12 tips to maximise your time
Time our most precious asset, you can earn money, you can spend it all, you can go and earn some more money, once your time has been spent it, it’s spent, are you making the most of yours?
Here are 12 ideas to help you be more productive at work and at home … and the good news is you can implement them right away.
1. Focus on one task at a time and tell yourself it is the only thing you have to do.
Technology and the pace of life these days demand us to multi-task, yet how can we take time to savour the moment when it is so crammed full of activity and ‘stuff’? To focus on one thing at a time is calming and liberating, and there’s a chance you can take a moment to step back afterwards and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
2. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts about time and productivity.
What patterns emerge? What works for you, and in what circumstances? This will give you insights into how you are truly productive, and will highlight areas where, perhaps, you are deceiving yourself about how you use your time.
3. Prioritise tasks according to whether they are urgent, important or both.
Stephen Covey, in his book First Things First introduces the concept of the important / urgent matrix (a ‘four quadrant’ model). Naturally, tasks that are urgent and important take the highest priority. However, many tasks in this ‘quadrant’ are there because insufficient time and effort has been invested in tasks that are important, but not urgent.
For example, an inefficient process can cause a lot of extra ‘working around’ which wastes time. The most effective solution would be to fix the process, because it would save ‘work around’ time. However the task of fixing the process may wallow in the ‘important but not urgent’ quadrant, and not get done, because the easier and quicker short term solution is to continue working around the broken process.
4. Write down all the things you have accomplished in the last hour / day / month / quarter / year.
What does your list include? How did you choose which items to record? How long is the list? Often we are quick to focus on what we haven’t done, and fail to recognise what we have actually achieved. What is it like to acknowledge your accomplishments?
5. Give up perfectionism!
Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction (otherwise known as procrastination!). If there is something you’re struggling to get started with, pick one small part of it that will move you closer to the end goal, and do that.
6. Ditch your ‘to-do’ list for one day …
… or a week if you’re feeling brave … and trust your brain to prioritise on your behalf. When I have tried this I find I always remember the very important things, and it is a positive pleasure to be without the self-imposed ‘pressure’ of the list.
7. Deal with difficult situations when they come around and don’t waste time and energy worrying about them beforehand.
If you have something to do in the future that is of concern, the only time it is useful to think about it, or work on it, beforehand is when you need to learn something new in order to deal with it effectively. Otherwise, trust yourself to deal with it at the appropriate moment.
8. Don’t waste time doing unimportant things just to tick them off your list.
Some tasks have a habit of resolving themselves if we leave them for a period of time without taking any action. It may be worth waiting a while before wading in to ‘get things done’.
9. Start with the task that will put you in the best frame of mind when you’ve completed it.
I often find when I’m feeling under pressure that there are just one or two things (out of my whole ‘to do’ list) that will immediately alleviate the pressure if I do them first. And when I do tackle these before all the others, I have a more resourceful mind set with which to complete the remaining ones!
10. When someone asks for your help, give them your full attention.
Turn to them, put down what you are doing (no matter how important), and really listen to what that persons needs from you. It rarely takes more than a few minutes for someone to explain what they need, and during that time you can decide whether (and how) to handle it then and there, or whether you need to schedule a future meeting to deal with it effectively.
The bonus is that most people in the workplace value being listened to, and this will help you to get the best from others.
11. Get the most important items in your diary first.
When you plan your diary for each day or week, set aside time for the big (important) tasks first. It’s a bit like filling up a jar with different sized stones – when you put the large ones in first, the smaller ones fit in around. But if you were to fill a jar with small stones, or sand, there would be no room for the larger stones. We all have a finite sized jar available to us, and a vast collection of small and large stones too great to fit into the jar. So we need to make efficient choices about how we fill that jar.
12. Have a technology free day.
We might think we’re getting lots done when we can access data wherever we are, but these devices also have the ability to distract us from more important things we are trying to focus on. Remind yourself what it’s like to spend some time in the here and now, without interruptions from messages that probably don’t require your immediate attention.
Choose just one of these suggestions and implement it for a fixed period of time. What do you notice about your level of productivity?
The most important choice you make in life is what you choose to make important’……….Michael Neil
If you believe you are great at procrastinating why not utilise your skill and use it to put off procrastinating’…….Unknown
Business Performance Coach