Want to know how to best spend your time? Ask yourself these five questions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year‘ was the song playing as my client and I sat down for coffee last week.

‘He clearly hasn’t seen my to do list,’ laughed Lucy (not her real name). ‘If I’d written that song, it would be something like it’s the most chaotic time of the year.’

I showed her a diagram my friend Katie of Kudosity had shared on her Facebook page a couple of days earlier. With Katie’s permission, I’m sharing it below – you don’t need to be able to read it to see it’s rather busy!

The list shows more than 30 things she has to do, most of them described with her inimitable humour, ranging from a special birthday celebration, painting the hall, ordering and preferably not drinking the requisite beverages, scheduling gym classes, school events and, oh yes, running a business.

‘I feel her pain,’ smiled Lucy.

Whatever the season, you’ve probably felt a bit like Lucy and Katie. If that’s so, you’ve probably wondered about the best way to spend your time.

Several years ago, I read a post by Gretchen Rubin about the questions she asks herself when deciding how to spend her time and it inspired me to come up with my own.

1   What will it cost me to do this and is the payback worth it?

This may be a question of finances or it may be related to other resources. For example, if you agree to paint the scenery for your son’s school play, you’ll miss the football match but your son and his teacher will be really pleased you’ve helped – and you can always record the match to watch later. Plus, you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy when you admire that landscape you created when you’re sitting in the school hall!

2   Is this a good opportunity to spend time with people I know or get to know new people?

Going ten pin bowling really might not be your cup of tea but if it helps you to see your colleagues in a different setting and learn a little bit more about them, lace up those strange shoes and choose your bowling ball.

3   Is there an equally good but different way of doing this?

Katie’s list mentioned getting together with those friends she promised to see more of in 2019: I think we’ve all felt like that. Finding seven different occasions on which you can meet all these people individually might be tricky: maybe you could host a drinks party instead. Oh, they don’t know each other? I refer you back to question 2.

4   Is this a chance to try something new?

One of my personal values is learning and I also like to push myself out of my comfort zone every now and then.  Lifelong learning is beneficial to both mental and physical health so I’m motivated by opportunities to try something new and challenging.

5   Am I the best person to do this?

A wonderful opportunity may present itself to you but you know deep down that someone else you know is perfect for it. Perhaps you are the best person but it would be great to give the chance to a colleague who’s been working on this new skill. An opportunity which isn’t quite so wonderful may arise and you’re asked because you’re the person standing there at the time or the person who always says yes when asked to chair the meeting/write up the minutes/organise the team social/pick up the children from dance class. Is it time to delegate? It’s okay to pause and consider who’s best placed to fulfil a request before you respond.

There are some activities of course which aren’t optional but for those which are, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions like these before taking on a new activity.

Today’s pebble for your consideration: what will you ask yourself before deciding how to spend your time?


ps No new blog post next week: I think digesting the results of the UK General Election will be plenty to ponder.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make the most of your potential and feel more fulfilled in your career and life, please do email me and let’s have a conversation.


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