Take a Brutally Honest Look


We’ve all been there. Feeling overwhelmed by All The Things on our proverbial plates. Ending a day of constant activity without feeling like much got done. Or some other exclamation about how busy life seems. But how often do you stop and take a brutally honest look at how you’re spending your time? How do you turn the hamster wheel into a more comfortable walk along a path of your choosing?

Busy or Engaged?

More than 20 years ago, I was new in my role as an Executive Director of a small non-profit. I was struggling with how to get on top of everything I thought I was responsible for. There often seemed to be more tasks and pulls on my time than I could possibly get done in any given day.

I attended a professional development retreat with my fellow organizers. One of my colleagues challenged all of us about how we were spending our time. She asked us to consider if we were busy or engaged. That comparison stopped me in my tracks. I had never considered the question.

She went on to suggest that engaging in some reflection on how we spent a given week might be an eye-opening exercise. I took her suggestions and was surprised at what I learned when doing an objective analysis of how I was spending my time. There were several tasks I needed to stop doing. They were keeping me busy, which was keeping me from being truly engaged in my work. Also, I had been grossly underestimating how much time various activities really took. The new insights allowed me to make adjustments with more confidence. The result was powerful.

Time Study

Years later, while becoming certified as an executive coach, I was reminded of the value of conducting a simple time study. When I conduct one myself, I gain insight. Whenever I start feeling like my time is out of control or I’m not sure where it’s all going, I spend two weeks doing my own time study. My clients who express challenges with managing their calendars find benefit in the process as well.

If you want to try your own time study, you can find the same template I share with my clients on our website. It’s yours to download for free. You might be surprised by what you learn in the process. If you need any help along the way, feel free to reach out.

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