Monday, 25 November 2013

Take Time to Make Time

If you Google time management techniques you get 99 Million results! Obviously a lot of people are searching for the Holy Grail and there are a lot of opinions on how to find it. Let’s make it 99 million and 1 by adding my 5 cents worth on “Time Management”.
Having sat in and even delivered my fair share of Time Management sessions I’ve often pondered why the penny drops for some however others go back to their messy desks and pending deadlines. You get 24 hours every day just like everyone else, so why is it that some people seem to have much more time even with the same workload?

It comes down to a lot of things but the first thing I am going to suggest is you forget the term ‘time management’ altogether and instead rephrase it to ‘Time Prioritisation Effectiveness’. You can’t manage time as it is a fixed commodity, you can’t save it up, trade it or buy more. You start each day with 24 hours, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds which is the same amount of time as Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking and even that delivery guy that just brought you your pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

You wouldn’t set off on a journey across the country without knowing the route you are going to take or more importantly where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Before you get started, you would sit down and think about all the things you want to do along the way, like stopping to see the world’s largest ball of string or eating at the famous hamburger joint in the middle of Timbuktu. You would know why you are taking the trip and that would frame the time between your start and finish. Work is the same, each day you are on a journey; you know when you are starting and where you want to end up. Unfortunately, too many people are on the kind of trip that Chevy Chase would take on one of his National Lampoon vacations. They turn up for work, turn on their computer and let work happen. The phone rings, they get an email or a co-worker calls a meeting and the day unfolds as it happens, often very reactively and at the end of the day you are left thinking where did my day go and I feel like I have achieved nothing. 
The most effective thing I have personally implemented every day is to take time to make time.  It seems crazy when you are already out of control and struggling to get things done to add more to your schedule however this little technique will really help save you time and give you a strong sense of achievement daily.
Before starting each day spend 15 – 30 mins planning your time. Don’t turn on your computer; don’t look at your emails; just find a quiet space away from any distractions and map out your day. What has to be done, what to you need to prioritise and what do you want to achieve. You need to write this down and make sure you put it somewhere you can see throughout the day to make sure you stay on track. This may be in the form of a basic to-do list, a fancy electronic gadget or even by putting events into your calendar. It is also important not to plan more than 50% – 60% of your day. This will allow you to be reactive when you need to and still accomplish your daily goals.
You need to be selfish and protective of your time, something I personally struggle with. By knowing what you need to achieve and how long you have to do it, you will be better placed to tell a co-worker that you are going to have to miss a meeting or help them with their online shopping. It’s not being rude, it’s being effective and with time you will get better at this.
Possibly the worst distraction can be your mobile phone and emails. If you have a pressing deadline or an important task to accomplish, turn them off.  This is not something that comes easily to a lot of people as they fear that by being ‘cut off’ from the outside world they could miss that important opportunity or even worse a Facebook status update. There are plenty of tools like out of office messages and voicemail that can be utilised to relieve you of this concern. Once you get in the habit of turning off these devices for short periods throughout the day you will be amazed at how you ever survived before it.
Before you get started with your day, you should prime yourself for success by ensuring you are in a happy and positive mindset. Have you ever noticed when you roll out of bed in a bad mood and you say to yourself ‘today is going to be one of those days’ it often is? That’s because you are priming yourself to focus on the negative, your brain recognises this and screams out ‘found one’! Watch a funny video, talk to a loved one or write down your 3 gratitudes, as detailed in my blog ‘The Sky is Falling”, before you start your day and you will become more effective.
At the end of the day it is then important to take stock, go back and revisit your list to see what you have achieved and what you haven’t. Think about what worked and what didn’t, and write down anything that needs to be addressed the following day. By writing down this information and leaving it behind, you are able to mentally check out and leave any work related stress at the office. It should stop you from waking up at 2 in the morning thinking about that one thing you forgot to do.
There are literally thousands of tips out there for how to effectively manage your time. Find what works for you and stick with it. Give yourself sometime to get used to your new habits and before you know it you will be in control of your day.

What works for you? Please comment and share your thoughts on how you get the most out of your day.

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