Do you remember the university times when money was often tight and any spending was measured in the drinks you could buy in a pub? I used to prefer parties to spending my money on anything sensible and always calculated an opportunity cost in a 'currency' of entry tickets or white wine.
I've used the same principle to improve my productivity lately. I assign an opportunity cost to my time. What else could I be doing instead?
When we were getting DrivenWoman off the ground (well, we still are) I started calculating the time I was able to save from mundane daily chores, unnecessary meetings or evening entertainment in units of time spent on building our social media presence. Social media updates don't require a lot of time per activity, but you need to keep at it if you are to get any results.
I'd try to squeeze out small 5 to 30 minutes chunks of time through out the day and asked myself...
Would I put on make up and do my hair just to drop off my kids to school? No, I'd rather spend that 10 minutes scheduling tweets for DrivenWoman.
Would I watch TV in the evening with my husband? No, I'd rather spend that 1 hour to build DrivenWoman's followers on Twitter.
Would I schedule a meeting allowing the usual 1 hour? No, I'd rather allocate 30 minutes and spend the remaining 30 minutes on designing DrivenWoman Facebook updates.
After a while this got a little stressful as I was on social media all the time, so I grew out of this short term 'currency' but it helped me to identify my time wasters and to adopt a more productive mindset.
Many people don't take time robbers who steal 5 minutes at a time seriously. 5 minutes here or there. Doesn't make a big difference, right?
You must start valuing also the small pockets of time. When you add up all the non-critical tasks you end up with a big chunk of time you could have spent advancing your dreams!
It doesn't matter what activity you pick as your opportunity cost. Give yourself a preferred task that is easy to pick up where ever you are and start regardless of how much or little time you have to spare.
For this system to work you have to be aware of your likely time robbers. (TV, phone, procrastination, shopping..?)
Pick an alternative activity that is useful for your project or goal, and is easy to switch to.
If you are likely to sit in a car for long periods and usually fill the time by speaking on the phone with people, then perhaps you can down load a couple of useful Podcasts you can switch to.
Be prepared. Have your alternative activity set up and at hand.
If your time waster is online window shopping, assign yourself more useful websites where you can learn things that advance your project or goal. Have the alternative websites ready in your 'favourites' bar and as soon as you catch yourself wasting time online close the tab and switch to a more useful site.
Let's make every minute count!