What would you do if every day $86,400 was deposited in your bank account? You could use the money in any way you like with one condition: whatever remained at the end of the day would be gone by the next day. What would you do? You would use every penny right!? You’d probably pay off debts, take that vacation you’d been waiting for, donate to a charity and whatever else was left over you’d invest. I don’t think anyone would willingly just let the money lapse.

Each of us has this kind of bank account. It’s called time. Each day we receive 86,400 seconds and each day whatever seconds we fail to use to the best of our abilities we lose forever.

Every moment needs to be treated as a gift. How often do we waste time with things that provide no value to us or to others? For example, in the U.S. the average number of hours in a day that are spent watching TV is 4. Compare that with under 1 hour being the amount of time families spend with each other in social activities. Clearly, learning to prioritize our time is essential.

The 4 Levels of Time Management

There are 4 levels or tiers to time management. All of us coming into this world begin at the first level. As we learn through experience and as we grow, we can move up and operate at higher levels.

Level 1 – The Oblivious

People on this end of the spectrum have no concern or any idea where there time is being spent. They are easily tossed to and fro by the most fickle of circumstances. Oftentimes, because they are constantly letting any interruption affect them, they have a hard time keeping appointments or remembering things that they needed to get done.

When I used to live in this category I felt I truly understood freedom. Over time, as I developed my time management skills, I learned that I had no freedom at all. This realization came out of observing that it wasn’t me who was in control of my circumstances; rather, my circumstances and the environment was what dictated my actions. I was a slave to everyone else’s desires and not my own.

Level 2 – Becoming Time Aware

As one assumes more responsibilities in life, an awareness of time (or an awareness of the lack of time) begins to develop. All of the pressures of life: the job, the bills, the kids begin to weigh upon us. Before long we notice that it’s the end of the day and we haven’t finished half the things we needed to get done. Sometimes we forget them alltogether.

This naturally leads us to figure out ways we can remember what our tasks are. We begin to make simple checklists and use post-it notes to remind us of what’s important.

Level 3 – Discarding What is Useless

This natural progression toward wanting more time begins our journey into the development of time-management skills. No longer are we satisfied in just finishing certain tasks, instead, we begin to assign tasks to certain times of the day. We start using calendars and appointment books.

Further into our progression we begin to question the purpose of our tasks; so we start setting goals and figure out what we truly value in life. We start the process of removing activities and habits which do not contribute to our overall goals and values, and keeping those things which do.

Level 4 – Kaizen

If you’ve arrived at that place where you are operating in Level 3, perhaps you’d like to go a little further. I’m talking about a lifestyle of excellence, where highly-effective people function. They live by the philosophy of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese term used in business. Its origins lie in the auto-manufacturing industry. In English, it is defined as “constant and never-ending improvement”.

Kaizen, in the time management sense, is constantly striving to use every second of every day to work toward your values and principles. This often involves multitasking. For example, learning is one of my values. To practice Kaizen I often:

  • Download eBooks related to what I’m learning about onto my digital organizer, and read when I have downtime (i.e. on the toilet, waiting for appointments etc.)
  • Realize that whoever I come into contact with is a teacher. There’s always something of value that they know that I could learn about.
  • Listen to audio books while I’m commuting to and from work.
  • Get up an hour earlier than required to get myself ready, to dedicate to study.
  • Keep a personal journal with me to record new things I notice in my surroundings.

The key to Kaizen is multitasking. You begin to see every moment as an opportunity for personal growth. Some of the main side effects of doing this are a deep appreciation for every second that you’ve been given, and an aversion to wasting time in frivolous activities. Most of all life becomes an opportunity for amazing growth and excitement and you no longer become bored.

Each of us is operating at different levels of time management. I challenge you to constantly push yourself beyond what your current limits are and seek to operate in the level of Kaizen.

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