Money Can Be Replaced. Time Cannot.

From Oliver Burkman – author of Four Thousand Weeks…

 There aren’t many hard and fast rules that apply to everyone. But there might be one: “You almost certainly can’t consistently do the kind of work that demands serious mental focus for more than about three or four hours a day.” This seems to be the rule for the “famously creative” – Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens, for example.

 The lesson here is not necessarily that you should down-tools after that time – but to use whatever freedom you do have over your schedule to “ringfence three or four hours a day for undisturbed focus”, ideally when your energy levels are highest. This is better than trying to work for longer and can help prevent the burnout that comes from demanding ever more of yourself.

 Another tip comes from a study on the working life of monks at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico. Their daily work periods lasts for (can you guess?) three hours. What do you do, one monk was asked, if the bell for the end of the work period goes and your work is undone? “You get over it,” he replied.

I’m fascinated with time and the study of it and how to ‘manage’ it. Let’s face it, time is our most precious resource. Way more important than money.

Money can be replaced. Time cannot. Yet so few practice owners stop often enough to reflect on how they are investing their time. I have recommended to many mastermind members that they track how they spend their time hour by hour for a week, then categorise the hours into types of activities.

The results of this exercise can be startling and highlight obvious disconnects between what their top priorities are and how they are spending their time. Time allocation needs to be a conscious decision that fits your vision and priorities for your business. Given the pressure of running a business, it’s easy to lose focus, so it’s important to ask yourself this question periodically: How am I spending my time? Does it match my key priorities?

I love the four hour rule of Oliver Burkman, above, because when it comes down to it you have to manage your time TODAY not some day in the future. There is only ever today. So practical techniques that work are necessary.

I have a big red STOP sign on the wall in my office as a not-so-subtle reminder to stop when I’m supposed to stop. Which means I can take care of other things that are important to me. Like eating lunch. Walking the dog. Exercising. Being with my family.

I’m far from perfect on this but I try to frequently reset and re-examine how I’m spending my time. When I’m more disciplined at finishing work earlier so I can ride my bike or run for an hour, I’m technically doing fewer hours work, but I’m back at my desk bright and early the next morning feeling fresher, better rested and able to perform at a higher level. And I enjoy my days more. Small change. Big difference.

I urge you to get off the hamster wheel regularly and reflect on how you are spending your time and play around with making changes that you think will make you perform at a higher level and enjoy your day more. I recommend habits like turning off notifications, not dealing with email until the afternoon, and scheduling block time (every week, as many times as you can) – periods of three to four hours – for undisturbed focus on your biggest priorities for building your business.