When it comes to getting your most important things done, one of the most common reasons given for failure is - "I don't have enough time."
You've probably said before. I tell myself this as well. And while there's some reason to believe that this can be just an unfounded excuse, let's just assume that you're right - time is the thing standing between you and your goals.
Now that we've named the enemy, let's get ready to fight!
To help us out, I'm going to lean on a systematic thinking method called the Theory of Constraints. Developed in the 1980's by the late Eli Goldratt, it is a process of ongoing improvement that looks at your problems with a view of the system they reside in and prescriptive steps to improve system performance and eliminate the obstacles holding you back. Seems like a great tools for taking back your time, doesn't it?
I'll be working through the steps you can use to get around this time constraint and getting the things done you always wanted.
Step 1: Identify the Constraint
Every system has at least one section that limits its output. We call that the constraint. Think of it as a bottleneck that restricts the output of a system. As we discussed above, we have identified TIME as the top constraint that is limiting your progress towards your goals.
Step 2: Exploit the Constraint
When we talk about exploiting a constraint, we are looking to make the most of the system as it currently exists. Here we are going to get the best benefit of the time we currently have right now.
Are the currently making good use of your time? Do you really not have enough?
Let's start by finding out where our time is going. This is commonly referred to as a time audit. It involves writing down the activities you take part in throughout your day. When you do this you'll notice where your free time is going. You'll see the subconscious choices you're making to steal your precious time away.
So you find that there is some time you could be working on your "thing", but why aren't you already using it? Chances are, you don't know how or what you really need to be doing to the get you closer to your goals. You also don't have a means of keeping track of where you are on completing the required tasks. Here's some things you can try to fix that:
Getting started is the hard part, so make it as easy as possible to pick up your "thing" and make progress on it.
Use a visual management method to be able to see your status at a glance (like a Kanban board).
Break things down into bite-sized tasks that can be done in the 5-10 min you can find throughout your day.
Make it easy to always know the status of your "thing" and the next step to be taken
Create a habit of working on your "thing" every day.
Soon you'll be getting used to working on something that gives you excitement. Once you've got a predictable rhythm going on this Step, get ready to go to...
Step 3: Subordinate to the Constraint
It's time to get serious about your priorities. Start looking at the things you spend your time on, are they more important than your "thing"? If not subordinate those activities to doing your "thing" instead.
Consider scheduling your top priority early in your day to ensure that you'll get working on that before other distractions show up to complete with your attention.
If necessary, compromise (this-for-that) to get your "thing" to the front of the line.Tell yourself that you'll indulge in one of your 'guilty pleasures' after you knock off something really important.
You definitely want to turn off your electronic notifications. They will send you down the rabbit hole every time!
Step 4: Elevate the Constraint
Here's where you're going to work on giving yourself more time.
Usually, this is what you thought would be the first step. If you don't have enough time, shouldn't you simply look to add for time in the first place?
Sadly, that won't help. Without the discipline developed by going through Steps 2 and 3, any extra time you gain will just be wasted away on activities that won't get you closer to your goals.
Now lets make some time in your schedule:
Instead of a To Do List, make a STOP DOING list of all the things that are sucking your precious time away.
No one said you have to do it all yourself. Look for ways to delegate/outsource the things that don't excite you.
Old fashioned process improvement - find ways to complete necessary tasks faster.
Are you multiplying your time? Check out this Jeff Goins pocast to learn more
Step 5: Find the Next Constraint
With enough Elevation, your current constraint will reduce to the point where it is no longer the biggest thing holding you back. At this point, the process begins again will the search for the new constraint (Step 1).
What do you think? Could this be the trick to getting past your "lack of time" excuses?