Ten Steps to Gain More Time

 

Okay, I guess I better start this blog with a disclaimer. After reading it you will still only have 24 hours in a day, but you may have picked up a few ideas on how to achieve more with that time.

Why does time management matter? It matters because it benefits you. It allows you to stay on top of your time, priorities, and life. It ensures that you spend your time where it matters the most.

With Christmas approaching many are now suffering from the double whammy of end-of-year fatigue combined with a growing realisation that we are not likely to tick all items off our to-do list before the holidays.

So, we thought we would compile a 10-step guide to help you improve your time and priority management skills to get through this period – and to set you on the right track for 2014.

Step 1 – plan ahead

I find that if I don’t plan my day, it is so much easier to get sidetracked by emails or other demands – and I end up feeling like I didn’t get anything accomplished. To overcome this, I’ve started planning my day the night before. Writing down the next day’s tasks means I can come in with a clear purpose and don’t have to try to remember things overnight.

How you structure your to-do list is a very individual choice, but the key is to capture the tasks in one place at once so you don’t end up double handle information or emails. The list only also works if you refer to it throughout the day/week and it is combined with reminders.

Two popular time management apps that might help you are:

https://www.wunderlist.com/en/

http://culturedcode.com/

Step 2 – prioritise

To prioritise well, you need to constantly keep in mind what the overall purpose of your role is – what activities will give you the best results, help you achieve your goals?

The 80/20 rule applies here, too. Spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your priorities. Choose what you spend your time on and just as importantly what not to spend your time on.

It will involve making some tough choices to achieve this and you will likely upset some people that might have been accustomed to you being available more of the time.

Step 3 – streamline your tasks

A key purpose of time management is to increase your productivity. Look at what you do and how you do it – and consider whether there are ways to do it smarter or quicker. Always question why the task is there, what would happen if it simply wasn’t done or whether it is
possible to delegate it to someone else.

 Step 4 – set a realistic and achievable daily schedule

To set a realistic daily plan, the first step would be to think through each task on your to-do list and consider how long it is likely to take and plan accordingly. Allow some contingency time – you are very likely to need it! E.g. booking back to back meetings is never a great idea. You will most likely end up running late and your stress levels will be building. Don’t put yourself in that situation when it’s so easily avoidable.

Step 5 – don’t give time when you don’t have any

We tend to underestimate the time we need, and over promise the time we have. If someone asks for ‘a minute’ you both know that it’s not going to be just a minute. Before you agree, find out how long it will realistically take and don’t be afraid to turn them down or schedule the catch-up at a more convenient time for you so that when you do meet up you will be able to give them your full attention.

Step 6 – stop procrastinating

Not following through on your intended action is one of the most harmful mistakes. Finding the discipline to “eat the elephant one bite at a time” each day is often your biggest challenge. Simply by acting on an item the first time you touch it or read it you can lift your productivity.

Step 7 – turn off that device!

Is work taking over your life or are you truly able to leave work at work? Be wary of how much you have allowed the lines between work and free/family time to become blurred. If you are regularly taking work home or constantly checking work emails on your mobile device, then you need to learn to allow yourself to switch off and without guilt.

Step 8 – recharge your mental batteries

Make sure you plan time for activities that you find pleasurable as this will engage the right side of your brain and help recharge your batteries. It’s okay to stop up and do nothing – so when planning your day make sure you set aside some time to think, reflect and relax.

Step 9 – don’t ignore the early signs of stress

Managing your time can directly reduce your stress level. With an effective time management system in place, you are less likely to be fighting fires, and rushing from task-to-task and place-to-place.

We recommend reading “I’ve had it up to here – from stress to strength” (2nd edition) by Gaynor Parkin & Sarah Boyd – a well-written New Zealand book with practical tools to improve your resilience at home and work.

Step 10 – learn from the best

Why not register on our upcoming Time and Priority Management” training course?

Led by Elaine McMeeking, one of New Zealand’s leading facilitators, the course focuses on key areas such as:

  • Setting achievable goals and objectives
  • Identifying and focusing on high payoff activities
  • Learning to say no
  • Gaining productivity
  • Overcoming procrastination
  • Managing pressure and stress

Hint: if your first thought is that you simply haven’t got time to take two days out to attend training, then that’s a clear sign that you actually, truly need this course!