When most people are asked why they are so exhausted, they usually have a litany of excuses. With most of these excuses, I can’t help but to think of the old TV show “Maxed Out.” Each episode featured a stressed-out couple who were deeply in debt and had no idea how to climb out of it. Inevitably, their financial problems boiled down to: 1) not knowing how much debt they had, 2) no clue where their money went each month, and 3) a vague sense of what they hoped might happen in the future, but no concrete plan to move in that direction. They always felt out of control and frustrated at the outset, but as soon as they created a plan, took a hard look at their reality, and made some concrete behavioral changes, they experienced a sense of empowerment and forward motion. So whenever I hear someone get frazzled, I think of them as being totally maxed out — not on money but on time.
Are You Stressed?
We’ve all heard that financial intelligence requires knowing how you spend your money. The problem with time is that unlike money, it is finite. We each have 24 hours in the day and must divide that precious time between personal, physical, professional, and familial commitments. We can’t borrow extra hours from a credit card or a bank. We gotta work with the 24 hours that we get each day. People complain that they never have enough time (I say the same thing), that they are constantly running from one commitment to the next and that their lack of time leads to feelings of frustration, guilt, shame and an overall sense of not moving forward at an adequate pace. But they also couldn’t answer the most basic questions about how they spent their time because they just don’t know where the hours went.
Likewise, the first time I tracked my time over a week, I was shocked by how much time I was spending on furthering my career and how much time I was spending on extracurricular activities. Understanding how you spend your time each week (not how you think you spend it) will help you to decide if you are investing in things that will pay off in the long run or spending it on things that offer immediate gratification but no long-term interest. And more importantly, you must know how you’re investing your time today in order to make conscious decisions about how you will spend it in the future.
Track Your Time
Instead of tracking your money, keep track of how you spend your time this week. If you are feeling exhausted, frustrated, or I-don’t-even-know-how-I’m-gonna-make-it-today-tired, then try starting this week by tracking your time. Time tracking doesn’t have to be costly, difficult or unpleasant and it doesn’t require you to buy or do anything different. Just put a little piece of paper on your desk and keep a running tab of your activities & the time you spend on them during each day this week. Include everything: e-mail, writing, paying bills, grocery shopping, phone calls to friends/family, reading, getting dressed in the morning, meetings, social events after work, sleeping, eating, time spent with your children, Facebook, etc. (and if you prefer to use an app to track your time, you can do that too).
Evaluate Your Data
Once you have a week’s worth of data, tally up how much time you spend on being productive and how much time you waste. At the beginning (or end) of the week, it’s a great time to ask yourself: Does my time reflect my personal values, priorities, and long-term goals?
If the answer is “Yes,” then great! But if you find that the answer is a resounding “NO!” then it’s time to make some changes. For example, if 50% percent of your time is spent on social media or watching television but you desire to read more instead – that’s a problem. If finishing your degree and those last 3 credits are taking you 40 hours a week but you have a spouse & kids that need your attention too — there’s a problem. The good news is that these are problems that can be resolved by proactively adjusting your behavior and reallocating your time.
Rethink How You Spend Your Time
Those who are successful tend to spend their time the following ways:
- Spending a consistent amount each day working on their personal goals
- Aren’t afraid to ask for help
- Manage their priorities accordingly
- Spend time with people who uplift them & not discourage them from their goals
Only you can determine if you’re satisfied with how you are spending your time each day, but if you’re unhappy, exhausted & feel like you’re not moving forward then it might be time for a check-in. Becoming conscious of how you spend your time AND doing something about should help you become more successful as you work towards your goals.
I hope that this week brings you the patience to track your time, the wisdom to evaluate your current situation and pinpoint areas for change, and the sense of empowerment that results from making conscious decisions about how you spend your time each day.