Every day, I use a to-do list. I have career items, chores, personal goals – everything laid out one week at a time.
But at the end of the week, it seems like I pushed off the career-enhancing, tougher tasks to work on menial, easy tasks. Don’t get me wrong – it all needs to get done. But why do I not have time to do it all?
Pssssst, here’s a truth bomb: I DO have time for it all. I’ve just been wasting time. Sigh.
Yes, we all have the same hours per week as Beyonce, but are we really living up to Queen B’s efficiency? Prolly not. (She also has a team, so 168 hours x 7 people is more hours. But I digress…)
As you advance your career, time becomes even more scarce; managing your time with intention and strategy will make you an indispensable resource.
In the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think*, Laura Vanderkam offers several strategies to “find” that missing time. Last Spring, I found these three strategies from the book especially helpful.
- 100 Dreams
- Make a Career Plan
- Keep a Time Log
Descriptions of each exercise are found below. The key for me was doing all three because I first found out what I WANTED to do with my time, then I found the time to do it.
The goal of the 100 Dreams exercise is to flesh out what you really want in life – the work, hobbies, and activities that make you the most fulfilled. A few key points about listing out your 100 Dreams:
- Keep your list in an accessible place where you can easily add items as you think of them.
- The number “100” is meant to make you think hard about all of the things you want out of life. If you find it easy to list 100 items, go to 200. The number is meant to keep you thinking and adding your dreams as you go.
- Be sure to add dream items that you have already achieved. For example, I always wanted to graduate college, and although I have already graduated, I added it to my list. Achievements shape the person you want to be, so it is important to list them as well.
- Dreams can be big or small. Whether you want to be the CEO of a large company or learn how to cook a mean creme brulee, it all matters because it is about YOU.
With your time, you should be working towards achieving all of these dreams. By making them more concrete, you are more likely to prioritize your time and focus on them.
Make a Career Plan
Are you an avid planner? I am. I have planners, lists, and workbooks all over my house. However, when I think about where I want to be in my career in five years, it is hard for me to realistically imagine what my life will look like. That is why a career plan is SO important.
I have provided a free worksheet here if you need a place to start. Jot down key career facts about where you are now, write out aspects of your career that you want to be in existence in two years’ time, and then brainstorm activities that will help you get from Point A to Point B in the middle area.
Note: You are NOT carving this plan in stone. Life happens. Being flexible and adaptable is actually really important when advancing your career, so give yourself that same wiggle room. As dreams and current positions change, update your plan.
Not unlike the 100 Dreams exercise, the goal of a career plan is to prioritize what you need to be doing to achieve your career goals. You will hopefully see some of the 100 Dreams items appear on this worksheet; and on your plan, you can get in-depth about what those dreams look like and how you will achieve them.
Keep a Time Log
Out of the three activities, this is definitely the most time-consuming… but it is also the most insightful. Have you ever kept a time log for a week? I have. And it was EYE-OPENING.
Time that should have been used for developing my new online small businesses was being eaten up by television and social media. Instead of wasting time, I could be working on my 100 Dreams and Career Plan.
There are many ways to track your time over the course of a week: handwritten notes, Excel spreadsheet, phone application, etc. The point is, for a full week, you need to log your time as you go. If you wait until the end of the day to log the time, you will have a tendency to forget precisely where that time went (and you tend to favor productive activities instead of accurate ones). NO EXCUSES! If you think you have an unusual week, still track the time. If you put it off, every week will be “unusual” for one reason or another.
If you need a place to start, download a free Excel time log from our resource library. At the end of the week, group the activities into categories to analyze where your time was spent. Was that time aligned with your 100 Dreams and Career Plan?
Now, use a fresh planner to create your ideal week. Make yourself accountable with actions like mentor meetings, social media blockers, and deactivating distractions like Netflix.
Okay, how ya feelin’? Overwhelmed or ready to conquer your time? I hope it is the latter, because you can do this! Use these three exercises to identify your career priorities and find time in your week to focus on them. Let me know how it goes!
And to download the Career Plan Worksheet and Time Log Spreadsheet, sign up for free for access to the resource library.
*This article contains an affiliate link for the book, 168 Hours! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really enjoyed reading. I hope you enjoy them, to!