How to have more time…
One of the most frequent frustrations I hear from high achieving women, is that there’s not enough hours in the day.
This resonates deeply with me, because for years I struggled to know how to manage my time effectively. I would start my day with a handwritten ‘to do’ list as long as my arm and often times, by the end of the working day if I had achieved one of my priorities, I’d be lucky.
From the continuous pinging of emails, non-stop phone calls and endless stream of people walking into my office, to the multiple and often double-booked meetings. I couldn’t keep up, let alone actually do any of the work that was on my 'to do' list. My working days started to become longer and longer.
Know where I’m coming from?
The good news is that there are some simple changes you can make to help you become more effective…
Sadly, you can’t MAKE time but you can have more by SCHEDULING it and working smarter.
What do I mean…?
Have you ever had a deadline to meet and thought it was impossible, but yet by some miracle you always met it, whether you had an hour or a minute left to spare?
The reason for this, is that time expands to fit the task in hand. In other words, the more time you give yourself to complete something, the more time you will take. We are hard wired to win and a deadline gives us something to work towards…a motivator to challenge ourselves to win.
The most productive people I know are super focused and use their calendars to plan and prioritise their actions, in order to achieve goals in their personal and professional lives. Not only that, they’re super protective of their time and are firm about not being distracted.
Here’s my top tips for having more time in your life:
Break down goals and schedule actions
I know I talk about goals often, but that’s because they’re critical for success! Review your goals for the next three months (set 3 if you don’t already have them!). Break the goal into individual tasks and decide which day, week or month you’re going to take the action and schedule them in your calendar.
Work with your body’s natural rhythm
We all have certain times of the day when we’re at our peak performance. For some, it’s first thing in the morning, whilst for others it could be mid-morning or later in the afternoon. Aim to do the work that challenges you most, or that you tend to procrastinate over, during your most productive time period. For me, I tend to procrastinate over writing, therefore I do this at my most productive time of the day and when I’m focussed…first thing in the morning. My client work comes very naturally and I reach peak flow very easily, so I can schedule this at any time of the day, around the work that takes more concentration and brain power.
We know that time expands to fit the task at hand, so be super focused. Give yourself a deadline to complete the task, as if it were for a client or boss. Set a timer for an allocated time and start. Whilst this takes some practice, over time you can train your brain to work within the time allocated – you will also get a sense of how long certain tasks typically take (when you are in peak flow).
The power of three
Hands up if your 'to do' list is longer than your shopping list? Yes, I’ve been there too. Putting it bluntly, this is setting yourself up for failure. As we all know, there is power in grouping things into threes. Set yourself three priority actions that you must complete each day – your absolute non-negotiables and 3 non-priority actions. Your mission is to accomplish the three priority actions. If you achieve the non-priority actions and more, great. Long 'to do' lists overwhelm the mind and cause us to procrastinate. The end result is that little or nothing of any value gets done and we end up feeling a sense of failure. By setting and achieving three priority tasks you will feel a sense of accomplishment and be motivated to do more.
Group tasks together
We all experience the temptation to look at our email or text message when it pings, just as we’re getting into flow on a meaningful piece of work that we spent half an hour trying to get started on. This one distraction can amount to several hours of lost productivity per week. I recommend you turn off all alerts and group similar tasks together. For example, schedule time in the morning and afternoon to review emails all together and not ad hoc, group administrative tasks or phone calls together in one block of time and schedule them in your calendar. That way, you are not continuously being distracted and can focus blocks of time on similar tasks.
Guard your time
Don’t fall victim to distractions. If you need to, work from a different space, put your headphones on or put a “do not disturb” sign on the door if you work from home. Ask yourself regularly “is what I’m doing right now, helping me to achieve my priorities for today?” If not, stop what you’re doing and get back to the priority task.
And in case you’re wondering whether I do this myself….
Of course I do! One of my key principles of leadership is walking my talk. I can honestly tell you that my schedule is already booked, down to the daily tasks, for at least three months ahead. Some one-off tasks are even booked in as far as six and twelve months in advance. I do of course keep blocks of free time to deal with unplanned meetings, admin, new business etc. but being regimental about my schedule means that so long as I stick to it, I hit the key goals in my business and personal life.
That said, I am human and there are times that my schedule doesn’t go to plan and I get off track. During the school summer holidays was a particularly good example of this. The key to success however, is getting back on track and re-prioritising instead of giving up.
Now you have plenty of tips, you could save at the very least an hour each day. So why not start today, even if it’s just setting three priority tasks and sticking to them. I can guarantee you will feel so pleased with yourself that you’ll want to implement more of the tips I’ve shared.
Have a super productive week!
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