How many hours do you waste in a day? According to Salary.com, the average worker wastes two hours per day costing US businesses $759 billion dollars per year. Two hours! That is a significant amount of time!
Wasting your time can go beyond chatting with coworkers or watching cat videos on YouTube. Often, it can look like productivity in sheep’s clothing. The hours spent in that long meeting you didn’t really need to attend could have been put to better use writing, researching, or even simply thinking about how to best approach your next work challenge. It’s time to take back control of your workday.
In our workshops we teach our participants a three-step process I call – R.E.A.D.Y., AIM, FIRE so they can stop wasting time and achieve their goals.
Step 1: READY – Decide where you are going.
Decide where you are going. As Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” In order to get ready, you must get clear on your goals and priorities.
What are my ultimate career goals?
What are my personal work goals for this quarter and this year?
What are my team’s or division’s priorities for this quarter and this year?
Where do I want to be in three years? In ten?
As you answer each of the questions above, use R.E.A.D.Y. as your guide.
Make sure that your goals are
R – realistic
E – exciting
A – action oriented
D – directive, meaning they point you in the direction you want to go
Y which ensures these goals are yours, and not someone else’s idea of what your future looks like
Step 2: AIM – Identify how you will reach your goals.
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to aim towards how you will reach them. This critical step ensures that when you “fire”, or execute on the tasks and projects aligned to your goals, you actually hit the target.
To aim accurately, match your time spent to your goals. This is where your calendar becomes your best friend. It’s how you plan and allocate time to achieve your goals. Think carefully about each task and project and why you are going to allot time on your calendar for it. Each day, take five-to-ten minutes to assess your calendar – whether it’s an old-school paper calendar, on your PC, or in the cloud. (This is not a waste of time- I promise!)
Take charge of your schedule to find wasted time and aim for the future you want.
How does this task or project support me or take me one step closer towards achieving my goal?
Could I delegate this task so I have more time to spend on actions that support my goals?
Are there “dead” spaces in my calendar where I could be more purposeful toward achieving my goals? (For example, a long commute where I could listen to podcasts or books by the latest thought leaders in my space.)
Be vigilant. Don’t allow tasks or projects onto your calendar that do not move you closer to your goal. (Reality check: do you really need to attend the office baby shower of a colleague you barely know? Even if there’s free cake?)
A word of caution. Remember to include time on your calendar to think.Your focus is on impact, not output. When you stop to think and reflect, you can respond instead of reacting to whatever shows up in your inbox. Constantly reacting wastes significant amounts of your time.
Step 3: FIRE – Execute on your tasks and projects.
You have gotten ready by determining your goals, and you have aimed by aligning your calendar to the execution of your goals. Now it is time to execute and complete your tasks and projects. These tasks may take many forms – from using your unique creativity to develop a “wow!” marketing plan or accessing your natural charisma to persuade a client to agree with your vision. This is where the rubber meets the road. Be vigilant and only act on the tasks and projects that propel you forward towards your goals. But remember, the best and most efficient way to execute these actions is after thoughtful preparation.
Take back control of your work day and your life! Use READY, AIM, and FIRE because, as Miles Davis wisely said, “Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”
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