We all know there are only 24 hours in a day, yet many of us pack our schedules believing that somehow we’ll discover those magical additional hours. The hours will appear out of nowhere, and allow us to accomplish everything on our to-do list and still have time to relax. It’s a crazy philosophy, yet one I see far too often.
A better approach is to accept that there are a limited amount of hours in a day, and managing your time well will allow you to do all the things you need AND want to do.
Try these steps below and see if your productivity increases:
DEFINE GOALS FOR THE AREAS OF YOUR LIFE
Most peoples lives can be divided into several areas: work, family, home, health, self, financial, spiritual, etc. Determine what your goals are for each area of your life and write it down. Now look at your to-do list; “Are there activities on your list that are NOT contributing to you achieving your goals?” If so, why bother doing these activities at all.
ASSIGN TIME IN YOUR DAY OR WEEK TO EACH AREA
If you block time on your calendar for each of the areas of your life, you will automatically know when to block time for a specific task. For example, You never seem to get to the task of “fixing the broken sprinkler” because something else always gets in the way. But, if you block a section of your calendar for “Home” once or twice a month, you’ll get the sprinkler fixed and cross it off your list.
GET A TRUE ESTIMATE OF HOW LONG THINGS TAKE
Spend a few days using a time log to register how long activities take. For example; getting ready in the morning, reading and responding to e-mail messages, reading career related materials, exercising, eating, interruptions from kids or co-workers, etc. This may seem like one more thing you have to do, but it’s only for a few days and it will benefit you in the long run.
EVALUATE YOUR TIME LOG
After recording your time for a few days, evaluate the amount of time spent on each activity versus its importance in helping you achieve your goals. Can certain tasks be eliminated? Can others be delegated to someone who can perform them more efficiently? Are some of your more demanding tasks being performed at a time of day when your energy is low? Can some of your tasks be combined; like reading trade journals while exercising?
PLAN YOUR TIME
Once you know how long things take, you can plan much better in terms of how much you take on as well as how much time to allow for certain things. At the end of your work day, look over your priorities and spend five to ten minutes planning for the next day. Certain days you may find you need to start your day half an hour earlier to get everything done, other days you may find you have extra time for the things you enjoy.
BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Have standard answers prepared when these “time sucks” inevitably pop-up in your life:
- You’re asked to volunteer for another committee at the kid’s school – Your response, “Thank you so much for asking, it sounds like a really great committee to work on. However, I have just too much on my plate right now, why don’t you get back to me in the spring. I might have more time then.”
- The boss asks you to take on one more project – Your response, “Joe, I’m really committed to the company and our clients, but I have three projects that are all due tomorrow. Can you help me determine the priority level, or can we bring in a few extra hands on this one?”
- Co-workers who stop you in the hall with, “Hey Sue, gotta second?” – If once your colleague starts talking and you realize this will be more than a two minute conversation ask her if you can set up a meeting at another time. You now can plan for the meeting, rather than the conversation in the hall throwing off your entire schedule.
- The person you are supposed to meet runs late – Carry productive activities with you and use your waiting time well. You can send a thank you note you’ve been meaning to write, or read an article you never seem to have time to get to.
If you plan ahead you know what you can get done and won’t find yourself at the end of the day thinking, “I was so busy today, but I don’t feel like I accomplished anything.” You will be more productive because you are managing your time efficiently.