We are all busy with endlessly growing to-do-lists yet there are still only 24 hours in a day! So, how can you make the best use of your time and try to work smarter rather than just harder?
Entrepreneur.com make an excellent point that clock time is actually irrelevant. We should focus more on ‘real time’; which is ours to create and manage. They suggest that there are three ways to categorise how you spend your time:
This is a useful framework to help you assess how you currently spend your time and what activities are actually productive. We tend not to allocate time for thoughts or conversations and instead pile on more actions which we never finish and end up feeling de-motivated because we’re overwhelmed with a huge task list. If, however, we took time to organise, prioritise and schedule everything that we need to do more systematically it would take away so much stress, ensure we get the important things done, and generally lead to us being happier, more ‘on tops of things’ people!
After some research and trial and error on our part, here is our round-up of top tips.
1. Understand your own body clock and natural energy levels
There is no point fighting your natural predisposition. If you’re more of a ‘night owl’ who lacks self-motivation it is counter-productive to schedule in a 6am gym session which you will find hard to commit to. Spend some time analysing yourself to see at what points of the day your own body clock and natural energy rhythms are best suited to particular tasks.
2. Keep a log for a week to see where your time is actually spent
It is quite easy to become a busy fool (being busy doings things but not actually achieving what needs to be achieved). Be honest with yourself and keep a log of everything that you do for a week. This will show you how much time you actually spend doing certain tasks – we guarantee that you’ll be surprised!
3. Get into the habit of scheduling in time for everything
Time to think is important. Time to exercise is important. Regular catch-up meetings with your team are important. Make sure that you block off time on your calendar for all of the things that you need to do, and, most importantly, stick to it. By routinely and consistently doing something it becomes a habit and ‘second nature’ – not only will you achieve more you will also feel more in control, less stressed and be able to focus better.
4. Focus on importance and aim to suppress urgency
It is very easy to fall into the habit of fire-fighting and giving your attention to urgent tasks that demand your immediate attention. However, chances are that many of those urgent tasks can be avoided – either they should have been completed earlier or perhaps they don’t need you to complete them but to delegate them to someone else. Of course, there will always be unavoidable urgent tasks but you need to take control and manage the situation rather than the other way around.
5. Identify 3 crucial tasks for each day
As per the point above, identify 3 important tasks to complete each day. Again, this is about creating habits and ensuring that you identify the most important tasks that actually help you achieve your goals and ensure that you move forward.
6. Take the first 30 minutes of each day to plan your day
Get into the habit of spending your first 30 minutes of the day planning, organising and prioritising your tasks. Trust us, it will be time well spent.
7. Don’t be ruled by notifications – emails, social media, announcements, texts
You may think that by ‘quickly’ responding to that email that’s popped up you’re being efficient with your time. But, as you will notice from your log mentioned in point 2, the culmination of all of these interruptions steals your time and focus away from those important, critical tasks that you should be doing.
8. Allocate time for interruptions such as dealing with emails and being available for phone calls
When scheduling your diary, block off chunks of time for dealing with emails, beings available for phone calls and interruptions from your team.
9. Cluster related tasks together
When planning out your day it makes sense to batch related tasks together so that there is synergy. It will also make better use of your time ensuring effectiveness and efficiency.
10. Realise that being happy and healthy actually makes you more productive
So, schedule in gym sessions, time with friends and family and doing the things that you enjoy. If you plan ‘down time’ into your schedule you will break the cycle of feeling guilty for non-work time. You will also be in better mental and physical shape to complete your other work based tasks more effectively and efficiently.
If you have any nuggets of advice about time management that you’re happy to share then please do let us know firstname.lastname@example.org