In today's fast paced world it can feel that one of the major difficulties is that we are time poor. However time is the same for everyone - you cannot change or stretch time. At least we haven't invented that ability yet! However you can be more skilled at using it to your best advantage.
If you feel a bit 'white rabbit' somedays, if you remember your Alice in Wonderland and the white rabbit who was always late, then you might be feeling weighed down by it or that you are not in control. It may feel like a a total chasing act.
The coachees that attend 1:1 coaching or time management masterclasses with me often say that their diaries are really full or they are feeling overwhelmed and they can't reduce anything. However not everything can be equally important and if you do your planning right, and ensure that you are working to your own goals and not someone elses, then not everything can be urgent!
Easier said than done?
One of my favourite quotes is
‘The essence of time management is knowing what your values and goals are in life and making the optimum use of your time to achieve these ends’ - Neenan & Dryden 2002.
So knowing where you are going and what you are aiming for can increase your ability to make the optiumun use of your time so you are achieving what you desire.
Also by the same logic we can get rid of those activites that are not linked to our goals, that are time wasters. You know what they are right? checking and re- checking emails, spending time googling articles that are not really relevant to you right now, endlessly going on facebook, checking your phone, gaming, putting off decision making, dragging your feet with tasks, procrastinating..I am sure you can think of more!!
So we know what we do that we don't want to do to manage our time right? So the question is - what DO we want to do? What can we do to be effective with our time? This is one BIG subject but I have put forward 8 strategies that might be of help. Have a look at my time management tips and I welcome hearing from you on what works for you!
1 Make a plan for the week prioritised against goals
We all hear about planning using to do lists right? You can't think about time managment without being aware that a to do list is crucial to make baby steps towards your goals. The key is to link your to do list to longer term goals that you want to achieve. Think about how you might feel in ten years time from now, looking back on what makes those last ten years productive and happy? What would you be doing each week to take small steps to move towards this? It would of course involve breaking goals down into smaller steps but having this mindset can help us see the bigger picture and keep motivated. It is important to ensure that they are the goals that you want to achieve and not someone elses and that you prioritise your week against these goals.
2 Do one task at a time
In order to do a task well it is worth doing one task at at time. In the world of fast paced social media it can feel like we are constantly juggling. Well if you want to have a quality product take your time and focus on really achieving one task at a time. In order to do this it is worth recognising that you may have to do some emotional management. One of the biggest issues I hear from coaching is that people feel 'overwhelmed' and 'panicked' and 'stressed' about all the tasks they have to do. However you can't do one task well if you are worrying about the tasks you haven't done. Be aware of your emotional state and maybe take a breather if needed. Then focus on one task, work steadily through removing any unhelpful distractions and then you will feel more positive about the other tasks waiting for you. Stress levels will reduce. If you don't believe me - go on give it a go!
3 Use the 80/20 rule
This is a fantastic rule. The idea is to have your high priority activities reflect the 80/20 rule. What you are looking for is a high percentage of desired results achieved via the smallest percentage of activities. Make your vital tasks - 20% of what you put in - create 80% of the output of what is important to you & your goals. This concept is based on the work of an economist & avid horticulturalist Pareto in late 19th Century Italy. One day he noticed that every year 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced approx 80% of the peas. This started him thinking about economic output on a larger scale and he found in various industries/societies/companies 80% of the production often came from the 20% most productive faction. This became known as Pareto principle or 80/20 principle. You may have heard of it - did you know that one of the most well known time management strategies actually orginated with peas. Cool hey! So the idea is that you get improved use of your time if you link your vital tasks to create 80% of what is important to you. To find out more about this why not book a group or 1:1 session with me and we can apply this tool to your business or personal life - it produces very interesting results and can be really life changing concerning how you spend your time!
4 Use the Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle
Have a think about what is urgent and what is important to you when determining task priority. US President Eisenhower in '54 said "I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." The Urgent/Important Principle was devised to help you to think about your priorities and recognise which have an outcome that help you to achieve your goals. Think about your 'urgent tasks' who are they urgent for? Urgent tasks are often urgent because they are linked to importance for other people. We often focus on these as they demand our immediate atttention and have immediate consequences if we don't. This helps you think about your priorities, and determine which of your activities are important to you personally and which are timewasters. Prioritise in terms of urgency & importance to schedule proactive tasks to be less reactive. In addition if you spend your life responding to urgency and crisises there is a risk of health issues and burn out. It is also a reactive way to live. So have a think about how you can put planning in place to have important tasks mapped out and less urgency in your life. This may also require you to draw on those assertiveness skills.
5 Eat that frog!
If you have several high priority tasks do the unpleasant or difficult one first!
Mark Twain said ‘If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.’ So you may think 'I can't bear it', 'I just won't be able to do it' or it is just 'too much for me, it is too darn boring'. However how do you know if you don't get started if you can bear it or not? I don't know anyone who died of boredom - it is ok you can cope with the boredom honest. If you know your Chicken Licken story tale by Horace E. Scudder you will know that the sky will not fall in if you do a boring task!
6 Tackle procrastination!
Recognise & challenge thinking errors to tackle procrastination, perfectionism & increase your tolerance of those tasks that aren’t your favourite!
I could write a whole blog on this subject.
One of the benefits of working with mindset and emotional intelligence is that we address the underpinning deeper issues that get in the way with managing our time effectively. There has been research done to show that time management is most effective when we tackle these. We often have the skills for managing our time but we are enjoy the immediate rewards that procrastinating gives us. Yes you say! you know that stress levels reduce, you start to feel that feel good factor and a sense of immediate achievement so that's why we do it. However in the longer term we have not made progress towards our long term goals..sound familiar? So have a think about the story you tell yourself to make it ok to procrastinate.
'I can't work without a clean desk!'
'If I just read this interesting article I will come back to writing that workshop soon!'
'Pressure suits me I will be more motivated if I do it last minute'
____________________________________ (fill in the blank!)
Then challenge it! I coach in this area as it is often more helpful to have support with this.
7 Try the 5 min start to get into the flow!
This one is totally golden...tell yourself you will be starting a task for 5 mins and before you know it you will have been past the 5 mins and into the 'flow state'.
What is getting in the flow? – there are times you have started something and before you know it you have been inspired to continue. Postive psychologist Csíkszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work and he became famous for his Flow Theory. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi tried to understand this phenomenon in his research work. Flow research became prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s. The theory of flow was greatly used in the theories of Maslow and Rogers in their development of the humanistic tradition of psychology. So next time you are thinking about putting something off just think to yourself..I will do this for 5 mins! 20 mins later you will still be doing it!
8 Get support
Consider delegating tasks. Involve others in what you are doing. It is all very well to have a moto that doing something yourself will get the best result but in reality if you take on too much you are more likely to have reduced quality. There are times that I have had my teacher qualified husband look over my workshop session plans or asked my daughter to proof read an article on confidence for young people to get her advice. We are not an island - it can feel like it sometimes - however there are loads of tasks you can delegate. There are also ways to let family and friends know it is a busy time for you - for example, get a takeaway instead of cooking, reschedule a get together, ask for someone else to take the cat to the vet for injections, ask for a bit of quiet time to do some background reading or writing. You will be surprised when you express what is going on for you how people will chip in. If you manage a team you may want to consider delegating tasks when you are managing a particular project. Outsourcing is becoming more popular too. You may wish to consider an accountant that really goes the extra mile, a HR dept that you can book for a set period or perhaps a virtual assistant. Don't do it all if you want to be productive long term!! Don't be afraid to ask for advice, help, support you will be surprised at the result.
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