On the highest and best use of time

by Jason on October 24, 2011 · 0 comments

xkcd on time management

The “highest and best use” concept is one that’s been hammered into my head relentlessly over the past year or so by various mentors and coaches.  Maybe it’s been overemphasized because of the years of corporate work that I need to deprogram from my brain (nothing wrong with the work I did, but it occurred in a different culture with different goals for both my company and myself.)

Anyway, the primary objective is to ensure that as much time as possible is spent in the best possible manner to achieve set goals.  The end result of this latest round of brainwashing is that the thing that irritates and angers me more than just about anything (a close second would be seeing bad marketing) is when I’m stuck doing something that isn’t in the “highest and best” category.  And the irritation usually comes because I know I’ve let myself get caught in a sub-optimal task.

To be clear, there’s a massive distinction between “this isn’t the best use of my time” and “this is beneath me.” Explaining that difference is beneath both of us though – I just wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. If something needs to get done to get me to point B, and it can’t easily be delegated for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the highest and best thing I should be working on.

This would all be very easy, except for the fact that doing the best thing means not doing 17 other things, and those things can seem important, and they can seem a lot easier, but like I said last week, often what you don’t do matters a whole lot more than what you do.

Another side effect is that my relaxation time, as limited as it might be, is increasingly sacred to me, and I check email less and less during those windows.  My time is being spent recharging, and full and complete disengagement is essential if I’m to make the most of that.

Awareness of that need to relax isn’t the most relaxing thing in the world though – it’s tempered with the knowledge that I’m relaxing to recover from and prepare for something else that’s going to require much more concentration than I’m used to.  I’m hoping that as the concept of highest and best use gets more ingrained in my daily practices, as systems evolve to keep me on that track, and as slipups (both voluntary and involuntary) reduce, it’ll become more of a second nature.

In the meantime, the highest and best use of my time is often spent, to some degree, on simply repeating that phrase in my subconsciousness.

Cartoon credit: xkcd

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