Sunday evening, while I was giving my son a bath, he asked me, "After this, can we watch a movie?" He and his sister love watching movies in the evenings during the weekend. It being a school night and already 7:30, I said, "No, I'm afraid we can't do that. We don't have enough time. You need to get up early in the morning." Then he asked if we could go biking the next evening. So I had to give him some more bad news. We had to take his sister to piano lessons. Then I gave my 5 year-old one of his first economic lessons. It's something we all understand intuitively, but don't think much about. We talked about "opportunity cost."
Investopedia defines Opportunity Cost as "the benefit a person could have received, but gave up to take another course of action."
In other words, if you have a choice between two mutually exclusive options, each being offered at the same time, you stand to lose the benefit you would have gotten from one thing if you pick the other. In my son's case, he missed the opportunity of being entertained by a movie because he needed the necessary rest for the following day. Now granted, I was making this choice for him because that's what parents need to do. We can't let our kids call the shots when it comes to bedtime. We know they'll be little heathens the next morning if we do. But still, the principle is the same. The value of a good night's rest was greater than the value of entertainment (even if he didn't agree with me).
The study of economics, in general, is the study of how people use and distribute scarce resources like money, oil and gas, aluminum and steel, food, and so on. But as the saying goes, our most precious resource is time. Even though we know this, we humans are infamous for squandering it by doing things that either don't benefit us, or worse, cause us harm. Most of us perceive time as something we "spend," when we should view it as something we "invest." When we take this outlook, we can better see how to use time to get the most out of ourselves and our potential.
So today, we have some good investment advice.
1. Be the Early Bird Who Gets the Worm
If you can wake up at 6 AM or earlier, you will be about 2-3 hours ahead of your counterparts who still have their eyes closed. Just think about how much more you'll be able to get done, than others on your team.
Use this new-found time well. It can be invested in exercise, reading, researching, or getting something completed for work. This is an opportunity to either (a) get something completed early or (b) free up time later. It's a winning investment all the way. Just make sure you are giving yourself enough sleep. If you don't, this investment strategy comes at a steep cost.
2. Take Time for the Most Important Meal of the Day
Too many people skip breakfast because "they don't have enough time." I'm here to say, you can't afford not to eat in the morning. Having a hearty breakfast improves your emotional and mental state.
There are a lot of people who walk around the office in the morning who are "hangry" (i.e., hunger induced anger). Having some food in your stomach in the morning has also been shown to improve attention and memory. Deprivation in the morning also affects how you eat later in the day. We tend to do bigger lunches, which in turn make us comatose in the afternoon.
This is definitely a good investment of your time, that is unless you like the reputation of being a jerk in morning who can't remember anything.
3. Invest Your Time on The Most Important Item
There's a book called The One Thing by Gary Keller (founder of Keller-Williams Realty) and Jay Papasan. Their belief is that you should focus your energy on one thing at a time, otherwise you're spread too thin and don't do anything at it's best level.
One of their suggestions is that instead of writing down a "To-Do List," we write a "Should-Do List" of only the one thing you should do that will make other things easier or unnecessary altogether. Their reasoning that when we write a bunch of tasks down, everything suddenly takes on equal importance in our mind. This makes it more difficult to decide how to allocate our time most effectively during the day, week, month, or year.
So, instead of just writing everything down that you could do, scratch off all the less important items and leave only the one thing that you really should do that day. Then focus all your energy and attention to working on it for a block of time.
In the short-run, this may feel less satisfying than checking off a bunch of completed items on your list, but in the long-run, you'll be amazed at how much really important work you were able to do in much less time than first anticipated.
4. Don't Be a Zombie When You Do Your "Thinking Work"
You are at your mental peak early in the day. As the day progresses, our mental energy level gradually dwindles to near empty. Some of our worst decisions come when we are tired and mentally drained. For example, how many of us are really good dieters, making nothing but good food choices all day long, and then at about 10:30 in the evening, right before bedtime, we break open a bag of chips and have a can of soda. Why is this? It's because our mental energy is down and we're more prone to poor decision-making.
The same can be said for your work quality. It will decline significantly over the course of the day. Because of this, don't do the work that requires a great deal of thinking late in the day, if possible. Save that stuff for the morning. However, if you have to work on it later, make sure you're giving yourself enough breaks to recharge the old battery.
Try to reserve the menial or repetitive parts of your job for the end of the day. It's a good time to read your email and check your voice mail, do some filing, clean off your desk, etc. The zombie version of you can handle that just fine.
5. Spend Less Time Networking Online and More Time Networking in Person
We spend a lot our waking day in front of one screen or another. We think that having a huge number of followers on LinkedIn will automatically translate in making it easy to transition into a new job or career. However, you'll quickly find out that your online connections don't know you well enough to refer you to someone else with high confidence.
We're not saying that you are wasting your time on social media networking. It's a great place to start the networking process, but it's only the first step. To really utilize your online network well, you need to follow up with them to schedule a time to actually meet them face-to-face. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Ask them about their job, the company they work for, their future aspirations, their hobbies, their interests, etc. The more you know about them and find areas of similar interest or where you could help them, the more likely they will put you in front of the right person to achieve your goals.
It's an excellent time investment. Even when the person you're meeting isn't directly related to your career aims, they very likely know someone who is a good connection for this purpose. As the old saying goes, it isn't always what you know that gets you the job, it's who you know.
6. Stop Devoting All Your Time to Job Boards
Job boards have the seductive combination of being easy and comfortable. For the person between jobs, you don't even have to get out of your pajamas. But is this a good use of your time?
First of all, it puts you in the wrong frame of mind. It can get rather depressing when you apply to hundreds of jobs and your resume gets stuck in the Applicant Tracking System black-hole and your phone never rings. Additionally, no one should stay confined in the same four walls too long. You'll quickly find yourself stuck in a rut not knowing how to get out.
What's a better investment in time?
Job boards aren't inherently bad, however you need to keep in mind that this is where virtually everyone else is searching for a job too. Depending on the position, when you apply through the job boards, you're up against dozens, sometimes hundreds of other applicants. So, instead of investing all your time in one avenue, diversify. Searching on a job board should only account for about 10-20% of your job-search time. The rest should be spent on making new networking connections, setting up meetings, doing informational interviews, following up, and so on.
Not Enough Time is a Poor Excuse
In the end, it's not that we don't have time, it's that we aren't investing our time in ways that will bring us highest return. The next time this "not enough time" idea comes into your mind, really look at how you're spending your day and consider potential alternatives.
Get up earlier to get a jump start on your day and beat the rush. Eat a good breakfast to give your mind and body nourishment. Work on those things that are most mentally taxing early in the day and save the repetitive things you have to do at the end. Determine what is the one thing you can do that will make other things easier or unnecessary, and then focus all your energy on that. Connect and meet new people to expand your network. Spend time outside what is most comfortable to progress your career.
Time is valuable. Time is scarce. Use it well so that every second is beneficial.
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!