This article originally appeared at Gen-i’
There is more and more talk about this thing we’ve before called the ‘time-famine phenomenon’. People are busy. They feel like there is not enough space in a day to do everything they need to do. They reach the evening exhausted, feeling like they’ve just been scurrying between lots of different tasks without having completed any of them satisfactorily.
But whilst there seems to be more conversation on this topic, ‘time-famine’ is not exactly something new. People have always been busy – and, believe it or not, there has always been the same amount of time in the day!
What is new, however, is the sheer number of demands on our time – and our continual anxiety about being productive. From email to social media, there are things literally designed to distract us (look at websites such as IWasteSoMuchTime.com or Distractify as examples!). Whilst, at the same time, we are often over-loaded with work, personal projects, and the pressure to be the very best.
Here, I want to look at some tips and strategies to help you take the pressure off your time – and help regain control of your days.
Become aware of where your time goes.
The first tip is a simple one: take note of how you spend your time. Becoming conscious of this is the first step in getting your time back.
Mark Pettit, a business coach, suggests doing what he calls a ‘time audit’. This is where you take a blank piece of paper and divide it by three. The three columns will refer to ‘high value work’, ‘good work’, and ‘low value work’.
High value work will be that which you enjoy, which you’re great at, and which brings the results. Good work will be that which you like, but which someone else might be better suited to do. Low value work is that which bores you, which you don’t excel at, and which ideally you should stop.
Over seven days, note down how much time is spent on each type of work. The ultimate aim is to spend more time doing the High Value tasks.
Becoming conscious of wasted time.
Part of this audit should pay attention to how much of your time isn’t spent working at all. Or how much of your day is eaten up by distraction.
Do you find yourself scrolling through Facebook for ten minutes here and there throughout the day? Do you stay in bed for five, or ten, or fifteen minutes after your alarm has gone off? Is checking the news the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk in the morning?
My bet is that you will have little habits like this that steal time from you – and that you don’t even notice doing.
Prioritise your tasks.
Once you know how your time is spent, you should begin to prioritise those tasks that are high value, satisfying, and that help you reach your goals.
Pettit suggests setting five tasks a day that will bring you both pleasure to perform and satisfaction once they are completed. Make these your priorities for the day. Once you have completed them, you can use the lift and motivation that these tasks have given you to get through the less interesting ones.
Focus is the key here, as well as ensuring that the tasks that you prioritise are those that get you towards where you want to be.
Delegate and outsource.
In the meantime, you can get other people to do the ‘good work’ and ‘low value work’ tasks that should not be your priorities. You can either delegate these to your inhouse staff or virtual assistants across the globe.
You may be the sort of person whose high value work is coming up with new ideas, working with people, brainstorming, or designing new products. In this case, you may want to outsource the less interesting work to an outsourced COO. This is someone who can take care of the operational end of your business, so that you have more time to focus on the high value work that you love.
Relax, take a break, do something else.
In the end, part of the concern around productivity and time-management is your fixation on how busy you are. At times, you need to let go and accept that you might not finish everything you need to do today.
So, go for a walk, take a lunch break, or spend ten minutes outside. Whilst ‘not working’ might sound like counter-intuitive advice, all of these things will make you more productive in the long.
The same is true of sleep. It is not a badge of honour to be sleep deprived. So go to bed early, and I promise you will be able to work better tomorrow.