This is my first part of a series of career advice & tips I’ve been asked to write. I’ve been surprised as I attend summits, conferences, and events how many people ask me for career advice instead of technical advice. I thought it would be best to start with a topic many people tell me they struggle with, time. For me I have always looked at time differently, not just in my career but in life. I have broken my concept of time out into a few topics.
**The below is what works for me and may not work for everyone else. By nature/nurture I am a work horse and always have to be busy. Maybe some of the elements below need to be substituted for more rest or more family time. Find the balance that works for you.
Being honest with yourself about time
The topic is self-explanatory but I find lots of people struggle to be honest with themselves about time. Everyone likes to see the best version of themselves and most of that time that version can handle everything for everybody. However, I keep hearing from those same people, I need more time in the day. My response, “Quit lying to yourself that everything is a priority because it isn’t.”
Most people waste time on trivial items taking time away from higher priorities. That is why I have adopted the 5×5 rule. If I have to think about acting on it for more than 5 seconds or it won’t matter 5 years from now, then it isn’t a priority. This allows me to triage my time and focus on what really matters. The flip side of that coin, it also allows me to judge the priorities of others.
For example; when co-workers or loved ones tell me they don’t have time to do something or the cycle to focus on a task, my reply is always the same, “thank you for letting me know this isn’t a priority for you and I will now drop it down to the bottom of my priority list.” I know this sounds harsh but it is just a reality of only so many hours in a day and not everything is a priority or should be a priority.
The 24 Hour Clock
No matter how you carve it up there are only 24 hours in a day. This is why the previous topic is important because you have to balance your time wisely. My days are split up into productive time, personal time, family time, and development time.
Here is a typical weekday for me; 8-10 hours productive time, 4-6 hours family time, 4-8 hours development time, and 4 hours sleep. I’ve had people tell me they need more than four hours sleep in a day and my reply, “Then subtract time away from another category and don’t complain you don’t have enough time to get something done because “you” prioritized sleep over it.”
You may have noticed I didn’t list personal time in my Monday-Friday. That is because during the week I am dedicated to caring for my work, my family, and my development and save personal time for the weekends. Once again, I know it doesn’t sound fun, it will suck at times, and there are more fun things we all would rather be doing. That is why you need to prioritize the things in your life so you know how much time to dedicate to each.
I don’t mind sacrificing personal time during the week and allocating those hours to development. I know one day the delta in the compensation I made vs the compensation I would not have made had I not sacrificed will bring a better quality life to my daughter and grandchildren. That motivation keeps me pushing through on those hard days when I would rather be in my backyard tossing axes than working on a new skill set.
Productive Time vs Personal Time
This is the topic I receive the most push back on and maybe where I lose some of you. In my career I believe I am an expendable reallocated resource for my employer. As long as the agreed upon compensation is deposited into my bank account, I will perform the tasks given to me. These tasks could be designing a brand new SDDC or mopping the breakroom floors.
With that being said, I consider productive time the time I am on the clock for my employer. For that 8-10 hour work window, a person should be focused on making their employer money or saving money because that is what you are being financially compensated to do. Training, career development, hobbies, and anything else I am missing should be done on personal time, not productive time.
For those of you who have complained to me about this, just remember, you are getting paid to do a job. Every certification I have obtained, new skill set learned, and blog posts I’ve written were all done on my personal time and not my productive time.
Your productive time is what shows your value to your employer and keeps you with the desired compensation rolling in. Certifications, new skills, and career development is what allows you to gain greater compensation there or somewhere else.
**The true definition of a professional is someone who does the job till they can’t get it wrong, while someone who is good at their job does it til they get it right.
When I talk about development time I am not just referring to career, I’m also referring to mental health, physical health, and overall development. It is important to have your mind, body, and soul in check. That is why at least five days a week I am in the gym for almost two hours. I also read a new book each week that is not career related. I start each year picking a new hobby that requires me to learn a new life skill. Finally, I dedicate time on my next milestone career goal.
You may be asking, “Why not dedicate all your development time to career development?” The simple answer is I am. Your career is about more than just certifications and learning new job related skills. It is also how you think, why you think the way you think, how you interact with others, etc.
I have had people get upset with me in the past as I explain my thoughts on time. However, I also add that I am the exact man, husband, father, employee, and friend that I want to be.
People need to take a real look at their lives & roles and ask, “Is this what you want?” If yes, then awesome! If no, then a shift in procedure and thought is required. Without change, where you are today is where you will be in 5 years with the same complaints.
Everyone has roles & responsibilities that determine their time management. I am a husband, father, friend, architect, mentor, etc. I also find that much like time you have to prioritize these roles because you cannot be a rock star spouse, rock star parent, rock star friend, rock star employee. There just isn’t enough time in the day. That is why I am alright accepting being a rock star dad, a great husband, a good architect, and a decent friend. I understand my priorities may not be in the same order as other people and that is ok. Find your prioritization, accept the truth about your time, and just try and be a little better than yesterday.