Taking control of our time and using it effectively is not a novel concept. From Stonehenge, to Roman sundials and calendars, and even Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we’ve worked hard to understand what time is and find different ways to get it to work for us instead of against us. The more we understand how it works and what causes us to misuse it, the more productive we become, and generally, the more satisfied we are with the direction of our lives.
The way we view time is important, so much so, that it’s invaded aspects of our every-day lives that we may not even be aware of. For instance, in 1980, cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson pointed out in Metaphors We Live By, that we often subconsciously associate time with ownership and money in everyday speech. Think about it:
- I don’t have the time to do that right now.
- I can’t give this conversation the time it deserves.
- You’re wasting your time.
- I’ve invested a lot of time in this relationship.
- Doing this will save you hours.
The truth is, we spend so much time thinking about it because it’s more valuable than money. It’s a finite resource. We each have our own ration of it, and it is up to us to spend it as wisely as possible. (More money metaphors. You can’t un-see it now.) We just need to figure out how.
A Brief History of Time
For early man, there were only two real ways to measure time: by day and night, and cold and hot seasons. You rose with the sun, worked through the day, and finished whatever you were trying to accomplish by the time the sun set. Both as hunter-gatherers and farmers, our work was dictated by seasonal change. We moved or cultivated food depending on what worked best at the time.
As our lives became more complicated, the way we tracked time became more complex. For instance, we began to track lunation, a fancy word for how many phases of the moon have to go by before we get to a full moon, which represents a full “lunar month” (29.5 days). From there, we made note of the movement of the earth and the sun, eventually creating the concept of the year.
And while we only have one standard calendar today, there was a time when there were several. There were solar calendars (like the modern Gregorian calendar), lunar calendars (like the Islamic calendar), and Lunisolar calendars (like the Chinese calendar). Over time, we began to tinker with calendars that related specifically to commerce (we don’t want to miss a harvest).
It’s interesting to think that while, for much of our history we’ve been concerned with understanding our time on a large scale, from months to years, and now we have the luxury of being more interested in managing our time by the minute and hour.
But has managing our time in smaller chunks really given us more control over time?
If you want a big life, you need to think about time in big chunks. Like we talk about in The ONE Thing, extraordinary success comes one step at a time. Minutes add up to hours, hours add up to days, days add up to weeks, and weeks add up to months and years. If we focus on a really big goal, we can’t just pay attention to what we’re doing now, we have to also pay attention to how the things we’re doing now are going to add up in the long-run.
We often make the mistake of leaving our most important activities up to “the moment”. We do what’s important to us when we feel like it instead of doing it methodically, and by doing so, our results become inconsistent.
We need to pull back and view time in larger increments in order to get a clearer perspective on what we are trying to accomplish. Seeing the bigger picture matters. It’s what helps us determine our priority. And when we know where we need to go and how to get there, the clarity we gain charts us on a path to success.
The Problem with Planners
If you were to look at your digital calendar right now and pick any random day over the past month and look at it, you’d probably have a hard time recalling what your priority was on that day and whether or not you actually accomplished it.
This past year, we’ve worked hard to find a new way to help you manage your time so this doesn’t happen. We studied time, analyzed digital and paper calendars, and conducted a series of focus groups to help figure out how we could create something that helps you solve the riddle of time management.
What your current planner needs:
- A Clear Sense of Priority & a Month at a Glance
During our focus groups, we asked our participants the dreaded “priority” question above, and overwhelmingly we were met with the same response. No one knew. They didn’t know what their priority had been for the day, had no way of tracking whether or not it had been completed, and couldn’t tell us where their daily activities fit in the larger scope of their goals.
They couldn’t answer because their calendar wasn’t designed to tell them that answer — it was designed to manage meetings with other people — not their priority. The problem with this is that if we can’t tell how our actions are lining up with what we want to accomplish, we have no way of actually holding our time accountable for results.When looking at our planners, we shouldn’t be considering every blank space as something that needs to be filled – we should be looking at it with a larger view of time. Instead of spending every moment trying to schedule out every meeting, we need to figure out what we can be doing now that will help us achieve our goals for the week, the month, and the year. That means, at the very least, we should operate off of a planner that gives us a “month at a glance”. Being able to see how all of our time adds up on a monthly basis gives us the ability to judge whether or not we’ve been using our time effectively, and it leads us to challenging questions we can use to make critical adjustments when we need to.
- A Space for Reassessment
Today’s planners encourage you to keep juggling, especially when what you really need to do is to drop everything and figure out the answer to this question:
What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
Our calendars should challenge us to stay in line with our 4-1-1 and GPS, and challenge us to ask tough questions about whether or not we’ve been effective with our time and what we can change to make our time more impactful. At the end of each quarter, there should be a place where we can recalculate our goals. That way we can stay on track for the productive year we want to achieve. And at the end of the year, we can use those notes and calculations as a reference for how we want to tackle the year ahead. That way, we don’t wind up making the same mistakes over again.
- Relevant Inspiration & Motivation
It’s not uncommon for a planner to have inspirational quotes and pictures of beautiful landscapes. The problem is that the information we feed into our minds actually influence the way we act—whether we’re aware of it or not. So if we’re using our planners to help us stay focused on our goals, shouldn’t the inspiration and extra content be designed to help you do just that?
- Space for Tracking Both Professional and Personal Goals
The truth of the matter is that we shouldn’t be keeping a separate planner for our professional lives and our personal lives. We don’t have two separate lives—we only have one. We should treat our personal goals and ambitions with the same vigor and tenacity that we do our professional goals. The reason for that is pretty simple: if something’s wrong in our personal lives, it impacts our performance and motivation in our professional life. That’s why, like we do with our 4-1-1, we need to keep an eye on both—and our planners should facilitate that.
While you can try and retro-fit your current planner to do all of those things, you don’t have to. We’ve taken the liberty and designed the ultimate planner that does all of those things and more.
The ONE Thing Planner
The ONE Thing Planner will help you take control of your time and give you clarity on how you should invest it. We don’t need to create a million to-do lists. We don’t need to measure our time in a series of increasingly smaller increments. We need to know the ONE THING we must accomplish today to be on track for the week, the month, the year, and the next five years, and that’s what we aim to accomplish.
Unlike other planners that are designed to simply help you schedule as much as you possibly can in a day, we’ve designed something that helps you figure out what your number one priority for each day should be. From there, we’ve created a series of monthly reflections that will help you look back on your accomplishments for the month, and help you plan for the month ahead so you stay on track for your ONE thing. The year itself is separated into four quarterly Reflect & Plans designed to help you learn from your last quarter, learn productive habits, and teach you to think about time on a larger scale.
Modeled from the personal planners of The ONE Thing authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, this planner is designed to help you filter out the noise and focus on what matters. A day isn’t just a day – it’s just one domino in an ongoing series. Whether or not you choose to go with our planner or simply work with your own, we’ve also engineered an online training platform that will help you integrate ideas from The ONE Thing into your daily routine.
In the training, you’ll learn how to reorganize the way you keep track of your priorities and time-lines so you can achieve more throughout your year. Like we said earlier, time is a finite resource. And while we can’t get more of it, we can hold ourselves accountable to using it wisely.