If you are anything like me, you have a list of things to do and that list never seems to shorten; one never reaches the end of that to-do list!
I try hard not to procrastinate, but I must admit I make excuses to myself as to why certain tasks cannot get done right now, and they are usually the tasks I least enjoy. I watched an interesting TED Talk by Laura Vanderkam, a time-management specialist and author of many books. Her research looked at what people did in the 168 hours they have in a week. One of the things I really took away from her talk was that when we say we don’t have time for things, what we usually mean is they are just not a priority.
She followed a very busy businesswoman with six children. During the week this woman had a massive leak in her house, and had to get plumbers to come and sort out the mess as well as other companies to remove damaged carpets, replace them, etc. She “found” seven hours in her busy week to do this. The reason she had the time, Laura believes, is because it was a priority.
Time is our most valuable commodity. This business blog is about time management; tips and advice on how to use the time we have productively, and prevent the distractions that steal our valuable time.
We all naturally have periods of the day when we are more productive than others. For some of us it may be the early mornings and for others it may be just after lunchtime. We call these productive hours the “golden hours”, and we should be using these hours to do our most important tasks.
We all know the feeling of trying to do a particular task that really isn’t that difficult, but because we are tired we just never seem to get through it. Sometimes a task that may take us 30 mins in the golden hours can take us an hour when we are tired. So take the time to work out when your golden hours are and try to structure your day so that difficult and complicated tasks that need focus and extra attention are tackled at this time.
Elliot Hayes, another time management coach, suggests making the first hour of the day your most important hour of the day. He suggests starting the day with output instead of input. So send your emails before reading your emails. Start the day knowing what you need to do that day. Most time management coaches will suggest you compile this list the night or day before. Your subconscious mind will then be mulling over on what needs to be achieved and you will be more productive and efficient when the morning comes and you actually tackle the tasks.
Forget about Multitasking
People pride themselves on their ability to multitask. It’s actually something you might see on a CV as someone’s finest feature.
I was amused to see the following definition of multitasking, according to Wikipedia:
“Human multitasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period.” The “apparent” made me smile because that’s exactly the problem. Can one actually perform multiple tasks at the same time efficiently and properly?
The answer is, “No”.
Research shows that multitasking lowers your IQ, shrinks your gray matter, and lowers your productivity by about 40%. (Ref: Pubmed)
When we try to do two tasks at the same time our brain has to constantly switch between the two tasks.
Julie Morgenstern, author of the book Time Management from the Inside Out, says that multitasking can be the reason that busy, stressed people have short-term memory issues.
In the long term you actually end up being less productive. Distractions and interruptions to our day are often the cause of going into multitasking mode. Our phone beeps or vibrates and we are chemically addicted to seeing who sent us a message and what they said. Smart phones have allowed us the ability to talk and drive, talk and email or even talk and make a sandwich at the same time. Our brain pays the price for this continual overload.
Julie Morgenstern suggests that email is the biggest culprit, and that we should make a decision to read our emails a certain number of times per day and no more. We need to stop all computer email notifications, because our natural, human curiosity sees that message on the top right hand corner of our screen and will inevitably compel us to find out what it’s all about. This distracts from what we were busy with, and it takes us a few minutes to get back to the level of concentration we were at when we broke off. That is time not used optimally.
Here are my top tips for making more time in the day:
Each evening, plan what you need to do the following day, whether in your business or personal life. Section your day into different time blocks and pencil in the tasks that need to be done in each time block.
Prevent distractions: Turn off all notifications on your phone and computer, especially email but also Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Put your phone in another room if you find you cannot stop looking at it.
Schedule time to go onto social media and stick to that time limit, so that social networking doesn’t eat into your time for important tasks.
Set three to four times a day – no more − where you will read and reply to emails. Do not reply in between these times unless you are expecting an extremely urgent email.
Start the beginning of the day doing important tasks and get the most important tasks done first.
Delegate tasks that you don’t need to do. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with this but if you can find someone who can do it 80% as well as you can, it’s worth delegating. What is important is that you delegate to someone who is capable of doing the task.
The 80/20 rules says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Spend time doing things that get results and less time doing the things that don’t.
Use the golden hours for important tasks.
Don’t procrastinate; prioritize your tasks and get the important ones done first! In doing research for this blog, I can now acknowledge what my time-sapping habits are, and I have implemented systems to prevent this waste of time from happening. No more multitasking for me!
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