What is 168 Hours?

Each week you have 168 hours to use. This blog covers my ramblings on how to use them as effectively as possible.

It's not about stuffing as much as you can into the 168 hours. It's about ensuring that you use the 168 hours as best you can to ensure you get to where you want to go in as relaxed a state as possible.

Archive for January 2011

A book that has had a large impact on my life is Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. It came out around the time I was setting up my first company (1990) and my mind was open to change and development. The text resonated with me and I emerged myself into the habits and philosophy. I am convinced that putting the principles of the book into building that company was a key factor in its success – in our first year of trading the turnover was close to a million pounds. Not bad for a start-up during a recession. Over the years, I have given copies of the book away to friends hoping that they would get as much out of the book as I did.

One of the seven habits is “Put First Things First” and it focuses on personal effectiveness. A key concept in the book is that being effective is not about cramming as much as you can into the 168 hours you have each week. Doing lots of “stuff” has no meaning – unless you know why you are doing “stuff ” and where you are going.

The compass is used as a symbol of “where are we going”. It covers the outcome of understanding our beliefs and values. Of knowing whats important and – as important – why things are important. The compass is our direction in life and points the way.

The clock is of course the symbol for time, the 168 hours in a week that we have to get where we are going. It reminds us that the clock is continually ticking and against our objectives, vision and destination.

Managing the balance between the compass and the clock is the key to personal effectiveness.

Time Management (how I hate that term) is meaningless without the compass. Without the compass there is no understanding of priorities. Of breaking down the urgent from the important. People who tend to think they are poor at Time Management tend not to have their own compass working very well. Or their compass (priorites) have been imposed or given to them by someone else.

Likewise the compass is meaningless without the clock. We may amble towards our vision. We may take a few detours. We may even get distracted along the way – unless we know how much time is needed to be allocated to the journey. People without a compass can be very good at getting stuff done. They can be very efficient. But without a compass you can never be effective.

So, there it is. A key part to personal effectivenss is understanding the balance between the compass and the clock. In future blogs I will go into this in more detail but thought a simple overview might be a good place to start.

I’d forgotten about this. In my other blog on sales effectiveness, I wrote a post back in November 2009 about the 168 hours idea. So, I thought it would make sense to reporduce it below. And before you ask, I did get permission from myself to do this after a bottle of malt whiskey changed hands…

I like to think that I am a fairly effective person. I run my own business – and do so on my own. This is by choice. I wanted to set-up a business where I didn’t need staff. I’ve done that before and much as I love working with and developing people, I’ve learned that I am much better at managing myself than I am at managing others. So, I outsource as much as I can: Book keeping, Accounts, a virtual PA for the phone etc. This leaves me free to focus on what I do best: which is to generate the income from my sales training and mentoring.

One thing that I often find I am helping my clients with is time management. An aspect of my training covers “What are you going to stop?” in order to find the time to put into practice some of the lessons covered when we work together. This question often gets the response “Oh, I will find the time because this is important”. However, unless we work at “What are you going to stop doing?” experience tells me that you will not find the time. Even if the client feels that it is important. All that does happen is that the stress levels increase.

You see we all have 168 hours a week to use (excluding leap years and when the clocks change) no more and no less. I like to think in terms of “weeks” as a unit of time effectiveness. I plan my week – and this leads simply to a daily plan. So, if I already have my 168 hours planned out (and that includes sleep, travel, R&R, family etc.) how much time is left for the other stuff? Well for me, typically, 32 – 38 hours a week.

So, when you are planning a new task, activity, initiative or area of focus. The first thing to ask yourself if “What am I going to stop doing in order to find the time to do this?” And if you can’t find anything to drop, don’t take on the new task. Otherwise you will find the time needed will be found by chipping away at other important items like sleep, family, hobbies etc. Which are all so very important.

How do you use your 168 hours at the moment? And is that the best use of your time?

The problem that I have with goal setting is that it implies you are not comfortable with where you are now. So, being goal fixated – and goal orientated – can lead to you being continually in a place where you are unhappy for most of the time. And that can create a mental state that is not personally effective.

Now, I am all for having an idea of where you want to go. But, being fixated on goals, milestones and deadlines can create the wrong attitude in your head. It can prevent you from enjoying and appreciating “now”. Of being in the moment and appreciating it for what it is. So there needs to be some balance here, surely?

It also can concentrate your focus so that it is too “internal” and whilst you are trying to sort yourself out the “external” world is changing and passing you by. As the world changes opportuities are created on a regular basis. Opportunities can easily be missed or overlooked if you are focused totally on your goals.

So, on balance I prefer not to be too goal orientated. Most of the exciting changes in my life have come about as a result of observing and then responding to opportuities; not by being goal focused.

So I am happy to avoid detailed goal setting in exchange for ensuring that my values and beliefs are in order and to use these to evaluate opportunites as they arise.

What say you?