“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”
Does this sound familiar? It doesn’t seem possible to work for 8-10 hours per day, barely able to squeeze lunch in between activities, and have a to-do list that never seems to shrink. In fact, that list is usually longer at the end of the day!
How can this be?
The answer lies here: activity does not require productivity.
There is a constant bombardment of emails, meetings that drag on, and the frequent interruptions, all of which are treated as “emergencies”. It’s actually pretty amazing we’re able to be productive at all.
However, the external pressures we feel do not free us from the responsibility of using our time wisely. The most effective sales and business professionals start by saying “No” more than they say “Yes”.
Even so, there is another factor contributing to our time troubles.
Time just seems to “get away” from us. That is because mental time is relative and subjective. A 30 minute appointment at the dentist can feel never ending while your favorite 30 minute TV show can be over in seemingly no time at all. We lack an actuate perspective and it causes us to focus on the wrong things. Fortunately, by becoming truly aware of our time and how we spend it, we are able to “tame your time” and create a more productive and less stressed lifestyle.
Our 3-step process for effective time management listed below will help get you started!
1. Gain Time Awareness
The main downfall of most time management programs is that they tend to focus on activities and setting priorities alone, without taking time into account. This makes it very difficult to set a firm and practical schedule, simply because I don’t know how long each item will take.
I need to determine how long I spend on tasks, before I can arrange a practical schedule.
So here’s how you get started…
Tomorrow, before you start the day, grab a pen, a pad of paper, and a clock. Don’t alter your daily schedule, just check the time before you begin a task and when you finish. You may be surprised how long each task takes to finish.
For example, think about the time spent on social media. It may start with the intention of putting up a quick post or checking messages, but then you start scrolling. Before you know it, you’ve read 2 articles, watched 3 cat videos, found a recipe for dinner, connected with an old friend from college, and in the process, lost 3 hours of valuable time. In fact, most people lose on average an hour of time per social media platform they use.
Tip: Set a timer when getting on social media to keep yourself focused and on task.
How does this help me now?
When I know how long it takes me to do tasks, it allows me to optimize my time during the day. First, it helps me control the amount of time I spend on tasks. Second, now I can plan my schedule based on how long things take or how long I allow myself for each project. Awareness of how long an activity takes can allow you to piece together your schedule in the most efficient way.
2. Set Priorities
The second thing you need to do before you can make your optimized schedule is to set priorities.
Priority management is the most important part of time management. However, setting priorities is not always as simple as it sounds. In most situations, there are long-term and short-term goals, urgent and important goals (not always the same thing), and last minute goals. These can be as simple as, “Get through email inbox” or as complex as, “Reach quarterly sales goal by March.” However, if you don’t set the goal, you won’t know what activities you need to complete in order to reach the goal. And as we saw in step 1, without knowing the activities required and how long they take, you won’t know how much time you need to set aside to reach that goal.
This can also be a main source of frustration. If we set goals without knowing what the process is to get there, we often end up setting impossible or unrealistic goals for ourselves. We set ourselves us for failure and then become discouraged when we don’t accomplish the impossible.
How can this help me now?
Start setting clear goals: daily, short-term, and long-term. Below each goal, list the activities that need to take place to meet those goals. Next to those items, place the amount of time that activity will take. Prioritize your goals, keeping in mind that level of urgency does not always indicate the level of importance. Now you can make a schedule.
3. Craft your Schedule
Now that you know what items must be completed and how long they will take, you can plan out your daily, weekly, and monthly activities. Think of it as a game of Tetris. Place the most time consuming pieces first and fill in the gaps with the less time consuming.
Tip: Place time sensitive activities towards the beginning of you day or at a time you think you won’t be interrupted.
You must also plan for interruptions. No day will go exactly as scheduled. Be willing to be flexible with your schedule and prepare for rearrangements. This is easier to do when you know how long items take to complete. If there is a time of day that is especially busy you may want to place more flexible goal items during that time period. Is there a coworker that comes by your office every day on their coffee break to chat? Set up an activity, like making file tabs or cleaning out your drawer. This way you can get work done while catching up. However, as we stated in the beginning, it is important to set boundaries and know when to say “No”. After that time period has passed, politely ask them to leave so you can get back to work.
Time management can be challenging. But by becoming aware of your time, setting goals, and actively managing your schedule, you will find yourself more productive and less stressed. There is no need to “make time” when you know where it is!