“I’m so busy!” could be considered one of the most said phrases at the moment. In fact, to say the opposite could portray you as a ‘slacker’. Being so busy is wreaking havoc on our wellbeing and our long-term productivity. Studies show that office workers waste on average of 40% of their workday, not because they aren’t smart but because they are reacting and have not been taught the skills to cope with their increasing workloads and demands.
This does not have to be the case. We can reframe the situation of our overloaded days to be opportunities, and use specific skills to manage and cope, leaving us to get everything done without sacrificing our wellbeing.
Here are my 4 hacks to manage your time more effectively:
Most of our time management issues are really attention paying management issues. We are constantly distracted by the multitude of information competing for our attention – the beep of an email, the ringing of your phone, ding of a text message or a colleague dropping by for a “chat”.
On average, people are distracted every 15 minutes while a manager spends 3 hours each day on interruptions.
Distractions are annoying and expensive. They use up our limited attention span and prevent us from moving into deeper and more complex thought processes. Bouncing from topic to topic uses up more energy than concentrating on one task. It makes us tired and impacts our decision making.
Being interrupted or distracted every 10-15 minutes puts ourselves into a persistent state of self-imposed mental handicap. We attempt to make up for distractions by multitasking however researchers found that productivity then drops by as much as 40%.
The result is that distractions lead to more mistakes, forgetfulness, poorer decisions and negatively impact our well being.
So let’s FOCUS.
- Communicate with those around you that you need time without distractions.
- Set a goal for 30 minutes to start (use your phone as a timer). Once you start you may find that you are in the flow and just keep going!
- Set up strategies to signal to yourself and others that it is time to focus. ie. use headphones, quiet room, turn off notifications.
2) PLAN and PRIORITISE
Time is finite and a major source of stress for people comes from the feeling that they have an impossible number of things to do when they actually don’t. It is all in their heads. They rush around being “busy” but not productive.
Ever heard of the 80/20 principle? That 80% of the average workday is spent on things that have little value or no value and only 20% is spent on crucial and important things. However the Law of Forced Efficiency states: “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
This is why we need to focus on the 20% to make a difference and feel satisfaction.
So let’s PLAN and PRIORITISE.
- The best time to plan is actually the day before. This helps to unload everything that you have on your mind so you really rest overnight and come back the next day fresh and ready to go. It also helps you schedule with more of a “big picture view” to make sure you focus on that 20% as you are not already stuck in the “doing” of the day.
- Prioritise your time to tackle the most important or most difficult tasks for when you have the most energy, brainpower and willpower. Book your difficulty tasks first because the longer you put it off, the bigger it seems to get in your mind and you will procrastinate and waste more time worrying about it.
- Prioritise your tasks with what is important to you. Link each task to a bigger goal, for example, a project deadline, a trip, a tax return. When work has meaning or a reward, then we tend to be more motivated to focus and get it done.
- Plan your list to seem more manageable by grouping tasks into meaningful categories. What is manageable to human beings is usually anywhere from five to 7 items at a time in one group. This way, your list seems to shrink from a million things to do to 5 goals/categories easier to handle.
- Book in breaks! The change of pace is important for your mental health and you will return more invigorated and motivated for the next task.
3) NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE A BIG DEAL – JUST MAKE A DECISION!
Everyone makes decisions every day. Much of time management problems come from delayed decisions. We procrastinate for a number of reasons for choosing a course of action and in doing so we
- take longer than necessary
- clutter up our mind by remembering the decisions that we need to make in the future and
- miss the opportunity to make the maximum impact
Here are 4 proven methods that can streamline your decision-making process to improve your time management.
- Automate small, everyday decisions to give you more time to spend with bigger, more complex decisions. Spending a half hour deciding on your coffee or your outfit may not leave you enough time to deal with bigger tasks such as budget planning.
- Limit your options. Having plenty of options is appealing in theory. However, the reality is that too many options can leave you with paralysis by analysis. Limit your options to 5 and have predefined criteria to choose between the options.
- Impose time limits for making a decision. More time can just mean more time agonizing over it and second-guessing yourself. If faced with no clear choice and no time to gather more details, trust your instincts if you have at least some knowledge about what’s going on. Be smart about it.
- Let go of the decision. If you did your best with the information you had at the time, let go of the “bad” decision and move on with the learning. Fixating on bad decisions that you can’t correct is unproductive, clutters your mind and wastes time keeping you in the past. Also, sometimes mulling over it, again and again, is just a waste of time and it’s best to take no action on something and just move on.
4) GET HELP! (not because you are crazy but because you are smart!)
Some people think that they need to do everything themselves or have their finger in every pot in order to be seen as successful. This backfires when you have capable people around you that can and want to help.
Asking for help and delegating the load can improve your time management and exponentially increase your capability to get more done.
You cannot play every position in the game but you can captain the whole team to win the game.
You know all these skills, I doubt there is not one that you haven’t heard before. So the biggest barrier to your time management is you. Your mindset is the biggest barrier and when your reason is big enough to change the way you approach your day, then these skills will help you to manage your time.
Shannon coaches working mothers to bring more of their authentic self and align with their purpose to uplevel their performance so they can smash their results and then switch off at home to be present for their loved ones – happy in the knowledge that they are fulfilling their potential at work and at home.”
What this means for organisations is that they don’t lose those driven, intelligent and ambitious women previously identified as “talent” to the mommy track or other businesses including self-employed after investing so much time, effort and money into their succession planning. Women do want to work and have a career with purpose yet more than 70% go back to work only for the paycheck (according to EY research) so organisations must reconnect and re-engage these women to thrive in their organisations to gain a positive ROI.
What this means for the individual is that they re-engage with their passion that drives them at home and at work. They learn to balance the two and intertwine them with a particular set of skills to be successful in both arenas. They rediscover themselves, their goals and their passion to have it all with a clear conscience ‘with working mothers achieving more and being more balanced, we can improve the lives of children – future generations, everywhere’.
FlexCareers offers a FREE 30-minute introductory meeting with our FlexCoaches, to help you establish if coaching is right for you.