Finding time for myself seemed impossible! Then I tested pieces of advice on how to be more efficient – some worked and some didn’t. From this journey, I made an amazing discovery which I’d love to share with you. Read on!
What is the main reason for reducing our work schedule? For me, it’s finding time to do those things that I mostly say I’m too busy for. I’m too busy to go to the movies with friends. I’m too busy to take the boys to the pool. I’m too busy to go on a vacation. I’m too busy for me time.
Have you ever heard those things coming out of your mouth? Well, I have and it doesn’t make for a happy balanced life, at all.
In the past I would work from seven in the morning until 10 at night, and I would still not get everything done that I needed to do. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere and falling behind. Can you relate?
Efficiency by Trial and Error
After talking to people about how they manage their time more efficiently, I found that there were a lot of things in the way of me getting things done. Distractions were a big roadblock and they usually involved social media and numerous emails that demanded my attention with the ring of a bell.
These distractions created a diversion from the uncomfortable things that I really needed to do to reach my goals. Those uncomfortable things involved making a tough call, or dealing with a negative situation, or doing something that I wasn’t confident that I could succeed at. To me these things seemed intimidating or challenging, or I was afraid of the answer.
One of the things I realized was that I needed to reduce my workday. I had to become more efficient.
I read books and articles on how to be more efficient and tried many of these tactics to help me solve this. Time blocking was one of those tactics.
Taking this piece of advice had me to buying an appointment book. You know the one with the black cover and coil bound? I highlighted time slots in different colours to distinguish the type of activity it represented, and I was ready to commit. It looked fantastic!
I tried it for two weeks and since my schedule is not set in stone, nor 9-5, I couldn’t do one task for one hour and then another task the next hour. I was constantly moving blocks around because one day I’d have to visit clients in the morning, and the next it would be in the afternoon. My calendar was a mess! So in the recycle bin the calendar went.
Managing my Most Productive Time
I began to write down all the activities I did during the day and I figured out when I’m most productive and when I’m most focused. That peak productive time is from six to 11 in the morning. That’s the time when I’m most alert and most on my game.
Some consider themselves “night owls” and are most efficient after 8pm when the kids are in bed. Is that you? Not everyone is a morning person, and that’s okay.
In the afternoon, I dwindled, and I wasn’t focused. I’d rather be doing stuff like meeting clients for coffee, or going for an ice cream with my son. Stuff that requires less detailed work.
I started organizing my day by having all the things that really needed focus completed between 6 and 11 in the morning. Then in the afternoon I do more things requiring less focus. Not every day would resemble this perfectly and I was willing to accept that.
Keeping Track of My Tasks
At the end of the day, lying in bed, I would be thinking about what I had to do the next day. Don’t forget to call this person, or mail this letter out, or pay this bill…, and the list went on. I was worried that I would forget to do these things and would not sleep at all.
To keep me from forgetting, I started to write my todo list in the evening. That helped me relax because I captured everything I needed to do and didn’t risk forgetting anything. My todo list was set on my desk for the next morning. Perfect!
Come the morning I was more alert and more available. I was more focused, which helped me get more done.
Making My ToDo List Even Better
After a while, creating a todo list at the end of the day didn’t work because there was always something that came up. I’d forget to fill out my todo list and went back to the sleepless nights.
While in search for another solution I found a todo app. I could add tasks to it as soon as something came up. After I got off the phone with someone I would add to the app whatever tasks I needed to do – a follow up email or call, or finding information. I also added tasks in other areas of my life, and not just for work. It’s in the app and it’s not on my mind distracting me from what I have to do at that moment.
That worked amazingly well because I got into the habit of continually adding to it. I have the app on my tablet and on my phone so I’d always have access to my todo list. When I have spare time I’d look at my todo list and see what’s next. That worked great!
Start Small to Build Confidence
First thing in the morning I’d look at my todo list. I’d search for items that take less than 2 minutes to do. This is a great tip that I got from a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. My key take away was this: anything that takes under two minutes – just do it.
The first 30 minutes, from 6 to 6:30 am, I’m taking care of these items that take less than 2 minutes to complete. It might be returning emails, sending a text, or it might be paying a bill. Little things like that.
I ended up checking off 5-10 items that take less than 2 minutes to complete and it took me under half an hour to do. Awesome! I felt like I was accomplishing a lot first thing in the morning and it would build my confidence.
After I accomplished that many tasks in such a short time I was on a high, so I needed to take a break. I would reward myself and come back to do the stuff that takes a little more time and a lot more concentration.
Managing the More Challenging Jobs
It’s very important to eliminate those chief distractions like I mentioned earlier. The ones that always come up like instagram or facebook, telemarketers and emails, but aren’t urgent.
Another book I came across is called The One Thing by Gary Keller. The key take away is to block off 90 minutes, remove distractions, and get the more detailed tasks done.
Because I’m not the best time blocker I had to find a way to make this work for me.
I would get one of the tasks done and then I would reward myself. This would be a treat or something small, like a 5 minute break. Then I would go back and tackle the next one. And these tasks can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to complete.
What naturally occurred was something quite amazing. As I committed to this practice I would maintain that focus longer and be able to do several jobs before taking a break, and I ended up going beyond the 90 minutes.
The key is to get rid of those distractions, and the negative thoughts associated with the task, and then just focus on what needs to be done. Within this time you are in your chief productive frame of mind. You are on your game.
The Real Reason to Create more Personal Time
When I started making these changes I would sometimes be finished a lot of my work before 1 pm. I’d have all this time left over, I started to have less stress, and then I had to start thinking about things that I wanted to do for myself. Things like taking a course, going swimming with the boys, or going out with my friends.
The reason why you work, is to afford to do things with the people in your life that really matter, and that support you. That’s where you take time to appreciate them and appreciate you!
By creating better habits, one small step at a time you can stop saying that you’re too busy and enjoy more time with the amazing people in your life, including you!