Of all the resources we have at our disposal time is the most precious. Where as paper, metal and other physical resources can get recycled, money gets recycled through the economy and even people get recycled through different jobs and companies, time does. It can’t. The moment is now, and when it’s gone, you can never get it back. So we should use our time wisely.
Commuting can be the biggest time stealer of all, but only if you let it. I’ve commuted to London on and off for far too many years to mention. I used to buy my paper at the news stand on or near the platform and, like most other commuters, used to read through the core sections – front page, business pages, sports pages. Now for the most part, the stories were repeats of the key news items on the previous night’s tv or Evening Standard. But I still read them. As did most people. As do many people today.They are the time bandits.
With the advent of smart phones and tablets I see more people catching up on Facebook, Youtube or their favourite tv shows. And whereas there was the occasional industrious type working through some papers or printouts of their e-mails, they now mainly use their laptops or smart phones to do that. Aside from the industrious few, most people treat their commute as dead time. Time for the inane or mundane. It’s when the time bandits strike.
But not me. The free copy of the Financial Times I was handed as I left the tube one day recently reminded me of all the wasted hours commuting. Time I can never recover. Time I no longer waste. Time I haven’t wasted for a number of years. I now use my commuting time constructively, to help me develop my career and my business.
As a consultant, I spend most of my days working on client site, dealing with client projects and programmes. But I also need to take my own business forward on a daily basis so I need to maximise the use of every available hour.
‘My business’ time
My commute is where I focus on my business, on the things I need to get done to move my business forward. Currently I have around 50 minutes on the train. And these are the sort of things I do in that time:
- Write blog articles
- Map out a new marketing campaign
- Review performance of existing campaigns
- Write sales and marketing copy
- Plan a new product or product launch
- Write the content for a new product
- Write the script for a webinar
- Answer customer and prospect queries
- Learn new skills – usually by reading business books, watching webinar recordings or listening to podcasts
I have always started work on client sites at around 8am. I use the time before the majority of the office get in to get stuff done, to deal with the key items of thebusiness’ day before the inevitable distractions of e-mail, phone and meetings get in the way. Where I have some chunky deliverables to get out, I block out time in the diary so people don’t invite me to meetings. I put the phone on silent and close e-mail down so I can focus on those deliverables. And then the last task of the day is to map out the next day so that at 8am I hit the ground running and don’t waste time getting organised.
I keep my client work organised using whatever tools I can get access to. Out of choice I’d use Evernote – one of my favourite apps (see my blog post on using Evernote here). But most clients I work for tend to block access to web based applications like Evernote because of information security considerations. However, most clients use Microsoft Office, and the most under-valued app in the Office Suite is OneNote. In it’s latest version it’s a serious rival for Evernote, but even in the earlier 2010 or 2007 versions it’s still a versatile tool. Look out for a post on using OneNote soon.
Unwinding from a day on client site is really important. As is keeping fit. People that are generally fit and have a good, balanced diet, are much more productive than their sedentary counterparts. I unwind and keep fit by walking from my client’s office to the stations. That’s a brisk walk of between 2.5 and 3.0 miles, some of it along the riverside. It’s a great way to blow away the cobwebs of the day and assess how things have gone. What went well, what could have gone better. I often get blog article ideas will mulling over the day’s events and observations on those evening walks.
The unwinding ends with a scan of the Evening Standard on the first part of the commute home, before the iPad comes out to plan tomorrow morning’s commuting tasks, note down those blog ideas and my assessment of the day. If there’s time, I’ll finish with a bit more personal development reading or listening to podcasts.
So by the time I get home, the client day has been completed, assessed and put to bed and I’ve spend some focused time on developing my own business and planning the following day. I can then enjoy some quality time with my wife and family. If needs must or the opportunity presents itself, I can crack on with stuff for my own business. Whatever I chose to do, I know that it was exactly that – a conscious choice – and not just a casual frittering away of time without a real purpose.
Having downtime and doing fun or inane things is important as part of keeping a sensible work-life balance. But do it as a conscious choice and not a bad and wasteful habit. Don’t just accept the freebie newspaper thrust in your hand or the stream of funny cat/dog/baby videos posted on Facebook. Take charge of your time – don’t give it to the time bandits. Own it, and make good use of it – you only have it once!
What do you do to make the best use of your time?