Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Laura Vanderkam who is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. For more info: www.lauravanderkam.com
SmallBizLady: If I want to spend my time better what’s the first step?
Laura Vanderkam: Figure out where the time is going now! Try tracking your time for a week. You can use an app, a spreadsheet, or a notebook. Without knowing where the time goes, it’s hard to know if you’re changing the right things. Maybe something you think is a problem isn’t. Or vice versa.
SmallBizLady: You think lots of people have blind spots with time — even you! What are some of those?
Laura Vanderkam: Most of us think we work more hours than we really do. Entrepreneurs think about work a lot, so we may feel we’re always working. But that’s not true. I used to think I worked 50 hours/week. Then I tracked my time for a year and found I worked 40. Big difference! And I write about this topic! The good news is that even long hours allow space for other things. There are 168 hours in a week. Work 60, sleep 8 per night (56 per week) and you have 52 for other things.
SmallBizLady: People think time management is about saving bits of time here and there. You disagree — why?
Laura Vanderkam: You won’t change your life by saving 2 minutes in the shower, or 3 minutes getting coffee. Put the important stuff in first, and everything else will naturally take less time.
We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.
SmallBizLady: I oftentimes hear people say “I don’t have time,” what do they really mean?
Laura Vanderkam: I don’t have time really means “It’s not a priority.” I could tell you I don’t have time to iron my sheets, but that’s not true. If someone offered to pay me $100,000 to iron my sheets I would find the time!
Using this language reminds us that time is a choice. There may be consequences to those choices, but we have more control than we often think.
SmallBizLady: Women entrepreneurs always tell us there aren’t enough hours in the day. What do you think?
Laura Vanderkam: There aren’t enough hours in the day to get to everything, but we don’t live our lives in days. We live in weeks. Think 168 hours, not 24, and you’ll see how much space you have.
Things don’t have to happen daily, or at the same time every day, in order to count. If you travel two nights a week for work, focus on the 5 you’re home!
SmallBizLady: What are some strategies women can use to make time for relationships and personal priorities?
Laura Vanderkam: Try planning your priorities for the next week each Friday. Consider making a 3-category list: career, relationships, self.
Using all 3 categories will remind you that there should be something in all 3 categories! That right there can help you build a more balanced life.
After making the list, look at the next week, and see where these priorities can go on your schedule.
SmallBizLady: How can busy women entrepreneurs build space into their lives?
Laura Vanderkam: Be careful with the word “yes.” Saying yes to one thing is really saying no to something else.
If someone asks you to do something far in the future, ask yourself if you would do it tomorrow. If you wouldn’t, you won’t be happy about it 3 months from now either. So, your answer should be “no.”
Also, each Friday, look at your calendar for the next week and see what you can ignore, minimize, or outsource. At work, and at home! You don’t have to do everything
SmallBizLady: Why are weekends the “secret weapon” of successful people?
Laura Vanderkam: Weekends can rejuvenate you, so you hit Monday ready to go. Successful people make sure that they create weekends that don’t disappoint them, or exhaust them.
SmallBizLady: How should women entrepreneurs plan their weekends to enjoy life more?
Laura Vanderkam: A few days ahead of time, think of 3 things that would add to your energy levels. Look at your weekend, and see when you could make these things happen.
They can be simple things: coffee with a friend, a bike ride, worship services, volunteering. Putting a little thought into the weekend ensures it will be energizing.
SmallBizLady: When we have bits of time we all check email or social media. What else could we do with that time?
Laura Vanderkam: Try using bits of time for bits of joy! I like to read on the Kindle app. That way I’m reading real literature instead of headlines. You can call or text a friend. You can meditate, or stretch. Little bits of space can make life seem calmer and more enjoyable.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz