Updated: Oct 21, 2020
In a hyper-connected, many people are starved for time.
Time pressures are multiplying at a dizzying rate because we are more accessible and distractible than ever before.
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” says William Penn.
We value money enough to work hard for it but we waste time with so little thought compared to our effort at work.
If you value your time, you will protect it like a valuable asset.
“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.”
Annie Dillard said that in her book The Writing Life. It’s an insightful statement that has a deeper meaning. Our life is in fact created by how we choose to spend our minutes, hours, days, months and years.
Life is made up of nothing but time. If you know how you’re spending your time, you can take ownership of your life and do more great work.
If you want to get better at managing your time, you have to know how you’re spending it. You can track your daily activities to clearly see where your time is being spent. Meetings, phone calls, emails, notifications, small chats, and many other distractions are constantly splitting our attention.
You can begin to analyse the actual time you spend on each activity with what you think is the best amount for each task and get to know what’s going on every day. Notice where time leaks, then declutter your routine.
After interviewing dozens of successful, happy people, Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think realized that they allocate their time differently than most of us.
You can choose how to spend your 168 hours. You have to be very protective of your time and what you do on your time or else people will walk all over it.
Become proactive, not reactive
“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”― Charles Buxton
The first step to reclaiming more time from your day is to get hold of the big chunks that aren’t being put to good use.
You are probably spending most of your productive time in reactive mode. Many people are constantly responding to emails, sitting in pointless meetings and dealing with other people’s “emergencies.”
What are your personal goals? Are your daily activities and tasks advancing you closer to your life’s ultimate goal?
Which activities get you the most results? Focus on those and cut the waste.
Frequently purge the items on your to-do list that won’t deliver results.
By managing your time as you would a small business, you can cut the excess and focus on what you really find most rewarding.
Reduce your commitments
“You can have it all. Just not all at once.”― Oprah Winfrey
How you choose to spend your time defines your priorities.
Your commitments can have a significant impact on your time. Take a look at each area of your life and write down all of your commitments.
Seeing it all written down can be quite an eye-opening experience, as well as overwhelming.
While there are some commitments we can’t escape, such as work and family, others we can.
You have the right to allocate your own time.
Begin to cut back on the time you spend helping others get their tasks done and start focusing on what you can do to help you reach your goals faster.
Learn how to say no and decline offers. Accept to work on projects that bring out the best in you and enhance your total well-being.
Don’t feel guilty. If you don’t like the way you spend your time, simply change it. Life is too short to work on anything you hate and everything that takes away your precious time.
If you eliminate the things that don’t bring you joy or value, you’ll have more time for the things that you love.
Make the most of your gap time
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”― Charles Darwin
After 90 minutes of meetings, working, thinking, and pushing emails, your will to work will be in a bad place. Take a productive break.
Put your gap time to good use.
Anywhere from 1–3 hours of your day is probably spent in “gap time.”
Gap times are those between meaningful activities but aren’t normally long enough to get more done. Or the time you need to recover from deep work.
Small and long breaks from work and everything you do when you are not actively working on your tasks for the day can be put to better use.
Most breaks either pull you down a rabbit hole of distraction or they make it difficult to return your full focus to work after the break.
You can listen to a podcast, learn a language, take a walk to think, read a book, read the articles you’ve bookmarked, plan the rest of your day, or better still take a productive pause to clear your mind.
You should be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. It’s critical to make the most of your break and remind yourself that by taking a productive pause, you will accomplish more in the long run.
Most people accomplish more in short bursts with breaks in between, so organizing your schedule around these natural energy peaks will help you be more productive.
Beware of “time bullies”
The key is in not spending time, but in investing it. — Stephen R. Covey.
These are the people that invade your time and try to get you to do reactive work. It’s the client that interrupts your vacation with frequency calls or emails. And the colleague at work who needs helps all the time.
It has become expected, even acceptable, for people to steal your time.
Don’t let these bullies push you around.
If you do not protect your calendar, then others will abuse it.
When you’re on the clock that’s your time for your work. But when it’s your lunch hour, you’re off-the-clock. Remember, that that time is YOURS.
There is a simple way to prevent this from happening. Learn how to say “no” when you’re busy.
Be protective of your greatest asset.
Just like any investor, put your time to good use. Don’t apologize for choosing to invest wisely.
Cut back on push notifications
“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”― Bill Watterson
Push notifications are ruining our concentration and attention skills. They are literally distracting us from everything important to us. You don’t even have to read those messages for your mental gears to toggle off what you are focusing on.
A Deloitte study in 2016 found that people look at their phones 47 times a day on average. Kill your notifications. Yes, really. Turn them all off.
Smartphones aren’t your problem. It’s all the buzzing and dinging, endlessly calling for your attention.
The start-stop process on projects in killing your productivity. Push notification is your greatest enemy.
Decide ahead of time how to spend your time. Block and tackle your key priorities. Schedule them in your calendar. Ignore email. Shut your office door. Turn off notifications on your phone. And get what matters most done.
It’s time to fight distractions. Create an uninterrupted, free-flowing, idea-generating, peaceful space to get work done on time.
Plan tomorrow today
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”― Pope John Paul II
Having a routine of what you will accomplish each day will give you a sense of order and make your life feel less chaotic, saving you the time for planning in the morning.
Investing less than 1% of your time today will make you 10 times more efficient tomorrow. Jack Canfield, says if you’d rather spend your day acting than reacting, you should plan it the night before.
If you have planned your week, or months ahead of time, you know what you will work on tomorrow. Remind yourself.
Spend time planning your next day’s tasks the night before. For every minute you plan, you save minutes in execution. Spend your last 20 minutes every day to reflect, process, and prioritize for the next day. End your day on purpose.
Figuring out the most imperative tasks for tomorrow and scheduling them into a “model day” is one of the best ways to organize your day for maximum results.
Your plan will guide you when distracted and, in the late hours of the day when your willpower is low and it’s difficult to think, the same plan will help you focus on your most important tasks for the day.
Taking 10 minutes or less today to create a plan for tomorrow will give you a head start, keep you on task, boost your productivity and help you accomplish more. Make an appointment with yourself every day to plan tomorrow today.
Set up a system for getting things done
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”― M. Scott Peck
Once you declutter your routine and block out all activities that steal your time, you need a system to help you stick to your new way of work.
Setting expectations will help you reduce many unnecessary interruptions.
Write down your system step-by-step and try to follow them as best as you can. Follow your systems and you’ll keep the clutter minimized.
Focus more on functioning “smoothly” rather than quickly. You will improve your productivity and get more done in good time.
Article by Thomas Oppong