Where does the Time Go?
525,600 moments so dear
How do you measure, measure a year?
Rent, Seasons of Love, Jonathan Larson
Recently I was working with a young professional who wondered how to fit everything she wanted to accomplish into her day, week, year. I recommended she start with a mind map as part of a two-step process to capture priorities and find time leaks. I’ve come to think of budgeting my time the same way I learned to budget my money. When I first went off to college, I couldn’t figure out where all my money was going. I thought I was being careful with my spending, but my checking account didn’t tell that same story. Someone told me about a trick to finding that lost money. It was simple. Write down every single penny I spent. It was a bit of a pain – no smartphones or apps at my disposal in those days – but it was very instructive. I found that my nightly trips to the dorm snack bar to try and catch a glimpse of my current crush also included buying snacks. Gaining awareness of how these little leaks drained my bank account helped me make better choices. It also helped that I found a new crush who hung out at the pool instead of the snack bar.
Mind Map Comeback
Mind mapping is a concept that has been around either for decades or centuries, depending on how it’s defined. Tony Buzan claims to be the inventor, circa 1974, with further evolution this millennium to include concept mapping and software applications. It can be used as a teaching tool for the classroom and can also be used effectively for project mapping and even learning more about how we spend our energy. One of the ways I help people I work with learn to budget their time is to start with a mind mapping exercise. While it’s simple and easy enough to do alone, I think there’s a high value in using a coach to get the most out of the exercise.
For example, I was working with a small business owner who was in the process of selling one of his businesses. His motivation for the sale was to be able to spend more time on his other, more lucrative, venture. The challenge was that both he and the new owner wanted him to be part of the transition after the sale. Before we could draft a statement of scope of work, we did a mind mapping session of his current conditions to help him clarify his priorities and budget his time.
In this case, I had him put himself in the center circle and encouraged him to name the main bubbles that came off the spokes of the center. These would be used as a way for him to define himself. He started with Dad, Husband, PaPa, Brother. I assumed he would put the name of each business in a different circle which he did. As we continued, Friend, Businessman. Businessman? “Yes, Businessman.” Ok. I reminded him of a commitment he told me about to a group starting a service project in Chicago. Servant. At this point he thought he was done. Because I knew how much time and energy he had been giving to care for his parents, I reminded him that he was also a Son. Son. That was a big one. He let this all sink in. While he has more complexities to his life, he felt these circles well-defined him at this point in time.
525,600 Minutes Divided by 2
We then took the circle that was the business he was selling and made a new mind map with that at the center. Many mind maps keep the linkage on the page and use pictures and colors. They can get very complex and colorful. To keep the visual simple and focused we started a new page and kept to just words, lines and circles . I reminded him that he didn’t need to map this one out for the long term. He talked about his role in this business as a 6-month transition. Both open and closed-ended questions helped him name and clarify what types of work he wanted to write in in his circles emanating from this center. We moved into a new mind map for the remaining company he wanted to spend more time on so that he could feel immediately how much time and energy would be available for what he meant to be a priority for him as a “businessman.” There were more surprises here as I pushed him to commit to the number of hours per week he intended to spend on each circle and how many hours per week he really wanted to work. This was a big reality check. I know that because of his personality type (Enneagram type 7) he thinks he can bend time. While I appreciate his enthusiasm and optimism, my job was to help him understand how what he wanted to be able to do for each company was part of an overall time budget, which is a fixed asset -168 hours per week. Total. That’s it.
Once these realities set in, we were able to draft a scope of work for the transition which allowed him to remain loyal to the company he was selling while still allowing time in his week for his other business and other circles off his main map where he is at the center. Now that the sale is finalized, we will schedule a reality time check to see if the estimated hours per week he intended to give to each venture is matching his map.
Getting back to the young professional at the start of my story – once she has developed her mind map, the next step will be to use it to budget 168 hours in her week. More on that in my next post.
Go see Rent, Measure your life in love. Jonathan Larson, (1996).
The 20th anniversary tour is still going on this year. Go just to hear the songs, if nothing else.
Or Rent Rent at your local public library. Caution: Seasons of Love is an ear worm