dos, which are equally important for your productivity, health, and well-being.
If what you have to do has short term consequences, what you need to do has long term consequences. These activities are often connected to your health and well-being, activities related to sleep, exercise, relationships, meditation/devotion, self-care, etc. Allocating time for these activities in your agenda will increase your chances of actually doing them while benefitting from their positive effects, which will increase the quality of all your other enterprises. For example, cultivating meaningful personal relationships through your work can aid future business transactions, thereby saving you hours of research and execution. Sleeping 7+ hours per day has been found to increase cognitive performance. It’s a domino effect.
When planning, we often overlook the activities that must be done for others to occur effectively. These must-do activities are essential in our everyday lives. If you have a 9 to 5, you likely commute to the office if you don’t have remote work. That requires valuable time, sometimes as much as 2-3hrs a day, depending on the distance between home and work and the mode of transportation you use. Other activities like cooking, cleaning, eating, grooming, laundry, etc. all take time but must be done consistently. We usually don’t plan with these activities in mind but end up doing them. Eventually, we wonder where all our time went.
Apart from working and self-care, there is one more category of activities that make life fulfilling: recreational activities. These are the want to do activities. There is no obligation attached to doing them; they simply bring you joy. These are activities like going to a movie or a concert, traveling, playing in a rec hockey league, whatever your heart desires.
24 hours isn’t enough for you because you haven’t intentionally accounted for all your activities and prioritize them accordingly. We need to start treating time as we do money. We need to start viewing time as a limited resource. In this way, we will become more mindful of all the activities that require our valuable time: have to do, need to do, must do and want to do. Once we have figured this out, we can begin to allocate our time more effectively, as we (hopefully) do with our financial budgets. Doing this will ensure that we find creative ways to maximize our limited time resources, and accomplish all activities within 24 hours.