Bennis Inc. | The Key to Time Management: Increasing Your Personal Bandwidth
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The Key to Time Management: Increasing Your Personal Bandwidth

The Key to Time Management: Increasing Your Personal Bandwidth

Have you ever had moments in your life when you think “There is no way I will ever be busier than I am right now!” Then months or years later, you take on more projects, a new job or maybe a hobby and you again think, “No, now is the time in my life when I’m at my absolute busiest—I will never be able to fit even one more thing on my schedule.” But somehow we do. And so this gradual adjustment to an ever-increasing list of commitments continues on. It’s interesting for me to think back on times in my life when I felt the busiest and most stressed. My task list of those days now appear mild in comparison to my current schedule – but then again I was a college student who made afternoon naps a standing appointment on my daily agenda.

So how do some of the busiest people in the world continue to take on more tasks and always seem to find the time to accommodate them? I’ve concluded that it’s only possible through the well-refined skill of “increasing your bandwidth.” Just like the bandwidth on your internet determines the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time, we each have our own bandwidth for the amount of work we can individually take on in a single day.

Think of the well-known saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Us “busy people” know that in order to possibly accomplish all of our given tasks we need to work quickly, efficiently and stay organized. There’s no room for procrastination or second-guessing; we have to keep the projects moving through the pipeline in anticipation of the new projects that will be added to our agenda whether we like it or not. You might be able to think of a few people right now – that when a task is asked of them, they dive in head first with how they will tackle it and are already on step 2 before anyone else has picked up a pen. These are the people who are fortunate enough to have learned the skill of increasing their bandwidth, or gradually easing into taking on more and more tasks so that one or two rush projects thrown in the mix doesn’t even break their stride.

I truly believe we can all learn to increase our personal bandwidth, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as calling up our internet provider and asking for an increase on our account. It can’t be bought with money, it can only be learned through time and practice—and simply getting comfortable with processing more data more quickly. For me personally, this has become a critical component for success in my business. In addition to my continual clients, I receive many one-time projects that come with little notice and a short window of opportunity to say Yes. If I let other projects build up, when this unplanned business comes my way, I’d be forced to turn it down. It has proven invaluable to me to keep my bandwidth as open as possible so that I can always take on these projects. It’s also amazing the way we can adapt to stress and a high volume of work. I’ve found that during slow periods of work, my motivation to tackle even the most reasonable task list diminishes. Yet, when I’m busier than ever, throwing family obligations and even planning a wedding into the mix and I knock these tasks off my list with ease.

At the end of the day, we’re only ever as busy as we make ourselves. You’d be surprised where you can find extra time in your day to accomplish something if you really want to and you’d also be surprised the unnecessary items you can take off your list because they’re inhibiting your efficiency. What’s most important is to never assume you know how busy or how free someone’s schedule is just from looking at them. Just because a busy person can get the task done, doesn’t mean we should expect them to pick up the slack. This might be a golden opportunity for us to practice expanding our own bandwidth and to become a more valuable member of the team.

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com