Make the most of your precious time

Peggy J. Noonan
Dan LaMoore sizes hands for an 8-foot diameter silhouette clock at Electric Time Co., in Medfield, Massachusetts.

Suppose you were promised $1,440 each day for your entire life — a whopping $525,600 a year — that could never be reduced or changed as long as you live.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Actually, we all do get 1,440 a day — but in minutes, not dollars. Time is our most precious and finite resource, says Steve Booren, founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors in Greenwood Village, Colo., and author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income.

It’s possible to get more money, but you can’t make more time. We can’t add a single second to our daily allotment, nor can we stop it or bring back time we’ve let slip away. That makes time even more precious than money, according to Booren.

Many of the same sound management practices that help people get a handle on — and make the most of — their money can also be applied to what Booren calls your “time currency.”

The question is, he says, are you a good steward of your time?

Try these simple steps to take control of your clock and calendar:

Take stock

Find out where your time is going now. Write down everything you do in a day. Include work, cooking and meals, cleaning and household maintenance, personal hygiene, sleep, family time and mindless activities such as binge-watching TV and getting lost in social media.

Tracking is the most important step, says Corie Clark, of Irvine, Calif., founder of the Purposeful Planner and author of The Simplicity Project: Win Your Battle With Chaos & Clutter So You Can Live a Life of Peace & Purpose. “Take an assessment of where you’re already spending your time, just like you would if you needed to sit down and look at your finances,” she says.

Look at your day in 15-minute increments, suggests Clark. Block off sleep first, then non-negotiables such as your job or family commitments, and you’ll see pockets of time you can use for things you want to do. Making this assessment “gives people a clear picture that they actually do have a lot more time than they realize,” Clark says.

Start planning

Invest a few minutes at the beginning of each day or week to plan and organize. Ten minutes of planning can save you an hour of time and helps stretch the time you have, Clark says. “People put off planning — or don’t do it — (and then) wonder at the end of the day or week where their time went,” she adds, just as people who don’t budget wonder where their paycheck went.

Do what you planned. People may put things on their calendar but often don’t stick to their own plans, Booren says, but it’s important to honor your own calendar. Focus and concentrate.

“Don’t let people come into your time wallet and steal (from) it because when they take your time, they’ve stolen something from you that you can’t get back.”

Set priorities

Put health first. “Invest the first 10 or 20 percent of your time in taking care of yourself,” Clark advises. “Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and taking care of you first, so that you have that extra time and energy as the day goes on.”

Set limits. Use kitchen timers, phone reminders, apps or other timing devices to stay focused and work more productively, suggests Janine Adams, certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis.

Group small tasks into one job. “I think batching things together is really helpful,” says Adams. When you have errands to run, instead of making three separate trips on three different days to grab groceries, office supplies or home store products, batch them — hit all three stores in one trip, she suggests. It’s more efficient to plow through “little one-off” tasks in one swoop rather than deal with one at a time throughout the day.

Reinforce your wins

At the end of the day, week, month and year, take a look at how well you’ve managed your time. You’ll see where you could do better and where you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

Booren likens this progress check to reviewing your annual financial statement but says, “Far too often, we don’t look at our statement” in terms of time, but we should be asking ourselves, “What are my wins today?” and “What wins do I want to have tomorrow?” Take time each day to reflect on your accomplishments and set goals for tomorrow. Do that over and over and “it becomes habit,” Booren says, like “muscle memory, so it’s natural.”

Once you take charge of your own 1,440 daily minutes and invest your time well, you’ll know exactly how to answer the next time someone asks, “Got a minute?”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Making the most of your time