| September 22, 2015

Money & Career, Personal Finance, Podcast

Podcast #140: How to Invest Your Time Like Money

We’ve all heard the phrase “Time is money,” but do you really treat your time like money?

My guest today on the podcast argues that if you’re like most folks, you probably don’t, and that’s keeping you from being a much wiser steward of your time.

Her name is Elizabeth Grace Saunders and she’s the author of the book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Today on the podcast Elizabeth and I discuss how “time debt” makes you feel frazzled and what you can do to start budgeting your time better, which will allow you more time in the future to do things that are most important to you. This is a great podcast packed with info you can put into action today. Be sure to take notes!

Show Highlights

  • Why you should always ask yourself about the ROI on how you spend your time
  • How you can free up more time in the future by making time investments today
  • Are we as busy as we think we are?
  • Why you should track your time like you track your money
  • Why many time management strategies are set up for failure
  • How to avoid time decision regrets
  • How men and women differ in how they manage their time
  • A suggested format for weekly and daily planning
  • And much more!

How to Invest Your Time Like Money Elizabeth Grace Saunders

How to Invest Your Time Like Money is a short book, but it’s crammed with tons of useful, actionable tips. Thinking about my time as money has helped me make some better decisions about how I’m spending and investing my time. It’s available on Amazon Kindle for about $5, or the price you’d pay for a burger and fries. Go check it out!

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Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here. Welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. We often say that time is money, but do you really treat your time like money? My guest on the podcast today says that, “Well, no. Most people don’t actually treat their time like money, but if they did make this paradigm shift thinking of their time as money, it would actually help them be more wise stewards of their time.”

Her name is Elizabeth Grace Saunders. She is the author of the book, “How To Invest Your Time Like Money.” Today on the podcast, we discussed time debt, that feeling where you just don’t have enough time to do the things that are important to you. We also talked about strategies you can use to treat your time more like money and actually invest time right now, so you have more time in the future to do the things that you want to do.

A really great practical podcast with lots of great actionable points that you can start implementing today, so without further adieu, Elizabeth Grace Saunders “How To Invest Your Time Like Money.” Elizabeth Grace Saunders, welcome to the show.

Elizabeth: Thank you. Delighted to be here.

Brett McKay: You have a book out that’s called “Invest Your Time Like Money.” Read that title, I’m like wait a minute. Time is finite. I can understand money is fungible. You can grow exponentially the power of compounding. How can you invest your time like money when time, you’re just having 24 hours a day? That’s it.

Elizabeth: The concept behind this is that what’s so funny and so ironic about what you just said is that even though it’s true that in many ways you can get more money and you can’t get more time, people often think the opposite.

They’re super careful about what they spend money on, like on a macro level, maybe a company might say, “We can’t pursue this initiative because we don’t have the financial budget for it, but they won’t stop to think about if they actually have the people hours for it.

In the same way with our lives, so often, we’re quick to say, “Oh, yeah. Sure, I can do that for you,” or “I can volunteer for this thing,” or “I can take on that project” without ever thinking about the fact that time is finite.

Number one, people actually need to start thinking about time as the finite resource it is, even more than money. Then, number two, when we’re looking at investing time like money, we’re saying “Where’s the return on investment?”

Just like when you are thinking about your financial assets and there are certain things where you might get a 10 or a 20% return if you’re lucky, and then maybe you bought a house set to low in the real estate market and it went up a lot in terms of value, versus something where it’s just an added expense for you, so maybe your insurance premiums go up, but you don’t get more bing for your buck.

In the same way, with our time, there are certain things that when we put time into it, it really pays off in terms of the benefits in our lives both now and in the future, and there’s other things where there’s not much of a payoff, it’s about a one-to-one ratio, and other things in our lives we’re spending even more time on them really leads to absolutely no benefits.

The whole point about how to invest your time like money is what’s your thinking about what’s the ROI and stop just like pretending that we have this bottomless pit of hours in a day, and really wasting it on things we don’t really care about.

Brett McKay: When you’re talking about ROI with time investment, the value that looking for is this value in your life and generally better health, better relationships. Can you actually free up more time by investing your time?

Elizabeth: Yes and yes. For the first point, in terms of your relationship’s health, for example, getting enough sleep is an awesome investment of your time. If you accept the fact of however many hours of sleep you need which, of course, varies from person to person, you’re going to have more energy, better health, better mood, probably be nicer to the people around you which will improve your relationships, so, yes, investing time and get enough sleep or get in exercise will improve your quality of life at present.

However, the second point you made is also true. When we invest time in certain things, it pays off in the future in terms of saving us time that we can use elsewhere. For example, finances. If we automate our bill pay, automate retirement savings, it’s going to cost us a few hours upfront, we’re going to save ourselves hours and hours of time later, and hopefully, also, is our retirement plan, have some pretty awesome increases in our finances.

Brett McKay: It’s funny. This my own personal experience and you talked to other people, they feel the same way. We have all these technologies and services that can free up time. We no longer have to do laundry by hand. We have email that can just send messages. I’ve done really business deals that would have taken weeks and you can do it in a few hours. Yet, people still feel they are time poor. They just don’t have enough time in the day.

My question and I often ask myself, am I as busy as I think I am or is there something going on the way I’m approaching time and management time that makes me feel busier than I really am?

Elizabeth:  Great question. This actually goes back to something I really emphasized in my first book which is “The Three Secrets To Effective Time Investment.” The second secret is, it’s all about having realistic expectations and how you feel about your time and about how busy you are, and whether you’re a success or failure is based on your expectations of what you thought would or wouldn’t happen.

Like you said, in the past, there’s business deals where you would just not expect to hear back from someone for a day or a couple of days because something needed to go in postal mail and they had their way for that to happen, and there wasn’t even FedEx overnight. Your expectation of how much you would get done or accomplish in a day or a week was much lower than it is now, and so, you’re going to feel time for, if your internal and external expectations of what you’re going to get done within a certain amount of time exceed that 24 hours in a day minus self-care.

The real key to how you’re going to feel about things is what are your expectations, and if you’re feeling time poor, it’s because you’ve over committed, and it’s time to start making some choices about what you’re going to expect of yourself personally, professionally, all different sorts of ways you can get things into balance, and actually, enjoy the fact that, like you said, we’ve got all these amazing modern conveniences that we didn’t have before that save us time, but we often just stuff it with more stuff and more expectations instead of actually savoring that.

Brett McKay: Get back to over commitment, how we can manage that. I’m curious, are there types of time management approaches that encourage that sort of over commitment and that actually lead to us being frustrated and in failing. Is there a certain way that most people manage their time that results in that?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. One of the reasons I really talk about time investment versus time management is I think most time management systems only focus on efficiency instead of effectiveness. What they really encourage you to do is they’re like, “Well, Brett, if you’re feeling over committed at work, that just means that you need to get, you know, two seconds more efficient at every single email that you’re, you’re emailing,” or you need to manage out, look better, or you need to do this, you need to do that, instead of stepping back and saying, “Wait a second. Maybe there’s whole parts of what you’re doing at work that aren’t as significant, and you just stop doing them.” Put them aside and allow yourself to have permission to focus on what really matters, and to do it in a way that you have breathing room, so that you’re not worried about every second being absolutely optimized.

Brett McKay: The typical response is Taylorism. Be more efficient. Okay, got you.

Elizabeth: Exactly, it’s be more efficient, and it’s also forgetting the fact that you’re human. You’re not a machine. If you want to enjoy life, you need to have some flex and some flow, and time management systems that fail to account for that really leave you feeling rather hollow even if you’re quite efficient in what you do.

Brett McKay: I love this idea of you’re not managing your time, you’re investing your time, and you have a formula. What is the time management formula?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. The formula is similar to what I was talking about before and that is when you’re saying, “Okay, am I over incommitted? Am I in time debt?, you look at you external expectations. That would be things that you’ve told other people you would do. Then, you add to that your internal expectations. That’s commitments you’ve made to yourself, and that’s one side of this time-investment formula.

On the other side, you’ve got the 24 hours in a day which is, obviously, a fixed variable, and then, you subtract the amount you need for self-care which depends on the person, how much sleep, exercise, eating they need.

What happens is that you then have these numbers on either side of the equation. If the amount of expectations you have exceeds 24 hours minus self-care, that’s when you start getting stressed out because you’re either failing to make commitments or you are contracting self-care to make everything fit.

However, if your internal and external expectation are either equal to or less than 24 hours minus self-care, that’s when you’re feeling really awesome about what you’re doing, and you are able to keep your commitments and not compromise what you’re doing in terms of your self-care.

Brett McKay: Got you. I love the analogy of thinking time as money. In a lot of ways, literally, time is money. One thing is that helps me manage my time is like, “Wow, if I could be earning X amount of dollars,” or “This is costing me X amount of dollars because I’m doing this instead of that.”

In personal finance books, oftentimes, one of the first tips that they give to get a handle on your personal finances is tracking how much you spend. Is that something we should do with out time, too, actually track how we use our time? Does that make us more aware and mindful of the time we have or how we’re spending it?

Elizabeth: Absolutely, tracking your time can be extremely valuable. In terms of how detailed you want to get with that, it really depends on your personality type.

There are certain people that I work with who absolutely love to track their time and it’s essential. They’ll do things like maybe wear a Fitbit and that will let them know how much they’re sleeping each night, or they’ll use a tool like Toggl or Time Doctor and get these cool reports about how much time they spend in different categories.

There’s other people where that can get a little bit overwhelming to them, so they’re better with a few broader category. For example, maybe tracking how much time they’re spending on productive work in general, and then, their investment in a few key categories. Maybe for them, doing project work or making sales call is a key indicator of success, so they want to make sure to track that, but if they tracked every little thing, they start to get really overwhelmed.

Brett McKay: Overwhelmed, yeah, I’ve noticed that whenever I track my time, just by tracking my time, I use my time more effectively. You’re suddenly aware while I spent an hour surfing the web mindlessly I shouldn’t do that, and then, you try to do better the next time. It’s sort of a feedback system.

Elizabeth: Absolutely.

Brett McKay: Okay, so you track your time expenses or how you’re spending it, and then, usually, in the personal finance world, the next thing is you got to create a budget. Is there a similar time budget that we can create?

Elizabeth: Absolutely, and that goes back to our external and internal expectation. What you can do is to list out what those different things are. In my book, I have a lot of different bullet points that can help jog your memory about what might be going on, but for many people, it will include things like work, commute, time with family, volunteer activities, any classes you’re taking, all of that.

Then, you can connect those through the related time cost. One of the things that people often neglect to consider are some of the softer parts of that. Let’s say you decided, “I really want to take a class to improve my skills in some area.” You think about the class time, but you don’t think about the fact, “Oh, I’m going to have to commute on either end” or “I’m going to have this homework that I need to do,” and so you want to really, in your time budget, try to include all of those time cost, and after you’ve done that, then, add up the numbers to see where you’re at. You can do this for your whole overall life or you can even do this for a part of your life.

If you’re feeling really overwhelmed at work, you could list out what are the projects I’m working on, what are the recurring events I just have to do for maintenance activities in terms of meetings or answering emails, and that will give you a sense of whether the time cost of all your expecting of yourself is aligned with the number of hours you want to spend or if it’s out of alignment, and once you have those numbers, you can start to make cuts.

This is what really frees you to feel like a success because you’re not constantly running at a deficit and feeling like a failure, and really setting yourself up where the amount of time that each item you want to do cost ends up being the amount of time you actually have to get things done.

Brett McKay: I want to come back to this how we can cut things, but here’s a question I have. One thing that I have trouble with is planning for the future, managing expectations for the future.

For example, I’ll commit to something, three months, even it isn’t three months out. When you schedule it, “Oh yeah, not a problem. That’ll be great,” but then, the thing finally comes up and it’s like, “Man, I don’t have time for this. I’ve got other stuff that came up that is taking a priority.”

How do you get over it because I guess human beings are … We’re really bad about … We’re not very good at thinking about the future. It’s so abstract, so fuzzy, and you don’t think about these contingencies are going to come up.

How do you manage time expectations with this psychological handicap that we have where we don’t think about all the other commitments are going to come up after we commit to something?

Elizabeth: Right, absolutely. Again, this comes back to the finance point of view. Let’s say a similar situation, but we’re looking at finances. You said, “Okay, a year from now, I want to buy a house. I want to buy a car.” That’ll be great for you to say “I want to buy a house or buy a car,” but if you don’t then set aside money each month to have that downpayment or to put down money for your car, you’re not going to have it when the time comes, so the same thing is true.

When something comes across your path and someone asks you for something, let’s say, it’s three month’s out, what I do is I pull up my calendar, my Google calendar, and I try to make a rough estimate of how long I think something will take.

Let’s say it’s a presentation and I need to work on PowerPoint, two to three summer visions of some other people, and have time to practice. Then, I’ll look on my calendar and see if the time is actually available for that. If I can’t find the time on my calendar, then, that’s the number one trigger for me to say, “Okay, wait a second. Either I can’t do this or I need to get something off of my calendar that I currently have on that’s a lower priority.” That’s one way to do it.

However, for some of these things, in terms of overall relative priorities, so maybe your calendar is open for the next … You have time in the next three months, but this may not end up being top priority. You want to be looking at a bigger live pictures in terms of priorities-based decision making.

Even for you and your work, what do I consider to be the high value investment activities that really move the business forward and then, what are some of the activities that may become lower on the stream of priorities, and if this thing that I’m getting asked to commit to three months out is one of the lower level priorities, I might just decide cart blanche to either not accept it or only accept it a certain number of times per year.

Maybe you do free speaking engagements three times a year and that’s all. Once you got that, you stop, because you recognize that there are going to be higher level priorities that you will want to take precedence in terms of your overall time investment for your work calendar.

Brett McKay: I love that. That was useful for me personally. Also, I’m curious about is estimating or figuring out how long a project is going to take because that, I think, probably causes a lot of time investment frustrations, is that you think somebody is not going to take that long and then you plan for it, but then it ends up taking even longer. My question is how do you acquire the skill of estimating as close as possible how long a project will actually take?

Elizabeth: Great question. Few things. One is the past results you’ve had is a good indicator of future results. If you have similar sorts of things you do whether it’s writing an article, doing certain presentations, certain projects, if you’re doing your time tracking, you have data to show you what things look like, and if the last three times you wrote this article it took 10 hours, it’s a good chance that the next time you do it, it’s going to take 10 and not five. That’s one of your best indicators of how long something will take.

If you either don’t have data on how long projects have taken you or you’re in a situation where you have a new project that you haven’t done before, the best thing to do is to break it down to the smallest parts possible. Not only will that help you with your estimates, but also will help you with actually getting the project done. It’s helpful to get really granular.

I was talking about with the presentation, you might say, “Oh, step one will be looking for past similar presentations. Step two, compiling the PowerPoint. Step three, send in to graphic designer to redesign. Step four, come in to put the scripts. Step five, practicing. Step six, blah, blah, blah, and to do each one of those, and then, our minds are actually pretty good at estimating once you get down to those smaller parts. That can be something that can help you with being more accurate.

Then finally, if you’re looking at a huge massive project like a website redesign or something like that, I would say just expect everything is going to take a really long time, put in tons of buffer, and you might not want to set a really specific deadline until you get quite close to the end because there are certain things that no matter how much you try to estimate out probably aren’t going to go as expected, and putting too much constraints on yourself can be really frustrating for you and your team.

Brett McKay: Awesome. Related to expectations, you write about in your book this idea of maximizing, satisficing. First, can you explain what the concepts are, and then, how do they help or hinder time investment?

Elizabeth: Great question. First of all, maximizing or maximizers are people who try to really do everything in the best way possible. They don’t just buy a toothbrush. They buy the best toothbrush that they have researched and has the highest Amazon reviews, whereas satisficers say, “Okay, I need toothbrush. What’s the first one that pops up or what’s the one I see at the store, that works.” Satisficers just aren’t trying to maximize every single task they’re doing or the ROI.

Why this is significant is that there is a saying that some people say is how you do anything is how you do everything. What this can create is a lot of perfectionism when it really doesn’t count. That could be sending perfect emails, that could be doing every project to the absolute max even when it doesn’t really matter, whereas satisficers are saying, “Okay, when I’m looking, let’s say, at my day, where can I provide the most impact? Where does it really matter for me to do something awesome and I’ll have a big ROI? Where is just getting it done all that matters?”

Some things where you might be able to cut time would be answering emails more quickly. Maybe some basic paperwork that just kind of needs to get done and out doesn’t need to be perfect. Some places where you might want to spend more time and it actually really is worth it to maximize the ROI might be a project that you’re doing for a new client where doing a really wonderful job on it is going to cause them to get you more work, or if you’re working within a corporation, might lead to a promotion.

Why this is important is that if you try to do everything perfectly, you’re either not going to get everything done or you’re going to miss deadlines, whereas if you’re willingness satisfies in the areas where it doesn’t really count as much, then, you’re going to be able to really push more time into the things where you’re going to get a big payoff, and you’re going to be able to make your deadlines.

Brett McKay: I’m probably opening up a can or worms here, but I’m curious. You work with lots of people, managing their time, coaching them, and investing their time. Are there differences in the way men and women approach time management that you’ve notice? Just very general in its broad strokes.

Elizabeth: Great question. I would say that obviously, each person is unique, so I’ll preface it that way, but in general, I find that women tend to be more … I think more women are planners naturally than man, whereas men, I think, can tend to be more towards the spontaneous side although there are definitely men who are pioneers, so not pretty good in that.

Then, in terms of, I think some of the psychology, again, this is changing, but men, and I think this is a wonderful thing, good thing, and I don’t think it should change, but I think men naturally tend to really feel how they prove their worth and particularly, how they love their families is through their work, and so sometimes, in an attempt to really show their love for their families, their wives, their children, they can spend a lot more time at work because they are afraid that if they don’t, they can’t provide for their family in the way that they want to, whereas, I think women don’t tend to feel that pressure as much and not that no women do, but it’s different and I think it’s good and it’s natural.

I guess one thing I would just say in that is sometimes in terms of just being aware of time investment, if man can be aware of one of the big ways they can love their family is just being present. Even if you have to work at night, being present for dinner or being present for a certain kids’ activities, that can make a huge difference in how loved and appreciated your family feels, and it can particularly help your wife or your children to really feel like you’re there, and I think that’s one just significant difference I see.

Most women, I think, who naturally recognize that the time they spend with their family is really valuable and it’s not just by work that they show their love, but I think men just tend to fall more into that category. Is it wrong or bad they feel compelled to be providers? No, I think it’s awesome and that it’s a wonderful quality, but it’s just something they consider that you might unintentionally undermine your relationships and then attempt to provide financially, but maybe not be present emotionally or physically.

Brett McKay: I think it’s interesting, too, how cultural norms can change and can change our expectations. A sociologist wrote a book “Why We Feel So Pressed For Time” and that was interesting that our rising levels of what we think clean is has caused us to spend more time cleaning than like our grandmas did.

Still yeah, women, they’re getting to the workforce, but they still feel like they have to keep their house immaculate and spotless, but their grandmas, even though they were homemakers, they were satisficers oftentimes like “Okay, yeah. There’s mud prints on the kitchen floor and there’s clutter big deal. I got to go and make dinner.” Nowadays, there’s a lot pressure with women and men to be like, “Well, no, I got to keep the yard awesome and house has got to be spotless.” I feel like these expectations from the wider culture can make us miserable.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and homes are way bigger than they used to be. It used to be natural to have maybe two, three-bedroom home for a family of four. That was just normal. That was like everyone has to have their own bedroom and we’ve got a family room and a living room, and then this, and then that, a yard that’s huge.

You’re right, I think there’s a lot of differences in terms of cultural norms and to their credit, I really see, and my coaching clients can understand men in general, an enormous care and desire to be present and to be involved, and to help with things around the house and help with children and be active and participate.

I think that’s a good thing and it’s a healthy thing, but I also know that creates a lot more pressure on men than before because just in our culture and society, most women were at home and it was just expected that they do the cleaning and the shopping, the cooking, whatever.

Many men, not all men, but many just work and come home, and that was what he had to do. Maybe you should throw on their baseball. Whereas now, I think men have a lot more expectations on themselves in terms of how active and participating they are in the home.

I don’t think it sounds really a problem, but it is something to realize “Be easy on yourself.” You’re doing a lot and you have to still keep things in balance about what is actually realistic or not realistic, and make sure that you don’t lose sight of self-care, because I see with both man and women, particularly when they have children, there can be a lot of guilt around doing anything that you just enjoy and just for pleasure whether it’s watching sports or playing sports, or reading, or playing an instrument or whatever it is, and these are actually things that are really important for you to be happy and healthy, and shouldn’t be a cause of guilt that you’re investing time in them. I actually see those as great investments in terms of quality of life, you maintaining your sanity and being the best person that you can be.

Brett McKay: Make you more productive at work in the long run.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, and just a happier, healthier person. Particularly, if you’re an introvert, you need that time alone to recharge and you can’t necessarily go straight from work to family or work to friends, or whatever, and really be in a good place.

Brett McKay: We’re big advocates of planning, time planning on the side. I’m curious, you talked about in your book, when’s someone’s sitting down to plan their week out, what should that planning session look like?

Elizabeth: Definitely. The weekly planning and session at it’s most basic level is where we’re trying to the end goal what are we trying to achieve is, number one, you want to have a sense of the hard landscape of the week, so what does this look like? Number two, you want clarity on what your big goals are.

In a practical point of view, why did those two things matter? Having a sense of the landscape helps you with not missing things and not being blindsided by things you weren’t expecting, and having clarity on your goals help us to make sure that your investing in those high importance investment activities.

When you sit down to do this, you need to have in front of you your data set. For most people that will look like having their calendar, and then, wherever you capture to do right on certain goals, certain things you’re working on, and then, I recommend looking back over the past week. For my self, when I do this, I have my Google calendar on week view.

You want to look back over the past week. Just make sure you have a complete capture. Did you do those meeting follow-ups? Is there something that needs to be rescheduled? Did you promise someone something after a meeting that you need to do?

Then, you want to look ahead over the coming week and this is a chance to really scrub your calendar, and since I’m an advocate of time investment, especially for my client’s better managers, I recommend this is time for them to decline or reschedule meetings if necessary. So often, people are in far more meetings than they need to be.

It’s also a time for you to clarify and put in any prep work. Let’s say you have a meeting on Friday that you’re going to need to get a report ready for, you should be putting in some time earlier in the week to get backed on, so you’re not surprised or crunched by that at the last minute.

Then, finally, you’re going to look at your task or to-do list, or projects, people have them categorized in different ways, and decide what are the big items for the week. Typically, for most people, given what’s going on, there’s about two or three projects that they can move forward in a substantial way. Sometimes, there’s more if they’re smaller, but for most people, it’s two or three. You want to clearly define those right those at the top of tour to-do list or put them at the top of your calendar.

Then, for a lot of people, it can help to also walk in time on their schedule. Maybe it’s Tuesday afternoon I’m going to work on writing this report or Wednesday morning I’m going to call perspective clients, whatever it is, so that you’ve already established form the get-go this is what you’re wanting to achieve. With this weekly plan, when you’re done, you should have a road map of what your firm commitments are, what are the big goals you’re trying to achieve, and how everything fits together.

If you already notice then it doesn’t all fit, it’s time to make cuts. Then, if it does fit, but you’re really squeezing everything in, you don’t have any flex time, I also recommend taking a little out of your schedule. Ideally, we want to try to have Fridays pretty flexible so that when life happens and things take longer than expected and flow throughout the week, you can catch that spillover on Friday and still get things done instead of having to work over the weekend or not really feeling like you accomplished your goals.

Brett McKay: How do you cut? Sometimes, you can cut something, but it still has to be done. Are there methods of eliminating things from your calendar, but still find ways to get them done?

Elizabeth: Obviously, it depends on the situation, but sometimes, it’s just delaying it to a different week. Other times that’s delegating it to someone else which is often a great point, or the other way to do it which works often is just satisficing.

You would be amazed. People that are good are satisficing, wow. They can get done in probably five minutes what might take maximizers an hour because, let’s say, they get a form they need to fill out, they fill out the minimum amount they can fill out, may not even use complete sentences, shoot it back, and figure, “Ah, if something’s wrong, they’ll get back to me and tell me,” versus maximizers will write this three or four paragraph answers to every single question with perfect punctuation. Sometimes, if you just need to get something done, giving yourself 15 minutes and saying “The best I can do in this amount of time is what’s going to happen” can help you with that.

Brett McKay: How does daily planning build off of your weekly plan?

Elizabeth: Perfect. Weekly plan is the overall road map to give you a strategy. Daily planning is your tactical decisions and your operating system for the day. With daily planning, if you’ve done your weekly planning, it should be super quick; 5, 10 minutes.

What you’re doing is take a quick glance over the day before. You don’t have to do a complete capture and move everything, but just a real quick “okay, anything that didn’t happen that I’ve got to follow up on now. I can’t wait until weekly planning.” Then, you want to look over the coming day. This is a chance to take note of any meetings you have. Make sure there’s a reminder, pop-ups, on your calendar. If you want, put alarms on your phone as s double reminder for you and clarify whether what you intended to do is still the top priority.

Let’s say initially, on Tuesday afternoon, you had plan on working on a report but your time got switched around, so you only had an hour to work on the report instead of three. When you’re looking at your daily plan for Wednesday, you might have thought you were going to start the day by reaching out to perspective clients, but the report really needs to get done. In your daily plan is where you make that choice, and you say, “You know what? No, I’m going to start by finishing the report.” Squeeze down the time a little bit on spending calling prospective clients, and that’s okay. That’s how it’s going to be.

It’s basically you’re re-calibration so that you’re staying in alignment with what’s most important instead of just assuming that your weekly plan will go as exactly as planned which isn’t realistic.

Brett McKay: You talk about how we have been dogging on maximizing lately, but you talk about the INO technique for maximizing your time investment. Can you explain what that is?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. INO is for investment, neutral, and optomize. This can be something when you’re doing your daily planning that can help you really clearly recognize where to focus.

Investment activities are like we are talking about before, this is where they are high impact. It could be project your working on that could transform your business. It could be maybe meeting with prospective clients or meeting with colleagues to build momentum for a project. You spending more time here is a good idea and these are activities you may spend hours and hours on.

Neutral activities are things that are more or less a one to one ratio. Let’s say you have a staff meeting. Needs to get done. You don’t necessarily want to do it as quickly as possible and totally cut any fat in the meeting, but spending a lot more time on it isn’t a high priority. If these activities, you want to get them done, get them done well, but you don’t necessarily want to turn a one-hour staff meeting, a two-hour staff meeting, there’s no real huge return on investment for that.

Finally, the O stands for optimize. These are activities where it cost you when they take more time. Filling out response reports, answering non-critical emails, anything where any more time you spent on it is just keeping you from spending time on your neutral or investment activities is something where you want to automate, delegate, delay, or do as quickly as possible, so you don’t get consumed to none.

By simply making a note on your daily plan like what’s the investment activity, put an, or what’s neutral or what’s optimize, can start to train your brain differently in terms of how you approach them with a hope that the optimized ones you can get through as quickly as possible, and the investment once you really give yourself permission to spend that extra time to get things done well.

Brett McKay: This is awesome. Elizabeth, this has been a jam-packed podcast, but where can people learn more about your work and your book?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. My website, I’ll say it and then I’ll spell it because I know it can be a little confusing, is reallifee.com. That is R-E-A-L-L-I-F-E-E.com. That’s the name of my business, and there, you can find out more about coaching I offer, training, and then, also about my books. I’ve got whole ton of resources on effective time investment and how to really feel more accomplished and more peaceful and confident at the same time.

Brett McKay: Awesome. Elizabeth Grace Saunders, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, my pleasure also.

Brett McKay: My guest today is Elizabeth Grace Saunders. She is the author of the book “How To Invest Your Time Like Money.” It’s available at Amazon Kindle, just $5.38, really a great deal, full of practical information, and you will find out more information about Elizabeth’s work at her website reallifee.com, that’s R-E-A-L-L-I-F-E-E.com.

That wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more of manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com, and if you enjoyed the podcast, I really appreciate it if you’d give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, or whatever it is you use those in the podcast. They’ll help get the word out about the podcast as well as give us feedback that will help us improve the show.

Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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