When was the last time you audited your time?
I mean, writing down everything that takes up space in your calendar.
It’s probably been a while since you did an audit, right? Let’s do the exercise right now. I want you to get a blank sheet of paper and a pen, pull up your calendar, and start writing down everything you do. Here are some prompts to get you started:
Standing lunch meetings.
Hanging out with friends.
It’s a lot, right? Especially when you brain dump everything onto a piece of paper.
Time is a finite resource – we only have a fixed amount to use. This means we need to be incredibly selective with how we spend our time.
So, once you have your comprehensive list of the things you spend your time on, go through each item one by one and take a few minutes to reflect. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I like doing this?
- Do I absolutely have to do this?
- Does this bring me joy?
- Could I do this more efficiently?
- Could I delegate this to someone else?
- Could I let this commitment go?
Letting go of commitments is one of the most freeing things you can do. We aren’t built to do everything for everyone all the time. We owe it to ourselves to be selective about how we spend our time. No, it’s not selfish. No, it’s not mean. It’s healthy. It’s good for our souls and for our families. It’s good to create space in our calendars, and to not have every waking minute scheduled with an obligation.
This overcrowding of time can be especially true for families with kids at home. We have generally become a society where, if kids are not “busy”, it is a bad thing, or bad parenting, so we sign them up for sports and dance and music and tutoring and volunteering, etc. If this is your situation, I encourage you to reflect and make sure you are doing these activities because you truly believe it is in your kids’ best interest. We don’t want to do things just because “that is what everyone else is doing.” I hear a lot of stories of whole weekends that are taken by these activities, often to the dismay of the kids themselves. (Don’t get me wrong, kids often need to do things they don’t want to do, but parents need to be sure they believe in the activities they are scheduling for their children.)
Over the past year, I let go of two commitments. One of them, I am considering working back into my life, because I think my life is better off with it. The other one, I am glad that I let go of, from both a financial and “use of time” perspective.
This is what happens when you audit your time. If you make the decision to let something go, and you take a break from it, you may realize that you were better off with it, and you can just add it back in. Just because you let something go does not mean it’s a permanent decision. It just gives you the space to determine if your life is better off or not.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into letting a commitment go. Let’s say you’ve held a board position at a non-profit for the last few years, but, during your time audit, you decide you don’t like it anymore. It causes you stress, you don’t like the people you work with, and it’s not filling your soul. You know you want to say goodbye, but you’re afraid of what people might think or say.
I am here to give you permission to let that commitment go and to not take personally any comments, sneers, or passive aggressive actions that come your way.
Remember, if someone has a problem with something you do, it’s about them, not you. You don’t owe anything to anyone. It’s your life, and you get to decide how you spend your time.
Now, do I think it’s important to give back? Absolutely. Do I think it’s important to be involved in your community and share in a sense of fellowship? For sure. But, I think we need to be aware of the fact that our giving and our time has limits. And it’s perfectly OK, and healthy, to set limits.
I recommend doing a time audit at least once a year. Perhaps you do it at the beginning of the year, before you launch into a brand new calendar. Or, maybe it makes more sense to do the audit in the final quarter of the year, when you are in a reflective mindset and ready to start the new year with more time.
Remember, less is more! We are looking for quality over quantity. Good luck with your audit! Please share in the comments below what the time audit did for you!