The question of how to best prioritize our time is an essential one because it gets to the root of why most people don’t get closer to what they really want out of life—they’re not focusing on what’s important to them. Because isn’t that what we should be spending our precious time on Earth working toward—the things that are most important to us?
I have a process that I include in my new book, You Can Have It All, Just Not at the Same Damn Time, that I've used myself and have coached to tens of thousands, that helps you figure out what your Priorities are—the things that are so important to you right now that not serving them is non-negotiable—and then how to establish what your Goals are that serve those Priorities. From there you can measure every activity, opportunity and request for your time against whether or not it helps you serve one or more of your Priorities and Goals.
Our lives are typically filled with a whole lot of Shoulds. You know, all the things we’re doing because we think we Should because we don’t want to disappoint others, we're afraid of being judged, we feel pressure to say Yes. But if we want to spend time on what really matters to each of us, we’ve got to stop Should-ing all over the place!
Let’s say you’re asked to head up a fundraising effort for a non-profit. But if that time-sucking role isn’t going to get you any closer to any of your Goals so it certainly doesn’t serve any of your Priorities, then you must say No. And you don’t have to feel guilty or apologize. “I can’t take on this role right now because I couldn’t possibly give it the time and attention it deserves. But I wish you the very best in your efforts and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect person to lead the charge.” No gets easier the more you say it. It’s one of my favorite words because I know that every time I use it, it means I have more time to build a life filled with the things that truly matter to me.
The other part of knowing if something is worth your time is to understand what your time is worth an hour. I include how to calculate this in my book, and it’s very simple. It was inspired by my two careers that were tied to the billable hour before I became an entrepreneur — law and PR — and requires you figure out what you ultimately want to be earning each year and how many hours you want to be working (the audacious goal stuff). From there I teach you how to come up with how many dollars your time is worth every hour. When I first did this calculation, my time was worth $962 per hour. You better believe that impacted how I spent my time. I stopped wasting it on phone calls and meetings that didn’t move the needle and were just bitch sessions. It also showed me where it made financial sense to hire someone else to do something to free me up to do the things only I could uniquely do. This applies to everything from paying someone to do your social media shareables to running errands to cleaning your house to meal delivery services instead of spending all that time shopping and cooking. This calculation gives us non-emotional, mathematical proof of what we should be delegating and deleting.
Finally, make sure when you make your to-do list that you’re putting the hardest, most important things at the top. If you don’t, you’re going to spend your time doing the easier things first, and you’ll never get to the hard stuff. And it's the hard stuff that tends to transform our lives.