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A couple of meetings a day, emails to reply, tonnes of projects to work on, and at the end of the day you wonder where all the time went! Have you ever thought you needed an extra couple of hours a day?

We often say we don’t have enough time, but we don’t realise how much time we spend on things we don’t have to. Take a look at these four common time stealers and how to eliminate them. It’s time to steal time back from all those distractions and diversions!

Distractions

  • Keep others informed about your plans (blocking your calendar with automatic declination when applicable is the easiest way).
  • Block a time slot each day for short tasks and answering emails (this could of course be more than one slot, depending on your work, but avoid using other time slots for these). 
  • Turn off email, texts, and social media notifications during the times where you have a fixed task to focus on (in more modern operating systems, you have a ‘focus mode’).
  • Set an out-of-office message on your email to send automatic replies when you’re not able to check and respond to email at the usual pace (you can even state the reason; if you’re at a workshop, others will expect your replies to be delayed).
  • If your surroundings are noisy, use headphones, perhaps with some soothing white noise or music that helps you focus. Very often, people just wear headphones to denote when they should not be disturbed – the modern “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Saying Yes to everything

  • Audit your time and priorities (proper use of a diary, a calendar and a daily/weekly task list would help).
  • Analyse how much spare time you have (if you have a proper understanding of your tasks, you may identify ‘slack time’).
  • If you are expected to perform a task for which you have no time, don’t hesitate to very politely say “no” and suggest other options.
  • Define your boundaries (your capacity and resources). When people know how far you can stretch, they will be mindful about not asking too much.
  • Know that you can’t please everybody (but you can delegate where possible). Some tasks may not be avoidable but you may be able to have someone else do the outline/ some of the heavy lifting, or some other contribution that lightens your load and lets you get more done. You cannot delegate responsibility for the task, but you can get more done by having someone else do it. Delegation is also a great way to train and prepare your team members to take on more work that you might want them to be doing completely on their own, further down the road.

Delaying 

  • Set yourself time-bound goals (promise yourself a reward like a weekend getaway once you’re done with that daunting task).
  • Keep a To-Do list (You may use free online planners such as Google Keep, Google Calendar, Microsoft To Do, Evernote).
  • Keep track of deadlines (your desk calendar, diary or any mobile, web or PC app will help).
  • Identify the times that you are most productive (morning is generally recommended as the time most people feel energetic, but you know best whether you’re an early bird or a night owl) and utilise the most of it. Use your less-productive time for less-demanding work – joining a meeting or conference call, or sorting through your emails.

Dragging meetings

“Death-by-meeting” is often the biggest killer of any productivity. If you can ensure you only have the meetings that must be had, and those meetings are efficient and effective, you will have a bonanza of free time magically bestowed on everyone who would have been tied up together,

  • There are funny but true flowcharts out there to help people figure out whether a meeting is even needed. Train people to think that way. Most meetings need never have happened.
  • Allocate time for each topic to be discussed and come up with a comprehensive agenda.
  • Keep attendees informed about the agenda a day (or as early as possible but not too early either) prior to the meeting.
  • Stick to the meeting agenda (note down topics that are not on the agenda and include them in the next meeting).
  • Spot the weeds. Eliminate them through discussion.

Identifying these techniques that will help you improve your attention to detail can be a vital aspect of your career development. Do you have any other tips that you follow to manage your time? Comment below, so that others will also get to know.

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