In previous articles on productivity we’ve discussed your environment, your body chemistry, and ways to get into flow. If you’ve read (and understood!) those pieces then you’re ready for the magic pill of productivity. You can take this pill as often as you need to calibrate your performance and productivity until you’re satisfied. But it can only be taken by those willing to be fully honest with themselves about the real and honest priorities in their lives.
Audit Your Time
It is often said that we show our priorities by what we do, not by what we say. Two metrics we can use to track our priorities are by where we spend our time and money. Take out a sheet of paper and try to honestly quantify how much time you spend on:
- email (this can be surprising the first time you really add it up)
- work projects (not just at the office, but at home as well)
- busy work
- unenjoyable tasks
- really enjoyable tasks
- your health
- your family
- your friends
- personal development
You can measure this across a rolling 7 day period, against the 168 hours every person has every week. If you’ve never done this exercise before the numbers will probably surprise you, and even more surprisingly, sometimes even the first audit doesn’t dislodge some limiting beliefs.
For example, take the “unenjoyable tasks” category. How many people will be dissatisfied to find out how much time each week they spend doing those tasks, yet don’t see the point of delegating tasks to a VA in order to buy back some of their time? How many might see the small amount of time they are spending on personal development and just chalk it up to “there’s not enough time?” The whole point of this audit is to remind you that you are in charge of your life and your choices. Remember your priorities are not what you say, they are what you do.
Audit Your Spending
You can either stay on the same sheet of paper, or if you’ve run out of room, turn it over. Now write down what you are spending on:
- social activities
- health (this is more about gym/yoga but can include supplements)
- personal development
- things you don’t enjoy
- paying debt
Once again, most of us probably have a basic awareness of what is being spent in different categories but perhaps we don’t have a good handle on how these categories compare to one another. Giving, investing, and saving can be heavily impacted by a large debt load. Then again perhaps a really large mortgage or rent commitment puts the squeeze on your costs across the board.
Obviously at this point you will see a cross-correlation between time and money. They are both currencies, but time is significantly more valuable, perhaps infinitely more valuable, than money. You can always make more money, but you can’t make any more time. How can you leverage money to get you more time? How can you more intentionally direct your spending to be more in alignment with your values?
Your Life, Your Choice
We began this article by saying you can take this pill as often as you want. And that’s true: you can run these audits every month, every quarter, or every year. Every time you do it you will find something that can be tweaked to get you to the next level of performance. But also as we noted, this can only be done if you are brutally honest with yourself by writing down what you are actually doing rather than what you would like to do. When we do this, we allow ourselves to confront the reality. Are we happy with what the audit reveals? Then perhaps those are the priorities in our lives, after all. But if you’re unhappy with the audit, you get to change your life. It is your life, after all, and this audit puts in black and white numbers all the choices we are currently making. So use that knowledge to live your best life, knowing you can always improve.