Our most precious and irreplaceable resource is time. We have approximately 100 hours each week to spend after sleep and basic self-care. How we spend those 100 hours is an observable expression of our values and priorities that can often be at odds with our stated values. When somebody says they value their health, but they don’t sleep enough or exercise because they are spending their nights working, their actions show that they value their health less than “keeping up” at work.
They might even say they don’t have “enough” time to exercise, and yet there is no such thing as “enough” time. We each have the same 100 hours each week, and we can not do everything we want to do because that time is limited. If we choose to spend more time on one activity, that means less time on another activity; if we work more, there’s less time for exercise and sleep. So a more honest translation of “not enough time” might be “I didn’t prioritize this over other things I want to do”.
For instance, the person might say they “have to” finish all of their work, and there isn’t enough time to exercise after that. Such a statement would reveal their hidden commitments that are in conflict with what they say they want e.g. they might have a rule that “I can never say no to my boss”. There might be a good reason for that rule, in that an early manager punished them for saying no to a request, and they resolved to never experience that feeling again. But treating that rule as an immovable constraint means implicitly deciding that they would rather sacrifice their health than say no to their boss.
And they might decide to make that choice! Perhaps they have a manager that won’t take no for an answer and they need the job, or they have an opportunity that they wouldn’t get elsewhere, and they are willing to make the short-term sacrifice for their longer-term goals. But my intent as a coach is to help people see that they are making a choice in how they spend their time; in other words, it doesn’t have to be this way.
How do you spend your 100 hours? How much of your week goes to work, family, friends, personal development, urgent short-term asks vs. important long-term foundation building? There’s no “right” answer here, but if your actual time allocation does not line up with your desired values, it might be an opportunity to get curious on what rules or unconscious commitments you have that are taking precedence.
This also applies within work contexts. If a leader says they value initiative and strategic vision, but spends half their day responding to emails or Slack messages, I can infer that it is more important to them to respond to messages quickly than it is to give themselves the thinking time they need for strategy. They may not realize that how limited their time and attention is, so they keep doing more of the activities that earned them their current success. But since there is a limit to how hard they can work, they will get stuck because they can’t do more. To change their trajectory, they would need to raise the bar on what makes a task “worth” doing for them so they can spend their time on higher impact activities.
Make a conscious choice about what you will prioritize, and then hold yourself accountable by observing how your 100 hours each week aligns with those priorities (aka Clarity, and Focus). This is not easy (heck, my recent year in review post shows I’m still struggling with it), but increasing our alignment just a little each week can make a big difference. By setting the intention and paying attention, we can build new behaviors and bring ourselves into greater alignment.