How to Manage Your Time by using Immovable Objects
By deciding to divide up the earth’s journey around the sun into 365 days and its rotation around its own axis into 24 hours, humans invented a concept of time that has governed us ever since.
The measurement of time heralded the invention of deadlines, which are considered by some to be a good thing. Without them, procrastinators would rule the world and not much would get done. Deadlines apply pressure, allow for financial time penalties and generally help people to focus on the task at hand. In many parts of the world, our daily lives are ruled by systems designed around time; bus and train schedules, meeting calendars and school timetables force us to be in a certain place at a certain time.
Setting Our Own Schedule
However, business owners benefit from a slight detachment from this time pressure. As the boss of their company, they can set the schedule themselves. When they’ve made promises to customers, they’re likely to use deadlines to drive the delivery schedule to complete a project on time. But, and here’s the rub, when they make promises to themselves… well, that’s an entirely different proposition. The easiest person in the world to let down is ourselves; we can make and accept our own excuses and promise to make it up later. No-one is listening, so there’s no shame involved either.
Not Enough Time
Many of the business owners I coach complain they don’t have enough time. This is a curious concept, as we all have the same number of hours, minutes and seconds every day. Elon Musk, who runs two mega-corporations and is thinking about moving to Mars has exactly 1440 minutes in his day, just like us.
So there must be something that Elon does that business owners who are short of time don’t do. In fact, everyone who has made a fortune, or run a huge corporation, must do something with time which escapes us mere mortals. It turns out Musk uses ‘Timeboxing’, which is a fancy word for putting stuff into his calendar and getting that stuff done within the allotted time.
If only it were that easy. To take it a step further, you need one additional layer of discipline I call ‘Immovable Objects’. You probably have some of these in your week already – a morning gym routine, a child’s drama class in the evening, or a favourite sports event at the weekend. You have designated these, consciously or not, as things that definitely will happen each week, regardless of what else is going on. They are Immovable Objects.
The logical step, then, is to extend these into your working week. If you allocated Monday morning from 0930 to 1100 for your weekly management meeting, don’t brush it off because ‘there’s nothing to discuss’ or ‘a key customer asked for a meeting’; turn it into an Immovable Object. It happens every week at the allotted time.
If you want to spend 3 private hours a month on business strategy, on the last Friday, put the next 24 occurrences into your calendar and mark it as immovable. Want to spend two hours each fortnight having one-to-ones with your direct reports? Turn the allocated time into an Immovable Object.
Start Small, Then Grow Your Immovable Objects
Start small, with just one or two Immovable Objects. As you build more, you’ll create what I call a Default Diary – your calendar fills up with marketing, sales, finance, HR and other activities which have their place and time and nothing gets in the way.
Let’s not pretend this is easy. One of the key aspects of making this work is to publish your Immovable Objects for others to see, so they know the time is not available for any other use. Over time, you’ll move everything else out of the way so your Immovable Objects survive and your default diary helps you to manage your 1440 minutes just like Elon Musk.