As you begin each new day, one thing you have in common with every other person is the same amount of time – 24 hours. How then do you spend your own day? How you spend each day makes all the difference.
Do you use, invest, or waste your time? How you use time is determined by your priorities. Stephen Covey said, “The key is in not spending time, but investing it.”
The actual value of your time is determined by the size of your goals and your commitment to them. Psalm 90:12 (NIV) says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Usually as we grow older we look back on how we have used our 24 hours each day. Ecclesiastes 12:1(NIV) says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” What goals have we set and achieved or failed to achieve? Of course, people who do not have goals for their lives do not expect achievements. Those who have goals but do not prioritise them tend to spend their time on urgent issues to the neglect of the important things that matter in life.
Ideally, your time or day should be divided between productive time, rest time and discretionary time. Your productive time is spent on thinking, planning and actually working as a means of earning income. Your productive time is the one that gives you most rewards. You can determine the worth of your productive time by dividing your total income by the number of hours you have worked.
To understand the value of this time, you need to assign an actual naira-per-hour value to your time. This will help you make decisions about how to spend your time. If the activity does not pay off, why do you do it? Don’t just dissipate your time and energy. Even if you don’t charge or get paid by the hour, your time still has a naira value.
It is advisable to write down the important things you have to do in the day. I do this before going to bed (the previous night) and meditate on them. Early in the morning I review and update the list of my activities. As I go over the list, I mark the items that will move me towards my major goal.
This period of planning for the day is actually critical for me. The day goes smoothly with a good plan. The best place for this exercise is the breakfast table. However, individuals have to determine how to manage their day for productivity depending on peculiar circumstances. A typical worker in Lagos that leaves for work at 6.30am and returns home around 7.00pm cannot relax at breakfast table. One main advantage of writing down your day’s plan and using your diary to check and fix your activities is that you do not forget what is important.
Most people have certain times they are most alert and perform better. Try to adjust your daily schedule to align with it. You can get more work done by handling mentally demanding activities during your peak energy periods. It has been found out that when your body temperature drops you have maximum energy but when it rises, your energy drops.
One secret of productivity is to tackle your most important task first and stay with it until completion. In this way you will find yourself engaged with most important things in your life. If something causes delay in its completion, go into the next most important activity. Each day, make up a fresh list and add any items left in the previous day but put them in order of importance. Working on your priorities makes you happy, fulfilled and healthy.
As much as possible, do not permit distractions to take you off your course. Unscheduled visitors can ruin your day. Phone calls, emails, messages and social media tend to consume much of productive time and therefore should be controlled. Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.”
Of course, rest or sleeping time is important. A good night’s rest will usually improve your health and performance. Average range for sleeping is 7-9 hours. Siesta or short nap taken often after lunch improves health and productivity. Spain has a tradition of siesta between 1.00 and 4.00pm. During this time businesses close their doors so that staff could take a long break and a nap during the day. Siesta is not practicable in Nigerian situation but those whose schedule of work allows having a nap know the benefits to health and productivity.
Your discretionary time, when you are neither producing nor sleeping, generally involves rewards that are not directly material. This is the time you spend alone in meditation, with family, friends, hobbies, recreation, volunteer, social or service activities. This time significantly improves the quality of life by helping to maintain a balance.