A bucket is a container that can hold a fixed amount of water. Once the bucket is filled to the brim, you can try to pour more water in, but an equal amount will have to come back out. It just cannot hold any more. Let this bucket represent a fixed volume of time. We each have access to twenty-four hours in each day, a container of sorts; a vessel for the efforts of our lives. We get a new one each day, but we can’t borrow any volume from previous days’ buckets, nor can we ask for repeats or advances. These twenty-four-hour days come and go, regularly and unfailingly. The day is fixed in length. It is the primary working tool of our existence.
Many people start off their days with the best intentions, planning what they will do and in which order, yet things quickly start to unravel as urgencies of all sorts start to occur. The day’s schedule, which was probably already full of planned tasks, now starts to overflow. People get stressed, and they work through lunch and stay late to try to get back on top of things. They expand and distort their working day to counter the overflow. They wish for more hours in a day, or for time to freeze, just until they’re caught up. They’re on the quest for more time: that metaphorical bigger bucket. The problem is that even with a bigger bucket, they’ll still end up working twice as hard to move half as much water.
The trick to time management, just like the trick to dealing with a flooded basement, is in learning how to use your bucket rather than trying to find a bigger one. Effective time management means using the right strategy, not making more work hours available or working twice as fast or twice as hard. Effective time managers do not feel an obsessive need to fill every moment with productive work – quite the opposite, they envision and enact a rational plan which includes space for the expected, the unexpected, and the opportunities, so that in the end, every moment can be used properly and profitably.
They balance priorities, and they manage the needs of their colleagues. They recognize and accept that the in-box will never be empty. They go home at the end of the day knowing that they have done good work, and that they will do more tomorrow.
They understand that control makes the difference. It paves the way for influence, productivity and satisfaction.
This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you would like a copy, hop on over to my Books page. If you would like me to come and speak to your group, contact details are available on my Speaker page. Either way, you will win back time and money. It’s just practical common sense.
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