“But there’s just not enough time in a day!”
How many times have you heard someone crib about that? It seems that most of us want to get things done efficiently, but alas, 24 hours are just not enough. Only if days were longer…
Every day demands and tasks suck up time and there’s none left to pursue personal goals or spend it on leisure. You’ve been meaning to read that book for 2 weeks now, but you haven’t stated because there is not enough time.
But what if there was enough time for everything you wanted to do?
There Is Enough Time!
You do have choices to spend your hours during a day. Human beings are an intelligent species who can think and act smartly. But sometimes we can be too smart to delude ourselves into believing there’s too much to do in too little time.
A classic case happened the other day when my client said, “Oh but it’s all too overwhelming”. I asked, “What if it is not; what if it is really just managing your time differently?”
That gave them an aha moment.
I believe overwhelm is just one of those smart words we have invented. In reality, there is nothing called overwhelm. It’s all about tackling things differently if one way doesn’t work.
Of course, you may have a lot on your plate. But that is not a matter of not having the time to get things done — it could simply be a matter of managing yourself better.
Good time management means choosing what you want to get out of your life and then pursuing those goals. You always have time for the most important activities and goals that drive us.
So in essence, time management is really just managing ourselves and getting our act together!
By learning time management principles, you optimize your effort to ensure you spend the most time on high value tasks.
Therefore, it’s important to make the best use of your time in order to:
- Avoid stress
- Since time is limited, it’s only natural you use it wisely
- Achieve more
- Design the life of your dreams
- Work and live better
The list could go on and on!
What is Time Management
Let’s start by looking at what managing time means and how we can make the most of 24 hours in a day.
Time management is a simple, proven method that can be achieved in the following 6 steps:
- Reduce Distraction
- Set Goals
- Know Yourself Better
Each of the above steps is crucial. These are not one-off tasks, but form an integral part of making better use of your time. In essence, to optimize your efforts, integrate the above steps in your daily practice and make them a habit.
Prioritize Your Tasks
Prioritization means knowing what needs your attention first. It is such a simple, yet effective technique that many of us fail to use.
For example, most people will use a to-do list to tick off their daily tasks. But without prioritization, which one do you pick first?
I’ve found that without prioritization, my to-do lists become overwhelming and do not give a clear idea of what needs my attention the most right now.
In the past I found how I would pick the easiest of the tasks from my list, and start ticking them off. Gradually, I would have several “ticks” next to my tasks, but all these together comprised about 20-30% of my work chunk.
The remaining 70-80% work was this one big task that I would avoid at all costs. Eventually, this would continue with the bigger task being forwarded to the next day’s to-do list, before I could realize I was procrastinating.
If you’re unhappy with your to-do lists, convert them into a refined tool by adding a column of prioritization next to the tasks.
It can look something like this:
|Task||Priority: 1 to 4||Percentage (Based on work)|
|Change car tires||1||30%|
|Bake a cake using organic ingredients||4||40%|
The priority column will tell you which task to tackle first. Make sure you understand which task is more important and also add a percentage value to it.
So, if a task is 30% (change car tires) of your work day but has a deadline looming or has an immediate effect, you may want to prioritize it above one that is 40% of your work (bake a cake).
Schedule Your Day
Scheduling simply means planning your day in advance. But most of us fail to schedule our days making tasks more complicated than they need to be.
Let me ask you: Do you plan each and every day be it at work or home? How does not planning support you? Would you like to change it for the better?
If so, there are ways to avoid the boring plan sheets with one simple tool. Time Boxing is a time management technique that lets you to allocate a chunk of time to a particularly dreadful task.
Pick the most-dreaded, difficult or boring task from your to-do list that you have been delaying. Decide to work on it just for 10 mins. That’s it – no longer than that. Set a timer which will go off in 10 mins and then stop working.
In the past, I used to keep a tab on time. That would mean I was constantly distracted by checking if the 10 minutes were up. Switching to a basic timer served its purpose well.
One tip: Avoid using your smart phone as a timer. Smart phones have a devilish way of seducing you to check that new notification or reply to a Whats App chat, leading to a waste of time.
Once you have worked for 10 mins, you may find you want to continue working because you’re in flow. You’re in love with ticking off that goal. You might as well end up finishing the dreaded task!
Distraction comes in many shapes and sizes – during a particular work day, you may find distraction sneaking in via emails, phone calls or even a messy desk.
Let’s look at a few distractions below:
The best way to tackle email distraction is to schedule time to read emails in batches. You can also check and respond to these in your lowest productivity hour – a time when you don’t churn out as much work.
Some people work best in the mornings, whereas others are most creative during night. There is no right way to do it; the idea is to optimize your time in accordance with your rhythms so as to make work as productive and effortless as possible.
Another way to fight email addiction is by closing your email client while you’re working. Being a self-employed entrepreneur, I have faced this problem several times in past. I would keep my email client window open all the times while I was working on a project.
Worse yet, I had notifications on. Each new email would grab my attention by a timely notification in the small right corner of my screen – the horror!
I called this the “Gmail Black Hole”.
To combat the black hole, keep your email client closed all the times.
Another neat trick is to convert “Check emails” into a task item in your prioritized to-do list. Obviously, keep it somewhere in the middle or toward the end of the list, especially if you receive a lot of newsletters that can be checked in leisure time.
At work, you may create a policy of emailing all non-urgent matters, which you will check at a set time. If it’s urgent, ask them to ring you.
In the Information Age where everything is available at the tip of your fingers, the Internet has become both an ally and an enemy. If you know how to handle this beast, it will remain your trusty friend forever.
However, most people use the Net to distract themselves from what really matters. At work, close all the browser windows so you won’t be disturbed. This way, you can practice absolute focus and concentration that author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks in his book Flow.
Flow is a state where you can achieve that big chunk of work done effortlessly in a smaller chunk of time. Remember the 80-20 rule? The 80% work happens when you’re in flow!
If you find that there is someone in your team who is particularly distracting, perhaps use a headphone while you are working so they won’t interrupt you as much.
Better yet, if your organisation allows this, work on important tasks from home. If that doesn’t help, consider talking to your manager to resolve the issue.
At times, phone calls can be disruptive to your creativity. Let’s say you’re brainstorming how to fund raise for your next not for profit campaign. You are this close to a stellar idea when the phone rings.
We have this obsessive compulsive need to answer a ringing phone. It just doesn’t feel right not to answer it! So you go ahead and pick it up and it’s your colleague on the line requiring your immediate attention toward an “urgent matter”.
There goes your fantastic idea out of the window!
To combat situations such as these, it’s better to allocate a dedicated time for phone call discussions, say during the 3-4 pm slot. Or you can always ask them to call back in 10 minutes.
For non-urgent purposes, it’s best to use email or a chat messenger can be used to check in if it’s OK to call a team member.
Set Goals that Matter
Do you set personal goals? How about professional ones? Most clients I see on a daily basis do not have any clear goals the first time we meet. And that’s what boggles me the most.
Setting goals is the breakfast of champions. It is. Think about it this way: If you don’t know where you are going, how does it matter which path you will take?
Successful people don’t attain a fulfilled life by taking random paths – they know their destination, and enjoy the journey to the fullest because they don’t have to worry if they are on the right path!
Now most people will have vague goals in their head. But this is not good enough. Your goals must speak to you. They must be written down with a certain structure that’s clear to your subconscious mind.
For example, we are experts at telling what we don’t want. But when asked what we want, we have to take a step back and really analyse the question.
Try it for yourself – ask “How do I want to live my life?” And watch your mind answer in negatives. “Well, I don’t want to be a failure, and I don’t want to be a bad Mom. Oh, and I don’t want a bad boss, and I don’t want to be paid peanuts”.
As you may know, the subconscious does not process negatives, so remove the “not”s from the above sentence to see what your subconscious hears:
“Well, I don’t want to be a failure, and I don’t want to be a bad Mom. Oh, and I don’t want a bad boss, and I don’t want to be paid peanuts”.
Scary, isn’t it?
Goals allow you to set positive outcomes in life. They are like dreams with deadlines. So make sure you use them.
Know Yourself Better
There are two kinds of people in this world – one, those who are motivated by pain (“away from” people) and two, those who are motivated by pleasure (“toward” people).
In order to beat procrastination, you’ll have to understand yourself better and find out your core personality when it comes to taking action.
You’ll find organisations use one method or another to motivate their employees. This is a mistake because every person is wired differently.
So understand how you function. Do you work better if promised a reward? Do you strive toward promotions? If so, ask yourself “Why do I want that” and keep digging deeper.
Why do I want that promotion?
Because it will help me climb the ladder to success.
And why do I want that?
Because I’ll make more money and be fulfilled.
Why do I want to make more money and feel fulfilled?
Because I don’t want to be perceived as a failure.
You may think since you’re focused on a promotion, you are a “toward” person. But dig deeper and the real reason is you don’t want to fail. That’s a classic “away from” situation. You want to avoid the pain aka failure in this case.
Understanding how you get motivated will do wonders for you. There is no right or wrong type – everyone is different. “Toward” people are not better than “away from” people and vice versa.
Make use of your personality to help you getting things done. For example, if you are a “toward” person, remind yourself of the reward waiting for you after you tick this task off.
As an “away from” person, remind yourself of the looming deadline and how to dodge it.
At times you will feel you are a mix of the two types. That is OK. Just pick one method that motivates you in that situation and go from there.
How do you get things done? Share your personal time management tips with us below!
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You might also like: How to Beat Procrastination Permanently + Get the Results You Want.