Why Our Time Matters
Peter Drucker once wrote that the very first step to achieving balance and clarity in work and life is to keep a time log for 4 weeks. On a simple worksheet, write out what you do every hour of the day, and after 30 days, reflect on where your time is going.
Most of us object, “I already know exactly where my time is going.” But I’ve done this with a number of leaders and teams, and typically the ones who don’t think they need it are the ones who are most deceived about their time.
Think about it this way: All of us, hopefully, live on a very detailed budget. The only way to budget for the month ahead is to know where your money went last month, as specifically as possible. And if you have detailed records of all your expenses for a full year, then you’re able to pick up on major trends and build into your budget the adequate amount of “margin.”
And I think all of us would say the only more precious and fleeting commodity in our world than money is time. How much more important is it to track where all of our time is going, especially over long periods of time! Just like with our finances, our expenses of time reveal our true priorities.
How to Keep a Log
A simple excel spreadsheet with seven days listed across the top (the X-axis for you mathletes) and hour blocks down the left (the Y-axis). I like to begin at 5:00am—the soonest I wake up—and go till 10:00pm. Some of you night owls will want to go later.
The technique is simple too: every four or five hours, stop and write out what you’ve been doing. If you wait to the end of the day, you’ll miss things. And don’t write out what you’re planning to do; wait till you’ve actually done it and then write it down.
There are a few critical categories for leaders to track:
Hours of sleep
Hours spent at home
Quality spouse/family time
Total hours spent working/commuting
“People time” (meetings, calls, appointments, etc)
“Alone time” (working on projects, writing, responding to emails, etc.)
Leaders will especially want to keep track of time spent among the various responsibilities of their job. My work categories (I track these seven categories in addition to people/alone time—so a single hour block contains something like “Leadership / Alone.”
Community groups (global, all campuses)
Community groups (East campus)
Personal ministry (coaching/writing)
That’s it. Pretty simple. It just takes a lot of sticktoitiveness.
What to Review
After four weeks or 30 days, there are a few key things to review. We all have idealized priorities and actual priorities. Idealized priorities are simple: we write down a list of what’s most important. God first, family second, church third, work fourth, golf fifth, and so on.
But your actual priorities can only be discovered by working backwards from your time. If sleep is an idealized priority but you only average 6.5 hours nightly, it’s a stretch to say that’s a priority. (Remember, doctors suggest between 8-9 hours depending on your age and health.)
This is a difficult exercise. Typically we overestimate how much we actually work. We say, “I work 60 hours a week,” then do a 30-day time log and realize we’ve only averaged 48.5 hours or something. We don’t really know where our time is going.
Second, look at your People vs Alone time. What is the ideal balance for you? When you come home feeling good—tired but not crushed—reflect on how much time you spent with people. For me, in a given week, I’m relationally spent if I spend more than 25 hours with people (and I hit seven or eight by 1pm on Sundays). I also can’t get an important part of my job done if I’m with people 40 hours weekly. *The point here is to Manage Your Soul, Not Your Time.
Like most of you, I have really full weeks followed by lighter weeks, so that’s why you want to spend at least four weeks logging your time.
Remember, the goal of integrity is to be one fully integrated, whole-istic person, whose idealized priorities are reflected perfectly by his actual priorities.
Before anything else, you must know your time.