With 24 hours a day and 7 days a week as fixed quantities, we all have the same quantity of 168 hours at our disposal for making what we view as important contributions to our families, our clients, our community and the world at large. However, note a critical subtley: whilst we all have the same quantity of hours, the quality of those hours vary greatly from person-to-person and even for an individual. Depending on your energy level in the moment, your drive and passion in the moment, your motivation and charged-uppedness in the moment, and the other responsibilities you have to manage in the moment … All conspire together to give you a certain quality of time. If you are tired, lethargic, feeling out of balance and have 1000 things on your mind, time quality is going to be low to very poor. On the other hand, if you’ve have an available repository of energy, are feeling ready to roll, and have a clear mind on what’s next and what’s important, your hours will be of a higher quality.
I’ve had days when I haven’t started with the greatest time quality on record, but by the end of the day I was on fire. “But I don’t want the day to end!” I’m in the zone, in tate place of extremely highly time quality, and to leave the office is walk away. I guess that feeling is similar to TBIF that Marc noted recently–something I used to experience most weeks. “If only I could keep this passion and high energy drive until I get back in tomorrow.” Well, it’s a good idea, but it hardly ever happens. Energy dissipates. Time quality declines in the intervening hours, and a new day dawns again with the challenge of getting back to that lofty high of the day before.
Improving the Quality of Your Hours
So how do you ramp up the quality of your hours?
- Don’t try to eat the elephant in one bite … Identify when your time quality is high, and reflect on the factors that brought it about. Then try to replicate those factors another time and see if you get the same result.
- Get enough sleep … Most adults need 7-8 hours to function at an optimal level. If you systematically get less, you’re cheating everyone of your most creative insights, yourself included.
- Clear intentions for right now … Have a clear goal and proposed end time, and shut out unnecessary distractions until you’re done.
- Be clear about how today links with the future you are working towards … Keep your longer range goals in view – retain your focus on key performance objectives and contributions.
- Quieten the inner voices … Ensure that you have a quietness on the inside; this is much more important than quietness on the outside. If you have racing thoughts that you haven’t committed to paper or another system, get it down and out. If you harbour unforgivenness or bitterness toward others, get it resolved. If you are avoiding other people because of large interpersonal conflicts, get it sorted out. In a great touch of serendipity, Lisa talked about similar things today.
- Do any tricks you have to do … Sometimes I write my goal and focus for the next couple of hours on a colored 3×5 card and lay it on my desk between my keyboard and monitor. Then whenever I look down from the monitor I see a reminder of what I’m supposed to be about. In serendipity 2.0, Behance talked about this today as action advertisements.
- Avoid checking email … I love knowing that I’ve got new email, but I have to discipline myself to not check it incessantly. One way is to write down what needs to be done before checking email next, or what time has to roll around. But it must be written down. Another good trick is to ask “is there any email that is highly likely to come in the next couple of hours that would change the focus of my current work?” If yes, check for it more regularly until it does come, or ask someone else to monitor it for you. Or, even better, if you have a proper working relationship with the person on whom you are waiting, email them and ask for a phone call once they’ve sent them message. Then you can rid yourself of that lingering dread of overlooking something important, and relax into your high-quality time zone.
- Plan times of low intensity for the renewal of zest and vitality … If it is possible, I haven’t experienced yet, but I don’t think you can get to the point of having perfect quality hours 24 x 7. Maintaining such a constant intensity is too tiring, but I do strongly advocate that you can take specific actions that increase the quality of some of your hours.
How About You?
Is this an issue for you? What specific actions do you take to increase the quality of your time?