May 12, 2020

“A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of his life.”
— Charles Darwin

Time management is one of the most important skills that anyone can develop. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that’s a moving target and impossible to perfectly master.

Our current situation makes time management all but impossible. On an average week, it’s tough for me to get everything done that I need to. During a pandemic, I can’t even remember to eat most days.

Even in a tough situation, time management is a skill we can look to hone in. I read a great Seth Godin blog this week on wasting time. He says “If we wasted money the way we waste time, we’d all be bankrupt”. Damn, how true is that?

The other week, I posted what a day in the quarantine life of Scott Leese looks like. I’m not claiming to be special. There are plenty of other people working their asses off and people that have tougher circumstances than I do.

But these are my days. Every waking hour of the day, I am either supporting my wife and kids or I am grinding as hard as I can to bring value to my clients and network.

This is the reality we’re living in. There is simply no time to waste. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be looking to improve. No matter how good (you think) you are with your time, here are a few tips to improve this skill.

Audit your calendar

You can do this in two ways.

First, take a look at your calendar as it stands. How does it look? Mostly blank space? Packed with meetings that could have been emails? Not enough time dedicated to family or health? Sit down and have a real, judgment-free gut check on what your days and weeks look like.

Second, start keeping tabs on where your time goes. Take a week, open up a spreadsheet and write down in 30-minute chunks what you’re doing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice plenty of time slots that were either completely wasted or at least could have been spent more wisely.

Once you have a pulse on this, you can block off times on your calendar ahead of time for the most important things. Meetings with yourself set aside for writing, or working out or eating dinner with the family. Put those on your schedule first before you open it up to other items.

Screen time notification

If you have an iPhone, there’s an app that will tell you how much time you’ve spent staring at your screen each week and what you were doing during that time (email, social media, etc.). It’s a harrowing reality to see how many hours each day we spend staring at this screen.

You can make it a fun challenge to try to either decrease your usage over time or at least spend it on more productive apps (calling people, prospecting on LinkedIn) than playing Tetris for an hour a day.

Block websites, delete apps

Let’s call a spade a spade: I’m easily distracted, like a dog in the park chasing down squirrels all over the place. It’s much more effective for me to remove the obstacle rather than rely on willpower to not check it. So if I’m in a deep stretch of writing or working, I’ll use Blocksite.co to not let me hop into the endorphin hits of Twitter or ESPN.

I have a friend that takes this a step further and removes Instagram from his phone Monday-Friday. He allows himself to indulge in it as much as he wants on the weekend but he completely removes it during the week when he wants to maximize his productivity.

Join a competition to keep you in the game

If you find it difficult to have this level of discipline on your own (or you want to have more fun), invite some friends to get involved with you. A buddy of mine does a monthly challenge with some of his friends where they’ll pick a habit to either pick up or drop for the month. They’ve done a month of sobriety, a month of no social media, a month of daily reading, and more. Each member puts in a small amount of money to keep things interesting.

Let’s be real. We’re all struggling with keeping track of time and being productive right now. We all have unique, difficult situations we’re working with.

If you think you’re doing your best each day, then keep doing your thing. Be proud of that and understand that this is a hard time and some things are going to slip through the cracks. If you’re wasting time, try using some of the above techniques to hone in your calendar.

Time is the only resource we can’t renew. Make sure you’re making the most of it.

A few ways to spend your time this week:

Surf and Sales Podcast: new episodes featuring Jeff Riseley, Steve Norman, Sam Dunning, Kyle Coleman, Dr. Richard Conde

Thursday Night Sales: featuring Justin Welsh, Amy Volas and I.