To Make Career Progress, Optimize the Way You Invest Your Personal Time

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Few people in today’s world will enjoy a straightforward career path. In fact, without a lot of luck, guidance, or further financial investment, many of us may fail to make progress. But these aren’t the only factors that could be holding you back from success.

Time management can be overlooked as a factor in career development. We tend to look only at how one job leads to another. But what goes on behind the scenes? Often, it’s how we set aside time in our personal lives to invest in highly rewarding activities that can put us on an upward career trajectory.

Tidy up your schedule

Our relationship with time is dynamic. Understanding this is essential to improving the way we invest those spare hours. For instance, we go through years of school and grow accustomed to routines of attending certain classes each day. Outside of school, our time is spent studying, interacting with friends and family, or engaging in extra-curricular activities.

Moving on, we settle into our jobs and adjust to new patterns of work-related activity. But our free time as adults is increasingly ours to spend as we see fit. Without exercising deliberate control, that free time can turn into a disorganized mess. You simply do whatever you feel like doing, whether it’s playing a video game or binge-watching.

Like any mess, it’s possible to clean up and restore order to your relationship with time. With an eye towards improving your career, you can apply principles similar to the “KonMari method” when tidying up your schedule. Visualize your ideal career and block off time for the activities that will ‘spark’ improvement and get you there.

This newfound allocation of time towards improvement comes at a cost. Sometimes, the decision of what goes out can be simple. Sure, everyone needs leisure activities, but it’s hard to justify watching more than one or two episodes of TV or gaming for more than an hour each day.

Cutting down on relationships or social commitments is where most people draw the line. Of course, you can’t just measure the value of your interactions with others. But keep in mind that you’re also the average of the people you spend the most time with.

Load up on quality

The point of the exercise is to be mindful of how you are currently investing your time. Your goal of improving your career won’t happen until you use your hours more purposefully. And that starts with loading up on quality activities in your schedule.

Learning new skills, for instance, can be done at little to no cost using online lessons. You just have to look up good sources of information, research any beginner’s exercises you could tackle, and apply yourself to practicing each day.

woman working

You can also pair a side hustle with your day job. Just as mergers and acquisitions integration isn’t done without extensive consulting, you’ll want to proceed carefully and prepare yourself before taking on two occupations simultaneously. But it can be done if you free up enough time from each day.

Other activities can pay back time investment in other ways. Half an hour each day is enough to prepare a healthy meal or get a high-intensity workout at home. These will boost your long-term physical health, add longevity to your career, and reduce healthcare costs. Meditation or mindfulness practices offer similar benefits to mental health.

Make time for reflection

Recall that our relationship with time isn’t static; it constantly evolves depending on how you choose to manage it. Likewise, in a well-run business, every process must be periodically evaluated to find areas for improvement.

There are many best practices in the realms of business strategy and personal development that use reflection to purposefully achieve goals. Half of the “OODA loop,” for instance, is about gathering data and formulating insights that will guide your decisions and actions. Setting SMART goals implies a timely review for success.

Time spent reflecting on what you’ve been doing isn’t wasted. It’s an essential component of the process towards your career goals. Set aside even 30 minutes each day to contemplate what you’ve been doing. Did everything unfold according to your schedule, or were there disruptions? Could those disruptions be avoided next time? Have your activities been leading to progress, or are you encountering roadblocks? Will you move past those obstacles given more time, or do you need outside help or a change of tactics?

Posing these questions to yourself highlights the various small ways you can further improve your daily regimen. It lets you allocate your time even more efficiently. By doing so, you can actually end up with more wiggle room to engage in leisure pursuits or simply take the occasional step back to recharge and recover. You can, in fact, enjoy yourself while doing what’s necessary to take your career forward.

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