Can You Spend Too Much Time on Your Goals?


An abundance of research points to the value of goal setting. That’s why there’s also an abundance of advice on how to go about setting your goals, including:

        Honing your list down to a manageable few
        Choosing them wisely (AKA playing it “SMART”)
        Committing to them in writing (digital or otherwise)

But what happens after you’ve set your goals? What’s the best way to position yourself for success? How much time should you spend on that goal? Every day, every week? The answer may be different and less in terms of time than you might think.

At Timeboost, our analytics tell us that successful people actually spend much less time on their goals than you might think. It turns out, being effective doesn’t really take that much time, it just takes some time and persistence.

And to drive this point home even more, here’s a closer look at how much time highly effective people spend on their goals. It’s also an insightful look at why achieving your own goals may depend on spending less time on them.

The Buffet Way

Warren Buffett spends about 80 percent of his time not doing but thinking. That equates to less than 20 percent of time actively working on goals. For many, this may seem like shockingly little. After all, most of us feel like we can’t get enough done, even while pulling way more than 40-hour work weeks.

But as any productivity guru will tell you, the duration of time you spend “working” isn’t necessarily representative of your actual productivity. In fact, the opposite can often be the case. As Buffett’s long-time business partner Charlie Munger explained, “That's what created [one of the] world's most successful business records in history. He has a lot of time to think.”

Buffett is not alone in devotion to the thinking process. In a guest post for Inc. magazine, Brian Scudamore, the founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, shared Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Scudamore’s takeaway?  “Most people see leadership as a sport where success is determined by hard work. Instead, I like to think of business as being more like surgery. My father was one of the top surgeons in Canada, so when I was young I saw how surgeons aim to have maximum impact with minimum intervention. Like Lincoln chopping down a tree, accomplishing this is about careful planning. The actual surgery the physical work is only a small part of the process.”

Focus on Deep Work

The mandate is clear (if surprising): If you’re spending upwards of 50 percent of your time on your goals, that’s a strong indication that you may be lacking focus. Consider what you’re actually doing when you think you’re working on your goals.

Cal Newport’s framework for thinking about work is useful here. Answering emails and taking meetings qualify as “shallow work,” meaning they have little to do with your goals. It’s not “deep work,” which is cognitively challenging and requires a lot of concentration and focus. The more time you can spend on deep work, the better your results will be, and the faster you’ll achieve your goals. The problem is that many of us equate shallow work with deep work. They’re not the same.

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to your morning and why you didn’t get more done, it may be because you’ve conflated deep work and shallow work. When this happens, you’re setting yourself up for diminishing returns and may be undermining other work and life outside of your goals.

So the lesson here is simple. Have goals, but don’t feel like they require tons of time. Plan on a little time each week, month, day - or whatever interval is appropriate. If you are consistent - even if the durations are short - you’ll get more of what you want done.

Start By Tracking Your Time Better — Much Better

Want to get more from your day even while you get more done? Use the Timeboost Goals feature.

If you use the Goals feature in Timeboost to link your time to your goals, you’ll probably see that even when you feel like you are really on top of things, you’re not actually spending a huge percentage of your time on your goals. More likely, you’re focusing regularly on your goals and spending the appropriate time on them consistently.

Timeboost makes it simple you to create goals and automatically track how much time you spend on them. You can also tie scheduled events in your day, such as meetings, to specific goals to understand if your calendar is optimized to meet your agenda.

As you start to visually see the time you’re spending on goals, you may realize (like countless other Timeboosters) that your goals don’t need that much time - just small amounts consistently. While you’re looking at the insights, take a look at the events and people that take up your time. Are they really helping you make progress on what’s most important to you? And remember that small, recurring periods of goal focus is the way to get those outcomes.

None of these insights would be possible if you didn’t take the time to track your time. Start today.



17 Productivity Gurus to Follow Right Now


At Timeboost, we want to make your time as efficient as possible. So, we’ve done the work of pulling together an excellent list of the most influential thought leaders in productivity and time management today, as well as their top tips. Follow these visionaries and learn from the best in the business. Your Twitter feed will thank you.

Let us know in the comments if we’re missing your favorite productivity master!

1. David Allen - “Stop focusing on your goals and get shit done”
The founder of Getting Things Done, Allen is revered in productivity circles for his famous methodology. GTD has passionate followers all around the world, especially in the worlds of tech and business. His foundational, five-step system will teach you how to get more done in less time with less stress. Allen’s famous Two-Minute Rule is also a great tip for Timeboosters: If you can take care of something in two minutes, get it off your plate right away.


2. Tim Ferris - “Start your day by writing down your intentions”

Ferris may be the most famous productivity guru in the world. The author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” he has inspired millions of people to do more with their day and their lives. He’s a big believer in focusing on doing the right things first — not necessarily on doing things more efficiently. He recommends waking up an hour before you need to sit in front of a computer screen, and asking yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” His latest book, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers,” is a must-read for Timeboosters.




3. Cal Newport - “Focus is the new IQ”
A professor at Georgetown University, Newport writes about how technology affects the world we live in. He’s best known for his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, in which he argues that the ability to focus on a “cognitively demanding” task without distraction has become one of the most valuable skills to master in the information age. Newport intentionally doesn’t tweet and, in fact, suggests that you quit social media in order to be more productive.


4. Laura Vanderkam - “Schedule a ‘power hour’ first thing in the morning”
One of the most noted productivity gurus out there, Vanderkam has authored books such as 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. She believes that the first step toward using your time more wisely is to actually track exactly how you’re spending it. (The Timeboost app can help with that.) Vanderkam says mornings tend to have an outsized effect on your productivity for the rest of the day. So focus on making the most of your mornings.


5. Shawn Blanc - “Use a productivity journal along the way”
The founder of Tools Toys and The Sweet Setup, Blanc is a productivity blogger with a rabid following. One of his top time-management strategies is to take five minutes after breakfast and schedule out his entire day. He schedules everything. That includes when he watches Netflix, when he takes a nap, and when he plays trains with his kids. “When I’ve got that plan for how I’m going to spend my time, and what I’m going to do when, I get more done during the day, and my day is significantly less stressful,” he writes.


6. Chris Bailey - “Time to take a break from your smartphone for the real world”
A passionate explorer of productivity since he was a teenager, Bailey is a speaker, author and consultant specializing in productivity. The author of the Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, he has performed countless experiments on himself to learn how to become the “most productive man you’d ever hope to meet,” as the TED Talks blog once described him.

Website     
7. Craig Jarrow - “Keep your to-do list sorted by priority”
Jarrow runs a popular and influential blog called Time Management Ninja, where he helps Timeboosters “win the battle against wasted time, disorganization, and all other things evil.” His blog posts have collected in a book, Crush Your Procrastination: The Best of Time Management Ninja.

@TMNinja    

8. Kayla Matthews - “There are benefits to being an early bird”
A tech journalist and blogger, Matthews writes frequently about the intersection of technology and productivity. She edits and manages the blog, Productivity Bytes, which covers tech news, tech-focused productivity tips, new apps, and gadgets.


9. Mike Vardy - “Always put YOU first”
One of the web’s leading productivity experts, Vardy is the former editor-in-chief of productivity site, Lifehack.org, and the creator of the Productivityist Podcast. His recent book, The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want, applies the game of golf to productivity and goal setting.


10. Leo Babauta - “Declutter for 15 minutes every day”
Author of a widely read blog, ZenHabits, Babauta has transformed his life by “focusing on one habit at a time.” He’s known as a minimalist and has helped others in this journey of mindfulness and simplicity with his Sea Change program. His teachings are also available in his book, Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, Briefly.


11. Annie Mueller - “Less creativity can make you more creative”
A widely published writer, Mueller delivers witty insights about productivity and work-life balance, often with funny stick-figure drawings. Her main motivation is to teach you how to take action. “Organization doesn’t matter as much as action,” she writes. You can get more tips in her book, The Freakishly Productive Guide to Taking Action.


12. Steve Pavlina - “Accept that many results require hard work”
A motivational speaker and writer, Pavlina runs one of the most popular personal development blogs on the web at StevePavlina.com. His central theme is conscious growth  “How we can deliberately invite, process, and integrate new growth experiences?” According to Pavlina, the biggest driver of growth is intelligence. Grab his free Kindle book here: Productivity: How to Triple Your Productivity Within a Month, and Do a Full’s Day Work in 90 Minutes.


13. Shane Parish - “Instead of thinking of ways to optimize your time, start thinking about ways you’re wasting your time”
Parish is the founder of Farnam Street, which teaches people how to be more effective readers to get more out of what they’re reading. His time management tips include working in 90-minute chunks, leaving 2-4 hours per day that are unplanned so you have time to think deeply, and stop reading books after 50 pages if you’re not getting enough out of them.


14. Erin Falconer - “Work smart, not just hard”
Falconer is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of productivity blog Pick the Brain, and the co-owner of LeafTV, a lifestyle destination for women. According to Falconer, “working smart is one of the biggest factors separating those who succeed and those who fail.” She says it’s critical to have a clear plan for each day and specific goals for what you want to achieve that day.


15. Elizabeth Saunders - “Invest your time like your money”
The founder of Real Life E, Elizabeth is a time management coach who helps entrepreneurs and other clients make smarter decisions with their schedules. She is the author of “The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: Achieve More Success with Less Stress.” One of her top tips is to say “no” as often as possible and just focus on what really matters to move forward with your goals.


16. Daniel Gold - “Always evaluate your effectiveness at the end”
An attorney and legal educator, Gold is best known for being an expert at using and optimizing Evernote, which he calls a “life management tool.” He uses the note-taking tool for everything, for his work, his blog, and his family life. Gold is also a fan of the Getting Things Done methodology. You can find all of his tips in his e-book, “Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done.”


17. Brian Tracy - “Success comes when you do what you love to do, and commit to being the best in your field”
A coach, consultant and speaker, Brian Tracy has developed many ways to make life more productive and rewarding. He’s an author of 70 different books, including Eat That Frog!: Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.


How a Timebooster Calendars



Let’s talk calendars.

More precisely, let’s talk about how to keep your calendar. There are many ways to organize it. How you use your calendar is as personal as the clothes you wear.

But Timeboosters are different. Timeboosters calendar with intention. The idea is simple. Be strategic about how you fill up your days. Make each of those little blocks on your screen move YOUR ball forward professionally or personally. It’s the best way to make time work for you.

This looks different for everyone. For Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, keeping busy doesn’t mean keeping an insanely packed calendar. In fact, you might find monks with busier calendars. This is what it looks like:


Pretty amazing, right?

As Fried explains it in this Medium post, he likes to keep his calendar mostly open so he can make decisions about what he’s doing that day that day. In the moment. Not weeks and weeks in advance.

I don’t want to say no to something that comes up today at 2:30 because I agreed to something 3 weeks ago at 2:30,” he writes. “Yes, occasionally that happens, but I want to design that situation to be an outlier rather than the norm… What do I do with all that empty space? My job! I design, I write, I think, I work!”

But the reality is that this kind of calendar won’t work for a lot of people. You might need more structure, and a much more booked schedule. If you’re a consultant who caters to demanding clients or a product manager within a large organization, you likely can’t dictate all of your meeting times. As the founder and CEO of his own company, Fried has more flexibility than most.

So, let’s look Graham Jenkin’s calendar back when he was a user experience manager at Google (he’s now COO at AngelList). Jenkin led the redesign of Adwords, Google’s flagship advertising 
product.



This calendar probably looks familiar. It’s packed, like most of the people using Timeboost. But take a closer look. Notice the blocks of time called “Morning Routine” (6 to 8 a.m.) and “Make Time” (8 to 11 a.m.). Jenkin doesn’t schedule any meetings during these hours. None.

In this post, Jenkin explains that his “Morning Routine” is time that’s set aside for him to think about things outside of work.

“‘Me time’ is replenishment time,” he writes. “If I’m going to successfully drive myself through the rest of the day, I need to make sure that I’m personally on a full tank of gas, oil changed, tires rotated, etc.  That’s what ‘me time’ is for.”

“Make Time” is devoted to doing the actual work. Not taking meetings. Not answering e-mails. Jenkin spends these hours on conceptual work or detailed production work, like designing.

“I need to have at least 3 hours of continuous, uninterrupted time to really get deep on the work and make significant progress or produce something that I can feel good about,” he writes.

This practice of setting aside time to go deep into your work is exactly what Cal Newport preaches in his book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.” By setting aside the time and space to go deep, we produce better results. But many of us have essentially lost this ability to really focus on doing one task without getting distracted. By social media. By email. By our constant need for new stimuli.

That’s where being intentional with your calendar can elevate your productivity and your state of mind as a result. Think of your calendar as a roadmap to your goals, laid out in hourly increments. Every time you put something in your calendar, ask yourself: How is this helping my goals? It doesn’t matter if the goal is professional (I need to get better at managing my team) or personal (I want to spend more time with my kids).

“It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the day-to-day politics or firefighting or water-treading of any job that you can easily lose sight of why you’re working in the first place,” Jenkin writes. “To prevent myself from getting sucked into this vortex, I have goals. They keep me honest.. They remind me of why I’m here, why I’m working. Without them I’d be lost.” (Note: You can also use the Goals feature in Timeboost to easily link them to your calendar)

It’s okay to spend time on Twitter or Facebook. By calendaring “chill time” or whatever you want to call it, you get the benefit of relaxing, without the risk of losing your day. Your calendar can keep you from getting lost. And make you super productive.

Just ask yourself “Is this block of time moving me forward?” before creating or accepting a meeting. And before your calendar is completely blocked for the week, go in there and book time to get the work and personal items that matter most to you done. You’ll do a better job hitting your goals and feeling like the day didn’t just fly by.

Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of Treehouse, an online provider of tech education, says this kind of goal-setting has improved his effectiveness and productivity “massively.”

He’s boiled down the process to these three simple steps:
1.     List the top five high-level goals I need to work on.
2.     Decide what percentage of my time should be allocated to each one.
3.     Create recurring calendar blocks that map to those things.
“The key is being purposeful about what you focus on and how much time you’re going to devote to each focus area,” he says in this Medium post.
So there’s no secret or complicated process to making the most of your calendar. It’s really just knowing your goals and being intentional about blocking off time in your calendar to work on those goals -- ideally with a lot of focus. Start today.

Happy Timeboosting.