Friday, 6 January 2012

The value of knowing where time goes

Time and tide, as we all know, wait for no man.  There’s no better time of year to be reminded of that as we review the past year.  What projects did you complete?  Which ones weren’t even started?  What should have got done, but didn’t?  What was important to you?  What was your greatest success?  What was your greatest failure?  What would you do differently if you could replay the year again?

It’s an interesting exercise, and if you haven’t yet reviewed the year I’d urge you to do so.  I gained a number of insights from reviewing my 2011.
Certainly, the big things that I accomplished during 2011 were done with the aid of quite a bit of planning, focus and time.  Now that’s not to say that everything that gets planed, focus on and time to will have a successful outcome, unfortunately, but it does increase the chances.  And when I look back over my life at my major successes, I also recall the planning, focus and time that went into them. 

Which brings me to the value of knowing where time goes.  Because of the nature of my work, I analyse how my time is spent.  It provides an invaluable additional dimension to reviewing the year.  I can see how much time I spent on various different activities, and how much time I spent on my important projects.  It gives me another lever to make changes – whether I should be giving more or less time to certain activities or projects.
I don’t think many people do this, perhaps because it reminds us of “clocking in and clocking out” and “command and control” type management systems.  No one likes someone breathing down their necks to see what they are doing every minute of the day.  And sometimes we don’t want to see the unpalatable truth ourselves.  But, certainly for me, unless I know where my time goes, I’m in danger of not giving enough attention to the important-but-not-urgent things. 

Eisenhower apparently remarked that “what is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”  Which may go some way to explain why important things don’t always get done.

So one of my New Year resolutions is to track my time more carefully, and analyse it side by side with the big things I’ve want to do this year.  As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of measuring things.  It will be interesting to see whether increased focus in this area brings about improvements.

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