Time Investments are those activities that eventually free up more time than they initially consume. For example, many people fail to plan because planning takes time. And there would be no visible tangible task completed as testimony to this wise use of time; just a plan (hopefully in writing) because of their efforts. Plus, there is the alternative of working on those urgent tasks, some important and some not that are crying for their attention. As a result, many people delay or abandon the planning activity in favor of those daily tasks. This lack of planning causes them to lose more time through working on relatively unimportant rush jobs, crises, and the time spent recovering from interruptions that planning would have prevented. Planning is a time investment.

Similarly, delegation, communication, exercise, use of technology, goal setting, forming habits, self-development, procedures, and networking are all examples of time investments. They do not appear to be urgent, but if you had time to work on them, they would in turn free up more time for you to use on important tasks.

Take the example of delegation. A common reason for not delegating is that it requires training and training takes time. It is usually faster to do a job yourself than to train someone else to do it. That might make sense if it were a once in a lifetime job. But if the task is repetitive, there is a breakeven point at which the amount of time spent training personnel equals the total time saved by having the task done by someone else. And from then on, it is all savings.

Unfortunately, like money investments, the payoff usually takes time. And time is at a premium. Although delegation will free up huge chunks of time in the future, the time spent training others takes place in the present. Since most people already have a full day of important work, where do they get the hour or more needed each day or week to do the training? The same question could be asked of any of the time investments mentioned. That new digital handheld device may save time, but we need time to learn how to use it properly to maximize the time savings. Similarly, we know that regular exercise will keep us more energetic, healthier, more mentally alert, and subsequently more productive, but where do we get the half-hour or more each day for the exercise? It takes time to set goals, form time saving habits, develop procedures and communicate properly. Where does all that time come from?

This question will be answered in the next section. But right now it would appear that we don’t have time to manage time, because it takes large chunks of time on a daily or weekly basis to work on those tasks and activities that are now being neglected by most people.

That is where many of the time management tips can come into play. Not the ones I call “Behavioral ideas,” which require that habits be formed before they will work, but those “Mechanical ideas” that will free up time immediately. For example, arranging action files vertically in a step file within easy reach instead of piling them horizontally on your desk eliminates a lot of searching and shuffling. Upgrading your digital devices and equipment, backing up your files in the cloud, using voice-activated software and text-replacement software, all free up time – which in turn can be used on time investment activities such as training and others mentioned above.

An idea may only save you one minute a day; but multiply that minute by sixty similar ideas and you have an hour. Imagine being able to free up five hours each week! That represents time for training or sleeping or exercise – or any other time investment.

You only need time for one of the time investments to start the ball rolling – since that one activity will generate the time for others. If you start with delegation, for instance, you will soon free up the time that the delegated task has been taking. Then you would spend some of that redeemed time on planning, which would free up more time to invest in exercise and so on. You are re-investing the profits, so to speak, and continually increasing the amount of time at your disposal.

This process takes time, so do not be impatient. You will gradually become more organized, more productive, and more relaxed. Then, when you start investing time in behavioral ideas, such as making notes while on the telephone, checking email less frequently, scheduling tasks in your planner, saying no more often, and reducing procrastination, your productivity will soar.

It takes time to manage time. And time, like money, cannot be manufactured. It must be earned. But by investing wisely in the present, you will reap timely rewards in the future.

In my e-Book, Time Investments that get Results, published and available from Bookboon.com, I fully explain the difference between “Mechanical ideas” and “Behavioral ideas” and how to put them into practice.

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