Do you have a job? A partner? A family? Hobbies? What commitments are gnawing at you, and what promises have you made? How much time do you really have?

Does free time become an ever-elusive myth as we grow older (year-by-year)? Or do we just become poorer at managing our time?

The aim of this exercise is to provide a way for anyone to fix time.1 If you often feel like you are treading water, the following exercise can be a great help.

So let’s start. Do you keep a notepad and pen/pencil(s) with you at all times? That’s rule #1 towards being awesome. Taking the load off your brain by writing things down will give you control. Expand your short-term memory. Write it down.

Scrawl out your weekly division of time (for a typical, routine week) —lets’s call it a time planner—. Each day has 24 blocks; within each block a maximum of three meaningful tasks.

Fills up pretty quick, huh? Any space left? Now what happens when you want to add something to the heap? Or when someone asks if you can do something for them? By planning your day-to-day life, you’ll know if you do [have the time] or not.

If you hold yourself to it, and you are honest, your estimating skills (for yourself at least) will get better the more you do this: ‘No, task xwon’t take one hour, it’ll take two, three, or five. Hmm. I really like this task and I know how complex it is because I’ve done it before. Now, where am I going to have three hours with enough energy and nothing risky either side? Ah, next Wednesday. It’s in the book.’

Capture progress in your notepad as you go: Planned: 3 hours. Actual: 2 hours. Difference explain: ‘I was in the zone.’

Or (as happens quite often): Planned: 1 hour. Actual: 3 hours.
Difference explained: ‘I seriously underestimated the task and my motivation/energy was fighting me. I let resistance sap at my performance.’

To make time for something, you often have to not do something else. Your cup brimmeth over already and compromise is a ghastly word I refuse to say. Real artists ship.

By continually replacing things you have mastered/finished/failed at2 with things you want to do that will make your life better, you are winning. Congratulations.

So how’s your time planner looking? Good? Great. Let’s call it a diary now. Anything you want to change or add? Keeping current with your diary will pay off heaps when others ask for your time: ‘Yes, I can work on that experiment tomorrow night and mail you the frenzied, super-smart simians then.’

Once you’ve got the right things to do, then there’s nothing left but to do them. That’s the power of Think Vs. Learned. And at the core of it, you’ll do well in life by picking the right things to do with your time, then doing them.

1 If you are already really good at this, I’d like to hear from you. How do you do it?

2 Failing is only bad if you don’t take the time to learn why and how you failed. Likewise, success is only good if you learn why and how you succeeded. Important lessons. Character building.

AuthorI.B. Simpson