You probably know a person who seems to be always in a hurry and replies ‘I’m busy, I do not have time!’ whenever running into someone. Maybe you are this person.
I know I was this kind of busy-bee once. There were times at work when friends or colleagues would ask me ‘how is it going?’ and I would reply almost with pride ‘oh, you know…incredibly busy. Barely have time to do anything’, and then I would walk away. Still know many busy-bees and I often wonder what would happen if they would just stop one day. Stop to catch their breath, or to be present for themselves or for someone else.
Right now you are likely thinking what do I mean by all of this. Don’t we all lead busy lives, barely having time to do what we truly enjoy? Isn’t that the gist of our mundane life before we are old and gray, ready to enjoy our retirement – even when there is no much more to enjoy due to lack of money, health issues or other limiting factors?
I guess we have to make something clear: Being busy is not the same as being productive. Having our schedule completely loaded, running from one point to the other, waking up drenched in sweat obsessing about a never-ending to do’s list – none of it means that you are living a fulfilling and purposeful life.
I’m aware of how much people relish on bragging about their endless working hours, their pushy bosses and their lack of time to do anything else that does not involve sitting behind a desk writing memos and emails or attending round-the-clock unproductive meetings.
Let me tell you a secret – which you already know, though have taken for granted: We all have the same amount of time in one day. What you do with that time is utterly up to you. Time is a valuable resource. So, would you rather waste your time doing a bunch of stuff that are not necessarily leading you forward? Or would you prefer to make the best use of your time toward a more intentional and fulfilling life?
Today I share with you 5 strategies to help you manage your time more effectively.
1. Get ready for the day: We talked about intentions before. Start your day intentionally, instead of dragging yourself throughout the day with no plan or intention at all. Do whatever helps you to set your mind for a successful and productive day. For some people, it starts already in the previous day before going to sleep. Others have in place a morning routine that helps them getting into the flow. It may be meditation, a walk outside, exercise, reading a chapter of a book, listening to your favorite tunes. Whatever works best for you - and believe me, you will not know until you have tried –, make sure you set a winner mindset regardless of the mood you woke up with.
2. Prioritize your tasks: Leave nothing for tomorrow, complete everything today. Does not sound realistic! Because it is not. How can you finish all your tasks today and start with a clean slate every day? It does not quite work like that. To do’s lists are often ginormous, leading you to feel disappointed in yourself for not crossing out all the items at the end of the day. What if from all these tasks in your list, you would prioritize them? Are they all really urgent and necessary? Which of those are leading you toward your goals? Prioritizing your tasks – on a day, week and/ or monthly basis depending on your preferences – will soon turn disappointment into fulfillment. Especially when you know that on the top of your list are the duties that really matter to you, those tasks that help you reaching your short and long-term goals.
3. Replace multitasking for batch work: Who is not a fan of multitasking? Indeed, women are considered amazing multitaskers. How is that helpful? Yeah, you may have the impression you are handling a bunch of tasks simultaneously and cutting their execution time to half. In reality, multitasking only turns you slower while your brain tries to refocus while switching in between tasks or topics. It actually leads to less productivity. What can you do instead? Here is an opportunity to consider batch work. In other words, this means focusing on a particular area or topic for a specific amount of time, instead of jumping from task to task. This way you avoid repeating the same process over and over again, whereas finalizing all at once puts you ahead of time, leaving mental space for new ideas and projects.
4. Remove distractions: How many times are you in a meeting or talking to your partner, when suddenly your phone rings or your notifications pop up, and all your attention is gone? You are no longer present. You have just entered another dimension. Well, it is fair to say that your productivity has been compromised already. In addition, it will likely take you double the time and effort to get back to what you were doing. This is valid not only for your phone, but also for other sources of diversion (other people, ambient noise, emails, clutter). Though distractions are an easy way to excuse you from your tasks, eventually you will have to complete them. Why not cutting all distractions, focus and finalize your tasks by giving it your full attention?
5. Delegate when possible: No one can do it better than you. I get it! Assigning responsibility for your tasks to someone else is tricky and it probably makes you feel a bit anxious. Other people are not you, meaning that they will do it differently. However, your way is not necessarily the best way… only one of many possibilities. Delegating tasks frees you up for other work where your expertise might be required, or where your skills can grow. This is true within your professional sphere, where you can delegate to your team members or even other departments. Also in your personal life, perhaps by asking your partner to take up certain responsibilities on your behalf, or asking your children for help with small tasks.
Time is the most valuable resource we have, and often the one we waste the most. Next time you tell yourself – or someone else – you do not have time, stop and ask yourself what exactly you do not have time for. What are you prioritizing to the detriment of something else? What are choosing not to do, to do something else instead? After all, the time is yours. It is your decision how to make the best out of it.