“I just need more time.” Or do you?

What do Jacinda Ardern, Greta Thunberg and Beyoncé all have in common? No, it’s not fame or headlines. They each have 86,400 seconds in a day to make it count!

And so do you.

“I wish there were more hours in the day…”

We’ve all said this. I know I’ve mumbled it! How many times have you heard others say it?

In our society, we constantly hear references to time running out, lack of time, having no time, we’ve got too much to do and not enough time, if only there were more hours in the day… I’m guilty of saying these things, as well.

It reminds me of the great quote from Margaret Atwood in her book, The Handmaid’s Tale:

“But that’s where I am. There’s no escaping it. Time’s a trap, I’m caught in it.”

Can you relate? When we feel caught in this trap called time, we feel crappy. It steals our happiness. And we wish we had more time so we could get everything done.

We’re “time poor”

One of my clients, Layla, never seemed to have enough time. She was a classic example of what we consider “time poor”: always busy, always working, with little time for herself.

Layla was not alone. As a female leadership coach, one of the things I commonly hear from women, especially those juggling a business and family, is that there’s just not enough time.

But is that true?

Do we really not have enough time? Or is it that we don’t use our time effectively? Do we focus on the wrong things at the wrong times?

According to Forbes, time is our most valuable commodity. Research shows that “time stress” is linked with reduced wellbeing, decreased happiness and increased levels of anxiety and insomnia.

So, the question is, how do we value our time? Just how precious is it to us? And what’s a smart way to use it?

The fact is, there is no more time

Imagine, if you will, an hourglass. It holds 24 hours. We all have the same sized hourglass, so everything we do must fit inside it.

This presents you with a wonderful opportunity! How you spend your 24 hours is entirely your choice! Your 24 hours is time for you to nourish yourself. It’s time to sleep well and be fit for each day. It’s time to spend with the people closest to you. It’s time to do the work you love and make the difference you were born to make.

The key is to know your priorities

The most successful women in business and leadership ruthlessly prioritise. They know how to balance the important and the urgent. And when they don’t, they have someone in their corner to gently – and sometimes loudly! – keep them on track.

You see, using your time well has nothing to do with how much of it you have. It’s about the choices you make and how you prioritise.

“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.”

– Norton Juster

Urgent vs non-urgent

Our progress with an important task is easily derailed by the “urgent” – things that require our IMMEDIATE attention. These things are usually not important, yet they steal our attention away from what we should be doing at that moment.

The urgent shouts, “NOW! I need your attention NOW!” It puts us in reactive mode, which is really unhelpful.

Important tasks, on the other hand, contribute to our long-term mission. They bring our purpose, values and goals to life. Sometimes, important tasks are urgent, but typically they’re not.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a useful tool that can help you prioritise tasks by urgency. It identifies:

  • The urgent and important
  • The less urgent and important
  • The urgent and less important
  • The less urgent and less important

Prioritising tasks this way means you can decide what you should:

  • Do first
  • Schedule
  • Delegate
  • Don’t do

Let’s go back to Layla…

Layla continued to show up to our coaching sessions, telling me she couldn’t get all her tasks done because she didn’t have enough time. So, I asked her to make a list of all the tasks she was doing. We then identified the tasks that were urgent but not important, and the things that were important but not urgent.

What we discovered was that Layla really enjoyed networking and building relationships. This was great from a business development perspective, but it meant a lot of her important work was not getting done. Because it wasn’t in her diary, it didn’t take precedence.

So, we worked on Layla’s calendar. We scheduled time for the important things, so they didn’t become urgent things, and we scheduled time for the less-important (but enjoyable) things, such as Layla’s networking events.

One important task Layla struggled with was writing content. She procrastinated on it so much that I issued her a challenge. She was not allowed to attend her coveted networking events for a week if she hadn’t written her content!

What do you think happened? That’s right, she did not like the thought of no networking, so she got onto her content immediately! Suddenly, there was time to write. There was also time to get her calendar sorted, time for all the things she did not think were possible. And there was time for her networking events!

Was it easy? No! Nothing worth it is. Did having a plan make Layla happier? You betcha!  

By becoming clear on her non-negotiable tasks, Layla could plan, prioritise and value her time, and she was loving life again.

I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.

Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.

Em x

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Emma also has a podcast.