How to Spend More Time on What's Important to You

A very smart person once said to me, “Diana, show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.” Your calendar shows how you distribute your time across all of the priorities in your world — your “time investment portfolio,” as I call it. Where and how you invest your time is an indication of your priorities. 

Those words of wisdom shaped me, and continue to shape me, as a wife, mom, executive professional, business owner, community leader and, frankly, as a human. Take one or all of these quick tips below and apply them to your own time investment portfolio. You just might find yourself in a more balanced, fulfilled position.

List and rank your priorities

In my world, my priorities consist of God, family, work, friends, community and personal growth, though not necessarily in that order. The rank of my priorities sets the stage for how my time consideration is planned. Your priorities may shift in rank or change altogether depending on the season of your life. What’s important is to keep your priorities in mind when you budget your time.

Pick your time measure

I measure my time in one-week increments. So one week represents 100% of my time, which I then divide into smaller percentages based on my priorities. It makes sense for me because, like many busy women, my schedule can change dramatically from week to week. If I try to prioritize my time further than a week in advance, I find it’s too subject to change and I’ve set myself up for failure.

Proactively and actively manage your portfolio

In financial management, you can either passively or actively manage your portfolio. When managing time, it’s being both proactive and active. Proactive management — budgeting your time in advance — sets you up for success. Active management — holding yourself accountable to achieve the results you expect — ensures you stay the course. If you passively manage your time, you’ll find your schedule managing you, rather than you managing your schedule.

Protect your investment

Like anything of value, your time needs to be guarded. It’s easy to allow non-priorities or the priorities of others to take your time. Schedule time on your calendar to address each of your priorities. (I’ve scheduled time on my calendar to talk with my husband about our vacation plans – sounds ridiculous, but it gets done!) Then, protect that time by preventing interruptions. For example, sometimes being “out of sight” (working remotely) helps me stay focused on what’s important to me.

Budget for the unexpected

Just like you’d set up a financial emergency fund or safety net, set aside for the inevitable, unpredictable “fires” that are likely to arise in your week. It might be a sick child or pet, your spouse’s last-minute business trip, an employee personnel issue or an opportunistic business development meeting. I set aside time every day — a percentage of my overall week — to tackle those last-minute scenarios that arise. I can be flexible as needed without completely abandoning my plans.

Measure the return on your investment

When you invest anything — whether it’s time or money — it’s important to measure what the return on that investment will be. Ask yourself: “Was the outcome worth the effort?” “Did I invest more time than the value of the outcome?” “Who benefited from the time?” “Does this investment align with my priorities?” Let’s be honest — sometimes your time won’t yield a high return. In those cases, the value of what you learned is priceless in itself.

Published on May 2017