Time – in my opinion, the most precious of all resources. Every person on the planet is blessed with resources (finance, assets, education, creature comforts) and talents (natural ability, skill, flair, capacity) that seem to be distributed disproportionately in many cases. Sometimes we inherit riches and assets, sometimes we work hard to acquire them, and often nature bestows various blessings upon souls in a random manner. The only resource distributed evenly amongst every person on the planet ……. is time. Every person in the world has 24 hours in a day. No matter how happy, smart, popular, or talented we may be. Everyone has 1440 minutes in a day. No more. No less. What we do with those minutes makes the difference.
We have all wished at some point that there was a way to get more time in a day? It sometimes seems that we spend so much time rushing from place to place or task to task that we don’t feel as though we actually accomplish very much; certainly nowhere near as much as we would like to.
I have good news! It is possible to ‘make’ more time by applying some basic time management techniques. Time management is an important tool to ensure that all necessary activities are accomplished within their allotted time period. We can do simple things like use a calendar, or keep a day planner to schedule specific activities for specific times. It is also important to determine where time is being lost, and an established routine is the most important tip for managing time effectively.
There are only three things that we spend time on: thoughts, conversations and actions. Irrespective of the type of business environment we find ourselves in, our time at work will be consumed with these three items. Frequently, we will be interrupted or pulled in different directions. Whilst we will never eliminate interruptions, we can determine how much time we spend on them, and how much time we will spend on the thoughts, conversations and actions that will lead us to success.
Whilst the following keys are not all easy things to do, the time invested in learning how to implement them will be well worthwhile; increasing both our accomplishments and sense of well-being. Here we go …..
1. Realise that we cannot do it all:
Many of us find ourselves stretched too thin because we have bought the lie that everyone can (and should) do it all. We should all work full-time, spend quality time with our children, spouses and pets, spend time with our friends, undertake volunteer and community work, ensure we stay fit and healthy, and spend time relaxing and rejuvenating ourselves.This kind of balancing act is best left to the jugglers at Silver’s Circus. The only thing that truly matters is that we are healthy and happy with how we are spending our time. We need to decide what roles and activities are important to us, live our lives accordingly, and remember that it is highly likely that 20 percent of our thoughts, conversations and activities will produce 80 percent of our results.
The other part of the lie we’ve bought – that we all can and should do it all – is that everything is equally important. It’s not. We should take the first 10 minutes of every day to plan our day, and we shouldn’t start our day until the time plan is complete. The most important time of our day is the time we schedule to schedule our time. We must then resist the urge to rush from task to task throughout the day, and instead, calmly review the list of what we have to do that day and pick out the things that are ‘must do’ for that day (trying to keep these ‘must-dos’ to three or less for starters). Then focus on completing those things; develop the discipline to keep necessary appointments. At the end of the day, we will have a feeling of accomplishment, no matter what else went awry or distracted us.
Another useful habit is to take a couple of minutes before each meeting or task to decide what outcome we would like to achieve. This can help us know what success might look like before we start. Then, take a couple more minutes after each meeting or task to determine whether the desired outcome was achieved. If not, what was missing? What can we do differently to ensure our next meeting or task produces the desired outcome?
Finally, a helpful rule-of-thumb can be planning to spend at least 50 percent of our time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of our results.
3. Learn to say “Yes” and “No”:
The inability to say “no” can be the cause of an incredible amount of misunderstanding and frustration. Instead of saying “no,” we often say “maybe” or “I might be able to do that” or “I’ll see”, creating the expectation for the requestor that we will do whatever it is being asked of us, and the pressure on ourselves to do it. Then, when we don’t do it, the person we said “maybe” to instead of “no” is disappointed, annoyed, or hurt.
Let’s make it a general rule not to say “maybe” at all when we are asked to commit to something, but instead learn to make quick decisions and say “yes” or “no” instead. Then we need to avoid elaborating or giving extensive reasons for our decisions. A simple “No, I can’t do that” is enough. The person we are speaking to will appreciate our honesty and our disinclination to waste their time. And we will be without the pressure to fit in yet another activity or event that we weren’t that interested in anyhow.
Another modern myth that we need to disregard if we want to redeem more time, is the crazy notion that we all have to be reachable and ‘connected’ all the time. We don’t, and in fact, there are times when it’s important or useful to be unreachable to everyone or everything except the person or the task immediately in front of us.
For instance, one of our children may be telling us one evening about a traumatic thing that happened to him or her at school that day, and we are on the laptop responding to a client’s email. We need to be attending to, and communicating with the person right in front of us, not the one calling us, or sending us email.
So, we need to recognise this and ‘unplug’ ourselves when appropriate; make ourselves the manager of our technology rather than being managed by it. Don’t read every piece of email as soon as it arrives in the inbox, for example, or feel that we have to personally answer every phone call. Incoming texts or tweets shouldn’t interrupt us when we are working. Specific times of the day should be set aside to read, listen and respond to emails and messages.
5. Take time off:
Many people in the business world in particular fall into the ‘seven day trap’. We can feel that the more time we pour into our work, the more successful we will be in our given role. Before we know it, we can be working seven days a week and wondering why we feel so frazzled all the time!
And in doing this, are we actually more successful or productive? Maybe. Maybe not. In reality, our success depends much more on what we do and how we do it, rather than how much time we spend doing it; the old chestnut – quality versus quantity.
So let’s plan time off in our schedules. When we take time off, whether it be just an afternoon or weekend, or a week, we are able to relax and reflect, returning to our workplaces refreshed and more productive, able to accomplish so much more in the time that we have available
No, we won’t magically generate more time in our day when we put these time management techniques into action, but we will be able to manage the time we have more effectively. In terms of what we achieve and how we feel, that can make all the difference.