What’s that dripping sound? It’s the sound of your time leaking away, drop by drop. And time, unlike some things, is not recyclable. Whether it’s your personal life or your business, every drip has a cost.
For those of us in the fast-paced world of cleantech and sustainability, this can be a serious issue. And women tend to face added challenges in balancing work and family life.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control of your time.
That was the message from time management expert Rosie Aiello at a recent WCS event, “Productivity for Entrepreneurs: Your Time is Your Money.”
You may think you’re being productive, Aiello told us, because you’re busy all the time. But it’s important to realize that productivity is not about just doing – it’s about doing the right actions in the most effective way.
Time = money: The cost of wasted time
You may not realize how much time — and therefore money — you’re wasting, while still feeling busy and overwhelmed. When you look at how much each time sink costs, you may feel more motivated to make a change.
A mere 10 minutes a day will cost you a workweek a year, said Aiello. If you earn $100 an hour, that’s $4000 a year.
That’s bad enough, but most of us waste more than 10 minutes a day. One study showed that it’s more like 120 minutes. What does that cost? A whopping $50,000 a year, or $4,200 a month.
But we actually have a lot of time: 1,044 minutes in each day. Aiello’s message to us was, “You’re in control! It’s all about choice.”
How do we take control? A good start, said Aiello, is to set intentions. She suggested we say to ourselves each day:
- “I intentionally choose how to use my time.” This is much more empowering than being reactive.
- “I consistently use my time for goal-achieving activities.” Goals can take many forms, such as improving your health — after all, cost is not just about money.
Once you set your intention, you need to get into the nitty-gritty. Email, which takes over so much of our lives, is a natural place to start.
For that, Aiello offered the “5 D’s”:
- Delete: Scan your inbox each day and delete what you can.
- Delegate: Is there someone you can delegate to that you haven’t thought of? Don’t feel like you have to do everything that comes to you. Just because you got the email doesn’t mean you have to deal with it.
- Do it: Take care of whatever you do need to deal with that can be done quickly, rather than letting it sit and bother you, or be forgotten.
- Defer it: If the request in an email will take you longer than a few minutes, put it aside till later. This doesn’t mean forget about it and don’t do it; you need to plan how and when you will get it done.
- De-Junk: Look in your junk and spam folders every day. Good emails get lost in there all the time.
Beyond these basics, the details depend on you. Aiello emphasized, “The system that works is the system that works for you.” That might mean religiously getting your inbox down to zero, or it might mean keeping thousands of emails there.
The honor system
To Aiello, the honor system means honoring yourself. It’s related to intentionally choosing how you use your time. Saying Yes to someone can mean you’re saying No to yourself.
To maintain boundaries, it’s important to be able to say No — politely, of course. You might communicate messages like “No, not now .. I can get back to you … I would love to, I’m in the middle of a project right now.”
Good is good enough
Knowing when something is good enough can make all the difference between executing and being stuck.
You don’t have to be perfect if you know that you do good work. After all, perfection is impossible to attain. Aiello counseled us to aim, instead, for excellence — something we can achieve.
To move forward and achieve your goals, she suggested, always ask this key question: “Is the task or action I am working on now helping me achieve my goals?”
As women working on making the world more sustainable, we may sometimes forget to live our own lives sustainably. Aiello’s talk was a good reminder to apply the same principles that guide our careers to our everyday lives — both at work and at home.
How do you manage the challenge of the demands on your time? We’d love to hear input from our community on this ever-present issue.
And remember: You can’t recycle wasted time.
Rosana Francescato is Director of Communications at Sunible.com, an online marketplace that’s radically simplifying the home solar buying experience. She’s on the board of Women in Cleantech and Sustainability and the steering committee of theLocal Clean Energy Alliance. She’s been the top individual fundraiser at the GRID Alternatives Bay Area Solarthon four years in a row.