We are all in control of how we spend our time. After all, it’s our life and we are the ones making decisions on how we spend each and every minute of each day.
But in reality, most of us fritter away our time on many different things that truly add no real benefit to our lives.
We live in an unprecedented age of information technology. The internet and “social media” now means we could all spend 24/7 working through the mountain of information that invades our lives from every conceivable angle. If you don’t believe this – just take a look around you on the train, in the coffee shop. How many people are using the “window to the world” that is the smartphone?
With all these new distractions adding to the “old fashioned” attention grabbers of incoming phone-calls, e-mails and colleagues asking for your time – it’s no wonder anyone can actually get any meaningful work completed. So – let’s look at some easy to use ideas to double your daily productivity:
Practical Time Management ideas:
- The No1 advice is to be in control of your working day. You make the decisions on how to spend your time, don’t let events overly influence you. So – don’t take that phone call, don’t look at that e-mail, don’t deal with that colleague until it’s the right time for you. It’s not 100% possible to do this, but if you work at improving your control over your time the results will be remarkable.
- Have “windows” of time in your day. If you’ve a core job to do, but you also have to deal with lots of “small” things then the time window can be invaluable. For example, your “core windows” could be 9am – 12pm and 2pm to 5pm. This gives 6 hours of “core” time to focus on your main job, but with 1-2hrs before 9am; 2hrs at lunchtime between 12pm and 2pm and then another 1-2 hrs after 5pm to deal with the bits and bobs. A practical use of this model could be:
- Only check e-mails before 9am, between 1pm – 2pm and after 5pm
- Bob wants a chat at 10am – can it wait till 12?
- We need to have a meeting – let’s make it 1:30 till 2:00
- A client rings at 4pm but it’s just to say “hi”; can I call you back at 5?
This ability to manage your time in blocks, be in control of your decision making and having control over how you spend your time makes a significant difference to your productivity.
- E-mail – for me e-mail is the biggest distraction tool. That little envelope symbol in the bottom corner of the screen is akin to the buzz of receiving a present. I challenge anyone to let it sit there & not open it. No, no,no – dah, i just got to open it!!!!! The simple solution to this is turn your outlook / e-mail off. If it’s not active then there is nothing to distract you. Deal with e-mails when you choose to. Don’t be an e-mail slave.
- Personal calls – try and minimize or eliminate them. Many organisations ban personal calls entirely from the workplace, but is that the way to manage professional people? Everyone has life’s emergencies, but if your partner has an uncanny habit of calling you during the day about minor things, ask them to keep it to specific times; ideally lunchtime or after 5pm.
- Non critical phonecalls – don’t be afraid to ask someone if it’s OK to call them back later as you are “in the middle of something”. Call them back outside your core work window. One of the best things I ever learnt is that if you focus on one thing 100% then you’ll do it to the best of your ability. Doing 2 things at the same time means it’ll only ever get 50% of my attention – hence it’s 50% as good as it could be.
- Chatting with colleagues – whether it’s first thing in the morning or during the working day, everyone enjoys chatting to colleagues and it’s a critical part of having a happy and harmonious workplace. Be aware that chats can disturb other people in the same office, and we all have differing abilities in our levels of focus in our work. It can take some people quite a while to get really focussed on a piece of work, so even though you don’t think it’s a problem – distractions and chit chat all work against getting that focus going.
- The internet – there is so much information at your fingertips, but it’s your responsibility to make decisions on how to use it. Time-killers include online shopping, auction sites, news reading, etc. Be aware and don’t let internet surfing waste your time.
It’s easy to be distracted, waste time and be a slave to the myriad of timestealers that exist. It takes a plan, focus, determination and self-discipline to be the best you can be, but with a little belief you can do it. Take action and start the change today.