Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rethinking the week

Time to read this post: 3 minutes.

My morning coffee in Brooklyn last week feels like four years ago. Since then I have presented in Boston, trained in Los Angeles, passed through Denver, narrowly avoided running into a buffalo in Wyoming and am now en route to Vancouver. While I might picture myself as George Clooney’s Up In The Air character jetting at 35,000 feet, the reality is a lot less glamorous. For starters, I have no airline status so upon entering each aircraft I have to turn right. So as I sat in non-reclining seat 43G, I reflected on how I currently spend my time each week and whether I could be doing things differently.

To see how I was faring against my fellow man, I checked out the 2008 American Time Survey. I found that the ‘average citizen’ spends 8hrs 30mins asleep each night and those that watched TV do so for 3hrs 40mins each and every day. Upon discovering this I instantly felt under slept and understood why I have only just finished the first season of Six Feet Under. Clearly I am no ‘average citizen’ so I turned to the 2005 UK Time Use study which breaks out 25-44 year olds and shows exactly what they do with every spare 5 minutes.

In order to compare myself to the ‘average 25-44yr old’ I went back and tracked every 15 minute chunk of time I had spent in the last 7 days. I mean every taxi, each airport meal, the calls to friends, the aimless surfing of the internet. If you haven’t ever done this exercise, I really don’t recommend it. It became readily apparent that my life is rushing by and I can’t even recall half the things I do each week. After nearly an hour of searching through my Outlook calendar I pieced together a loose approximation to my last seven days and proudly enter the data into Excel. Versus the average person my age I am spending more time than average travelling (which I already knew), I spend less time watching TV (again -not news, I have three seasons of Lost on DVR) and I work longer than average.

However the interesting stuff on this chart is all hidden away in the little blue segments at the top of the two bars. All the smaller moments of time that don’t fall into bigger buckets. Instead of looking at how I spent my time I decided to ask myself the question: “Where do I get my energy?” I drew a calendar breaking out my time for the week. I went through it and looked at: Where I had been most productive? Where I had wasted time? Where I had really enjoyed myself? Where did I have my best ideas? This was much more revealing.

On Wednesday afternoon I realized I should have run a meeting very differently. Then I noticed that each time I had gone running for 30 minutes I had had a much better day. Finally I made the totally obvious but nonetheless big observation that hanging out and playing with my baby daughter beats aimlessly surfing wikipedia any day.

Back in mid-90s at university, my tutor taught us how Economics is the study of scarce resources between competing ends.  Of course life is just the same. We can't choose our parents, our genes or our taste in music.  But we do get to choose how we spend our money, time and energy. After spending this last week up in the air, I am going to focus much more on what truly energizes me.

Tough questions
1. How do you really spend your time today?
2. Reflecting on your past week, where did you draw the most energy? How can you repeat that more consistently?
3. If you had to do the last week again, what would you do differently?

1 comment:

K. E. Walker said...

Love this post. Where can I find Myers Briggs online? I forget what I am!!!

Bad sign...