Finding the Time

How do you find the time to do things that actually matter? To make real progress on the big projects and goals? This is a subject I’ve been wrestling with a lot recently. It’s startling to see how fast the time goes by and how little progress I’ve made on things that are supposedly important (or at least really interesting) to me. This blog is a prime example.

As I’ve been kicking these ideas around, there have been a couple models that came to mind that have helped provide a framework to work from. The first is Pareto’s 80/20 principle and the second is Steven Covey’s “Four Quadrants”.

80 / 20

If Pareto was right and 80 percent of the results really do come from 20 percent of the effort, there’s a lot of opportunity for cutting out distraction and focusing on doing that 20 percent well. Reading Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Work Week” was what really got me thinking about applying this principle in this way.

Four Quadrants

In “First Things First”, Covey talks about the evaluating work based on dividing into four quadrants with importance and urgency being the two axis lines. Probably easier to show than explain:

Covey Matrix

The idea here is to focus on the important over just the urgent. My experience has definitely agreed that my days tend to fill up with things from the urgent category and the non-urgent, but still important, tasks often get pushed off to “later”.

“Finding” Time vs “Making” Time

This is where I think the rubber hits the road. Regardless of the approach, it really comes down to taking a hard and honest look at both where your time is being spent and what’s on your calendar and to-do list. What’s actually important and where are you really getting the results you want? At that point some decisions need to be made to prioritize the important things and to cut out (or at least minimize) the unimportant.

If these past years have taught me anything, it’s that you won’t just magically “find” the time. You have to aggressively and proactively go out and “make” the time. Choose your priorities, cut out the useless stuff, and focus.

For me, right now I’m trying to apply these ideas and hit this from multiple angles:

  • Delegating more things that are actually important but don’t require me specifically to do them
  • Eliminating the worthless stuff
  • Using the available hours to focus my efforts on the really important projects