If you are operating under the assumption that time management is a matter of  techniques like handling paper only once, delegation, and checking off tasks on a list, you’re missing a bigger and more important aspect..  The crucial piece is your ability to draw full value from the time you’re investing.  This assumes that you know what is important for you, because that’s how “full value” is determined. (If you’re not sure what’s important to be doing, check out This Post

Deriving full value for your time involves two sets of choices:

Group of businesspeople busy with their smartphones

Group of businesspeople busy with their smartphones

  1. Making behavioral choices aligned with your values and goals, and
  2. Being fully “there” in whatever you are doing

Let’s take one example of how to extract more value from “ordinary time”:  your commute to and from work each day.  If you wanted to derive full value from the ride (besides arriving at your destination safe and sound) you could view your commute as:

  • Rehearsal time – Choose to engage your mind in planning your day, or practice a presentation or conversation that’s on your agenda.
  • Decompression time – At the end of the day sort things out in your mind so you can walk into your home free of workplace mental clutter.
  • Learning time – Your vehicle could be a moving school for you, where you choose to listen to trade information, or renew your fascination with history by subscribing to an educational series.
  • Entertainment time – Your time in your car might be the only time when you’re alone with full control of the temperature and the music, so you can make a point to take advantage of it.
  • Social time – If social time is important to you you can arrange to carpool with someone you enjoy and invest the time catching up on the latest scores or community news.
  • Environmentalist time -Put your values into action and take mass transit so you can minimize your use of fossil fuels.
  • Productivity time or R & R time, etc. – These are ONLY good choices if you are not driving!  This should go without saying, but it hasn’t been too long since someone bragged at a party about reading the newspaper on the steering wheel while motoring down the turnpike.  Seriously.
Unplugging – literally and figuratively
A lot has been written about the current phenomenon where individuals are so plugged into phones and other electronics that they could be considered to be alone even when in groups.  This happens in public, and at the dinner table. How often are you plugged into something else, something other than the main event going on around you (or the people around you)? It doesn’t even have to be an electronic device like your phone or the TV to interfere with deriving full value from your time together.  You might be mentally plugged into things like:
  • The day you just had at work
  • Something somebody said to you that bothered you in some way
  • Making a list of chores (or groceries)
  • Rehearsing what you’re going to say next
  • Money worries
  • Bad news that you’re choosing the right time to tell
  • Good news that you’re choosing the right time to tell
  • Somebody other than the person who’s talking to you
  • How hot or cold you are right now, or whether the chair is comfortable
If you’re plugged into something else you’re not drawing full value from the time you’re together with other people.  Your distraction is contributing to the noise that prevents valid communication (that’s two-way) from happening. And whether you realize it or not, you’re sending your own message, because the other person or persons are interpreting your distraction as one of these:
  • “They must not think I’m important”
  • “They must not value what I have to say”
  • “They aren’t paying attention, so they are a good target”
  • “They don’t want to be here”
You extract full value from interpersonal interactions when you are truly paying attention.  When you are only half into the conversation you are likely to miss nonverbal cues that could completely change the meaning of what’s being said to you.  Full value is the enhancement of the relationship between you and that other person, and you have to be an active participant in order for that to happen.