Most people, when investing their money, will ask what their “return on investment” will be. They want to know that they will get the most interest possible by putting their money into this investment versus that investment.

Obviously, this is a logical way to approach investing. Why put your money into an investment with a 6% ROI when you can invest in something else with a 35% ROI?

Yes, money is a valuable item in today’s world, and you should take great care when investing it. Yet, money is an item that can be recreated when it is lost. In essence, you can always make more money.

As a matter of fact, you can always make or get more of almost anything on this earth and in this life. However, there is one commodity that when used, is gone forever. That commodity is time.

Whether you believe in free will or that someone else has already decided how long you live, the fact is that you only have so many years, birthdays, sunrises, sunsets and heartbeats in this life. You only have so much time.

Just like money, you invest your time. When you shower, work, ride a bike, watch a ball game, take a walk, read information (like you’re doing right now), play chess, start a business, etc. you are choosing to invest your time into that activity.

But have you ever asked “what is my ROI for doing this activity?” If you’re like 99.9% of the human race, the answer is “no.”

Of course, after we have invested our money into something that flopped, we always kick ourselves in the butt. We always say we should have “known better.” And we do exactly the same thing when we look back at a waste of our time. We always say we should have “known better.”

The truth is you did “know better.” If your financial investment failed I’ll bet it wasn’t a smart investment to begin with. And if your time investment failed, you simply didn’t analyze the worth of what you were going to do before investing your time into it.

Before investing in the stock market, investors are presented with a booklet of information about the investment called a “prospectus.” This allows the investor to get a feel for the stock or fund they are about to invest in and to understand the potential ROI for their investment.

What if someone took the time to compile your time investment options? What if you could look over your time investments ahead of when you actually made them? What if you could figure out your ROI for time investments? What if you had a prospectus for your time investments before you invested? Well now you can.

When they hear the words “time management,” most people picture a daily schedule crammed with to-do’s. They think that effective time management is trying to accomplish as much as possible in a short amount of time.

This is not effective time management. As a matter of fact, it’s a recipe for disaster.

In order to have effective time management we first need to determine what is truly important to the individual. Then we need to determine what the person’s goals are. Next we need to determine what activities will produce the best results or ROI for helping the person achieve their goals swiftly. Finally, we can then put activities in order of their importance and effectiveness.

However, every person has different areas of life. Therefore, they have different goals and priorities in each area of their life.

So an effective time management system must factor in these various areas of life. After all, if your entire schedule is nothing but work related appointments and to-dos, you will become overwhelmed, unmotivated and quickly stop using it.

In my experience there are five basic areas of life to think about when working with time management:

1. Work Time – All job related activities (this applies to and “second” or home based businesses you have as well)
2. Home & Family Time – All activities related to your immediate family and home needs
3. Exercise & Health – All activities related to keeping yourself in shape and physically healthy (this also includes massage, spa time, etc.)
4. Social Time – All activities that have to do with socializing with friends, acquaintances and extended family
5. Self Time – All activities that have to do with your own personal pursuits, such as meditation, reading, hobbies, etc

Now, even after we have determined what activities fit into which areas of your life (i.e. work, family, exercise, social, self) we must then determine which activities truly motivate and support you in attaining your goals and which activities are simply a ‘would’ or a ‘should.’

The simplest way I have found for someone to begin putting their activities in priority order is based on the concept of 80/20.

There are three variations on the theme of 80/20.

First, it is said that “eighty percent of success is just showing up.”

This leads to the conclusion that the other twenty percent of success is knowing what to do when you get there.

The second variation on 80/20 is that “twenty percent of your efforts will produce eighty percent of your results.”

Thus, if a person would review the remaining eighty percent of their efforts and determine which of those efforts produced the other twenty percent of results, they could easily eliminate a great amount of wasted work. This would significantly increase free-time and ultimately increase the quality of the person’s life.

Inspired by these two variations, I created the third variation. I call it the “80/20 List.”

Simply, the 80/20 List helps you determine what you really should be doing with your time. This is a highly effective tool, especially when combined with weekly schedule planning.

Again, our lives are made up of different aspects. Therefore, we have to prioritize our time and activities in each of the five aspects of life.

Now, in order to break things down into 80’s and 20’s, we must first know what all our time usage options are, so the first thing to do is to list everything you want and need to do on a “100% list.”

The 100% list can contain every option you have. It can be something as simple as emailing a friend, buying some new clothes, or reading a book, all the way up to learning photography, buying a new home or starting a new business venture. Whatever you want to do, need to do, or dream to do, write it down.

Now, with the understanding that “twenty percent of your efforts will produce eighty percent of your results” you will begin to separate your list.

On a new sheet of paper draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. On one side on the top write “80” and on the other side write “20”

You will now begin placing items from your 100% list in to your 80/20 list.

In the “20” column, first put everything you must do. If you have commitments with a deadline that must be met or responsibilities that cannot be put off, put those items in this column.

After that is done, take a good long look at the rest of your 100% list. Ask yourself: “What on this list is truly and immediately important to me?” This is not to say that anything else isn’t important, it’s just not as immediately important. Once you’ve determined these items, place them in the “20” column.

If you really have a problem focusing in on what is immediately important, don’t be afraid to ask family, friends or coworkers. The 80/20 List is not a secret to be kept. The more people who know about it, the more compelled you’ll feel to keep in line with it. When first using the 80/20 List, the more leverage you can use on yourself the better.

Now that you’ve chosen your items for the “20” column, everything else goes into the “80” column.

Remember, you’re “20” column should have significantly less items in it than your “80” column (think a ratio of 1:4).

Next, take your “20” column and prioritize it. Give everything in the column a value of 1 (most important) through 10 (least important). Obviously, you can have multiple items with the same value, especially if you have more than ten items in the column.

Once you have put the items in order of priority, Voila! You have a to-do list that is customized and prioritized to your needs and your life.

Now prioritize everything in the “80” column with values of 1 through 10 as well.

As you accomplish things from your “20” column, cross them off and move the top item from the “80” column over to the bottom of the “20” column. Now you will never have to question how to use your time or feel that you’re puttering around unfocused.

You will also get to enjoy the reward of actually “accomplishing” something. Most people go through life doing many things, but they never realize how much that have truly accomplished simply because they never make it tangible. By having a list of accomplishments you have crossed of, you will “see” what you have really done. It’s a great feeling.

An additional benefit of the “80/20 List” is time to decide how serious you really are about things. If items sit in the “80” column and never seem to make it over to the “20” side, you’re probably not very serious about pursuing them.

Make sure you periodically review your list and ask yourself if there are any items that really don’t mean much to you anymore. After all, life is change.

You can now rest assured that you are getting the best return on your investment of time and energy when selecting your activities.

This list is your focus. This list is your desires prioritized by you for you in all areas of your life. Live by this list. Combine it into your weekly schedule and watch the quality of your work time, family time and play time grow faster than you ever imagined.

Author's Bio: 

Erik Luhrs is the President of Make Your Business BOOM! Inc. He provides Consulting, Coaching and Seminars on Business & Performance Optimization to Executives and Business Owners all over the world. Visit www.MakeYourBusinessBOOM.com to request a complimentary Time Control Coaching Session today.