One of the biggest issues for many people is how they use their time. It’s easy to waste so much time, waiting for people to respond, waiting for deliveries, trying to have a conversation, being distracted; so much of our time is often controlled by other people. The more you are able to take control of your own use of time the more you will achieve.
Just for the next few days try this activity:
At night make a ‘To Do’ list for the next day of everything you need to do, in the first column write each activity, in the second column estimate how long you think it will take. Include any normal breaks you might take for lunch etc.
As you work through the next day put the actual amount of time it took you to complete the task, but also use the notes column to make a note of any interruptions/other actions that prevented you from finishing the task when you planned.
If you are able to complete it as you go through the day it will help you to record it more accurately, otherwise complete it at the end of the day still trying to be as accurate as possible.
Try and do this for a few days and you will soon see a pattern emerge, whether working at home, or in the workplace; what you are likely to see is how many times we get interrupted.
Initially it can be quite difficult to accurately predict how long a task might take. How we have to make choices about where to put our priorities, how long you may spend on tasks around the home, how other people’s urgent requests may stop you achieving your own work.
This activity will be particularly helpful if you are self-employed, working from home, or involved in hybrid working, it will also help you to identify where time is wasted.
The reality is that for many of us, our days are full of interruptions, or deadlines imposed by us, or others. Social media doesn’t help as we gaze at others having an imagined dream life.
As the days get longer, why not use the extra hours of daylight to schedule more time to do the things that are really important in life. It is so easy at the end of a busy day to just slump into a chair and watch television, or go onto social media, or do both at the same time!
Why not look radically at your week and try and create a ‘magic hour’ each day where you dedicate time to doing something just for you, something that will really make you feel better. Initially the first hour could be spent planning how you will find this hour each day. The reality may be that you find it easier to achieve this time if you build up to it; when you feel overwhelmed it is very hard to imagine achieving any time for yourself.
If you are trying to create a more organised life, don’t start with big challenges, just starting with baby steps can pave the way to achieving a better quality of life.
Have shorter conversations, this doesn’t mean missing out on conversations with the important people in your life; but we often waste a lot of time listening to people who just talk at us, or responding to people who use the classic, ‘Can I just have a moment of your time?’ Try and find ways of finishing these conversations quickly, or better still don’t allow them to start, always be polite, but not always available.
Try to work smarter, this is an old saying, but still very true, it is so easy to struggle with out-of-date equipment, things that need repairing, paperwork that needs sorting, trying to find information that is filed somewhere.
Clear the clutter, linked to the point above, clutter can overwhelm us, and stop us achieving anything; creating a ‘magic hour’ isn’t about using this time to do chores. Instead it’s about achieving space and time to do the good things in life, but the more sorted and organised you become the easier it will be to find this time.
Don’t always be the one to volunteer, this is particularly difficult to achieve, if your natural instinct is to be helpful, you will soon find that you are the one who ends up doing more than you need to do, and eventually you will feel resentment. This isn’t about volunteering in the wider world, when amazing things have been achieved by wonderful volunteers.
This is more about situations at home and work, when you may feel everything is being unfairly left to you to sort out. Still offer to help, but don’t always be the only one taking it on all the time, encourage others to help you, at home as well as elsewhere.
For naturally helpful people who are generous with their time, initially this can be challenging, don’t feel guilty if you are less available. Instead use the extra time that you find to also create unexpected happy moments of time for close friends and family.
Shut yourself away when you want to achieve a task, set a time frame and try to stick to it. Use a timer if it helps, we can often work quicker when we get closer to a deadline, try and set yourself deadlines to achieve more in less time. This is especially important if you work from home, it is so easy to get distracted; however the bonus is you are more likely to be in control of your own time, and can schedule your work to the times of day when you feel most productive. Develop the habit of building in rewards, ‘If I/we do this, we can then ……. ‘Plan something special at the end.
Be spontaneous, either in taking time out to do something that you really want to do, or by taking on a task that has been hanging over you. If you make a list of what you want to achieve in order to create more time for you, or your family, when you find yourself with some spare moments try and use it productively. You will be amazed whet you can achieve if you are motivated to do it, and there is huge satisfaction when you can tick it off your list. The key goal in doing anything is thinking if I do this, my life will be simpler and easier. Equally, take joy in breaking with routine and doing something unexpected.
Try and encourage this approach with your family, it’s an important life skill for everyone to develop, particularly if you all want to share in the freedom and fun of more relaxing, happy times.
There are a number of things you can do to start to doing things differently. In our Time-savers section you will find helpful tips about how to save time.
Create a list of all the different ways that you can save time, here is a starter list.
- Create a list to put up in the kitchen and encourage everyone to add to the list when they run out of items, this gets updated every time you go shopping.
- Use ‘regular order’ lists for online grocery orders.
- Use the 25-minute Pomodoro* technique to focus on tasks and to get tasks done in time.
- Have regular routine times for all basic household, home maintenance chores.
- If you live with others encourage everyone to share in the tasks, in work share tasks among the team, don’t be afraid to ask for help, help everyone to use their best capabilities.
- Use time-saving techniques in daily admin tasks, e.g pre-set signatures on documents, standard emails etc. Always proof before sending!
- Shop, buy petrol, wash the car, ring call centres at non-peak times.
- Set up super-organised files of key documents so that you don’t waste time looking for them.
- Have stations around the home organised e.g tea/coffee making, stationery, repairing, gift wrapping. In some cases it may be an actual place as with tea/coffee, but in others a box, e.g birthday box, with cards, wrapping, etc. Think about using more eco-friendly alternatives.
- If you regularly need gifts for friends and family, buy cards and presents when you see something appropriate and store them where you can find them again.
- Download homework and school timetables so you can plan and offer support to your children.
- Create a personal, or family planner will all key dates, special events, plus public holidays.
- Do the same for all bills, direct debits, standing orders etc.
- Keep phones and all other devices regularly charged.
- Know the location of all household safety features for water, gas, electricity, plus relevant emergency numbers.
- Make a regular routine of always preparing the night before for the next day for yourself and encourage your family to do the same, it saves early morning panics looking for homework, socks, keys etc.
- Regularly unsubscribe and stop sources of junk mail, clear searches, delete unwanted information.
- Clear clutter before it has a chance to settle. Try and keep a clean desk/table, clean surfaces, approach at the end of each day, this will make it much easier to get started the next day.
- Make ‘To Do’ lists for each day, but be realistic with the timings, some might be for the next day, the next week, or the next month.
- Use all this organisation and planning to give you extra time to build your dreams, but also for relaxation and enjoyment!
*The Pomodoro Technique: The Life-Changing Time-Management System (Paperback) by Francesco Cirillo
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