“I just don’t have the time.” Does that sound familiar—especially at this time of year? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself whether you’re really that busy…or you’re just not doing a good job prioritizing the items on your to-do list?
Time management experts have suggested the use of a variety of techniques to help people get the most out of the finite hours of each day. What puzzles me about many of their strategies is that they don’t take into account the three critical elements that I believe determine how people manage and prioritize time: values, needs and motivation.
- Values are “supercharged beliefs.” Researchers Raths, Harmin and Simon find that for beliefs to be considered full values, they must meet three criteria:
- Choosing—It must be chosen freely after thoughtful consideration is given to the consequences of your alternative(s).
- Prizing—It must be cherished and made known to other people, i.e., you must be comfortable publicly affirming it.
- Acting—It must be translated into behaviors that are consistent with the chosen value and integrated into your lifestyle.
Write down your top five values and rank them in order of importance, and you should see that they align with how you’re prioritizing tasks and making decisions about how you manage your time.
- Needs are acquired over time and based to a significant degree on your life experiences. Motivational research pioneer David McClelland believes people have three basic needs:
- Need for achievement—You exhibit a strong desire to succeed and excel.
- Need for power—You want to be influential and make an impact on others.
- Need for affiliation—You seek to have friendly relationships and want to be well regarded.
Everyone possesses varying degrees of these needs, so at one time or another, you may shape your schedule based on any of them. For instance, you may choose to attend a family gathering not because it’s the #1 thing you want to do, but because you fear losing some affiliation “points” if you don’t go.
- Motivation is the most complicated of our time/priority drivers, and it’s typically the most short-lived, changing along with specific situations. You’re usually motivated to do something because there’s a payoff involved—and to not make time for it could be problematic. Bottom line: you’re motivated to make time for the things that are most important to you.
As you find yourself trying to balance the demands of career, family and the holidays, focus on what you value, what you need and what motivates you—and you’ll be surprised at how easily you suddenly find the time to get things done.