So you’re managing a team, budgets, scaling, implementation of new technologies, consultations with other departments, strategising the company’s vision and so on. And it’s great, or at least it would be if you had more than 24 hours in a day.
Except more time isn’t necessary, just better management of it is.
There will of course be days when it feels like everything is running away from you and the reality is there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. But, if you take steps to organise, prioritise and action each day, it will prevent tasks building up and lead to fewer days where you feel the only option is to burn your pile of papers and book a one-way ticket to somewhere far, far away.
Here are our top tips for managing your time rather than it managing you; because it pays to work smarter, not harder:
1. Purge the night before the morning after
Sunday night dread? You aren’t alone. But it doesn’t have to be all doom, gloom and broken sleep. Although most of us like to bury our heads in the sand / Netflix as the final hours of the weekend slip away, open your diary and take a look. Jam packed? Then try to get rid of as many as possible that aren’t aligned with your goals for that week (see point 7). And at the end of every day, write down everything you accomplished in addition to everything that you still need to work on for the next day. Focusing your thoughts will minimise worries and make you feel like you’re in control.
2. Schedule like a ninja
First, consider when you’re most productive and plan your week around these times. Block time out and use this for periods of longer, more mentally challenging work. It then allows for shorter periods of procrastination or doing small, admin-heavy tasks. Secondly, if a meeting requires you to travel then consider who else you need to meet that week that is or around the same area and schedule time with them as well if possible. That way you cut down on travel time and kill two birds with one stone.
“Planning periods of deep work is a learning process that I’ve used for a while.” — R. Lofthouse
3. Brain ‘training’
Consider your transport means carefully — whether it’s commuting or attending off-site meetings / events, chose rail and bus routes over tubes because you’ll be able to do maximise your time by taking calls and sending emails if you need to, rather than waiting. Or, if you need some time out, use it as a period of reflection and extra-curricular learning and development.
4. To do or not to do
That really is the question when it comes to lists; some people hate writing them and some live for the strike-through. Regardless, the simple act of writing them is all about organisation and even unfinished ones have their benefits because they help improve your memory, unclog your thoughts and turn mere ideas into actionable plans.
5. You got to be startin’ somethin’
Who knows if the ‘King of Pop’ used the Five-Minute Rule or not, but he had the measure of how to get going. We’re all guilty of procrastinating either when we’re not quite sure how to go about something or fearing the amount of work to be done, but there are ways to get around it. To say ‘just do it’ is much easier than the actual doing it, however psychologist, Andrea Bonoir recommends choosing a task and work on it for five minutes before stopping. While it might seem counter-intuitive, it actually surmounts the biggest hurdle — starting in the first place. Once you’ve done it, you’ll find it much easier to come back to. Or, more likely, you’ll keep on going and just beat it.
“As a serial procrastinator, I’ve found the ‘five-minute rule’ really helpful recently.” — E. Read
6. Lose friends and alienate people
Not really, but do ignore their emails when you’re undertaking periods of deep work. Internet-based communications have created an unwarranted sense of urgency because people expect a response even when things aren’t actually urgent. With emails occupying 23% of the average employee’s workday, and inboxes being checked on average 36 times an hour, notifications are the death knell of productivity. Instead, set aside 20 minutes each day (two sets of 10 or one session) where you go through your emails and deal with them before getting on with the more, truly important stuff.
Friday comes, you’ve worked hard for that (large) glass of Malbec. But, before you reach for the corkscrew, sit down and look back over your week: think about what was done well, what was done okay but could be improved and what was done badly. Set goals for the following week that repeat the good things, better the average and address the bad things. You’ll then be able to leave work ‘at work’ knowing that everything is on an upward, rather than downward spiral, and maybe, even treat yourself to the bottle.
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