Ask anyone how they are and you are likely to hear ‘I’m so busy’, that things are ‘hectic’. People wear their “busy-ness” like a badge of honour. I’d like to challenge this thinking; we need to give ourselves time to be still and to think so that we can be creative in our work and our lives.
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We need to take back control and manage our time rather than let it manage us. Here are a few ways that you can get time back on your side:
Get up earlier
Start slowly, by waking up just 15 minutes earlier each week. Within a month, you’ll have created an extra hour in your day. That’s an extra 15 days over the course of a year. Use this time to prioritise what needs to be done and plan the next 12 hours of your day. You may even choose to go into the office earlier – or stay later; it’s amazing how much you can achieve without any interruptions.
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Know how you spend your time
Then you’ll know how much time you waste looking for your car keys each time you leave the house or searching for the documents you need for the meeting at 10am. A good way to keep track of where the time goes is to keep a log of everything you do in a day, how much time you spent doing it and why your time was spent in this way e.g.
Monday 7:46, 5 minutes, looked for car keys because I put them in random places.
Do this for at least two weeks. That’s usually long enough to identify trends in your behaviour. Once you know how you spend your time, you can identify where time is wasted and where you are unproductive. It really is worth doing this exercise; the only way to manage a problem effectively is to understand it fully. You will be amazed at how much time was spent on things that are not a priority and therefore understand the feeling of being busy without achieving results.
Look for the time wasters in your log and work out how to avoid them. For example, if you waste time looking for your car keys, find a sensible place to put them and ALWAYS put them there. This consistency should be applied to everything you own and work with. Remember the adage ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’?
Look at ways to avoid or limit unproductive time, ‘I don’t create event concepts unless I am feeling creative’. If you have scheduled time to brainstorm and create ideas, and ideas don’t start flowing within a few minutes, do something else. Don’t spend hours staring at your screen, waiting for creativity to strike.
If you have an important document to review that requires focussed attention, find a quiet room and close the door, switch your mail and phone off. The silence and lack of interruptions allows you to get the work done quickly by reading the document only once and with the focus needed not to miss anything.
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Immediately. No matter how good you think you are at this, you can be more productive by focussing on a single thing at a time and, as much as possible, finishing it before moving onto the next task. Trying to focus on more than one thing causes a drop in productivity of 40%. That’s unproductive at best and can be downright dangerous. Of course, this is not pertinent to everything but should be non negotiable for the important and urgent aspects of your day.
Knowing that you have more time and that you are using it wisely, you can now allocate some time in your day to do something that you enjoy. It could be as simple as a catch up with a colleague over coffee rather than a traditional meeting, or take a walk to clear your mind. There are always 24 hours in a day. The bad news is time flies. The good news is that you are the pilot. Fly wisely.