Let’s face it, nobody has the time. I can’t recall the last time I woke up and said to myself “Gee, I have so much time and so little to do!” It’s invariably the reverse. I imagine it’s the same for you too. We can’t get more time so the question is, how do we make the most of the time that we have?
There are myriad books, blogs, seminars, and conversations about maximizing time. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of ideas and strategies out there. Oftentimes I see all that and it seems far out of reach, so I’m going to do something very simple for you in this post.
I’m just going to make a list of time saving ideas. You pick just one. Anything we accomplish begins with a single step. Pick one that seems easy, not necessarily the one that seems like it will save the most time or even the one you think you need the most. By starting easy you will notice immediate benefit and build some momentum into some of the bigger changes that may ultimately be more impactful. Success builds on success, so make sure you pick something where success will come readily to start.
- Make a plan. I recommend starting on a daily or weekly basis. Distinguish between imperative and important tasks. Work through the imperative list first and then tackle the important work.
2. Delegate. Ask yourself if each thing you are doing is something that can only be done by you. When you find items that don’t require you, delegate them. You may not have a person to delegate to and that’s fine. Delegate to technology. There are so many programs and apps available that it is almost guaranteed that you could find something that would take a task or two off your hands. It may take some time up front to find and set up a program like that, but you make that time back every day once it is set up.
3. Group tasks. Do similar things at the same time, or if certain tasks require traveling ask yourself what else you can accomplish while you’re out. By grouping similar tasks you can save substantial time that would have been spent in transition between tasks.
4. Set time constraints. It may seem counter-intuitive but most of the time we either consciously or unconsciously make the task at hand fill the time allotted. For instance, if I give myself an hour for email, I will invariably take an hour. If I decide that I only have 45 minutes for email, I will find a way to get it done in 45 minutes. This mental trick can easily save you hours every week.
5. Say no. Don’t be afraid to protect your time. In addition to over-committing by saying yes, many people lose time worrying about simple yes/no decisions. When someone asks for your help, how much time do you spend thinking about what answer to give? It can be a lot. Know yourself and your schedule so that you can give a quick, and correct, answer.
6. Give yourself a break. If you push yourself too hard your productivity and efficiency suffer. Make sure you get the time that you need to rest so that when you are working it is at maximum output.
7. Eliminate distractions. This could be as simple as closing a door. If you have to work on a computer and have trouble staying away from electronic time wasters, put a blocker on so that you can only use work related programs for a given period of time. It won’t take long before eliminating distractions is habit.
8. Share your schedule. Maybe this should just be have a schedule. Once you have a schedule, share it with the key people in your personal and professional life. This will allow those around you to better interface with you in a way that minimizes the impact on your high priority tasks. You will also have an easier time protecting your time when your expectations and schedule are known to everyone.
9. Start. Many times we dither and delay because there is so much to do and it seems impossible and discouraging and where do we even start, etc. Just start. If you sense yourself becoming lethargic or discouraged just do something. Doesn’t even matter at that point how high the priority is, just do something. That gets you going again and will start some momentum for you. Odds are good that once you start, even on the simplest tasks, the rest will seem much more manageable.
10. Leave a little wiggle room. If your schedule is too tight you will become frustrated and angry because at some point something will go wrong, or take a little extra time, or something to throw a jam packed schedule off. You can reduce your stress significantly with just a little bit of planning for the unexpected. Lower stress = better focus = tasks done quicker = more time.