Time: Achieve More with Less
Imagine you had three extra hours this week to devote to your
own improvement as a leader. What kind of difference do you think
that would have on your effectiveness, accomplishments, and
long-term success? Or imagine you had half a day this week to catch
up on some of the backlogged work that never seems to get done. How
would that help you clear the way to your bigger goals? Or what if
you had a whole day off this week to use for rest and renewal? What
would you do? Do you suppose that would make you feel more
refreshed? How would a dose of restoration affect your mood, your
thinking, your relationships, and your decisions?
Each of us can think of valuable ways to spend our time, and
chances are some of those ideas are more valuable than the ways
you’re spending your time right now. The fact is that when you
maximize your time, you actually do have more hours in the day. So
if you’ve ever wondered when things would slow down, you’re in luck.
The time is now!
The key is to take advantage of shortcut strategies for
maximizing your time. Following are five “shortcuts” that will
dramatically reduce the time you spend racing around the fast track
so you can exit into a life of leading and living well.
Shortcut 1: Modeling:
In many industries, modeling is a strategy used to
mock up an end product before investing the time, effort and expense
required to complete it. Your time may be the most precious resource
you have; make a model before you go out and spend it.
Figure out what the ideal schedule would look like. Sit down
with a pencil and a sheet of paper and sketch the way you’d like the
next stretch of time to look. In just a few minutes you can design
your ideal week – or for that matter, your ideal day, month, or
year. It will take time to turn the model into reality, but now you
know what’s possible. You may actually find creating the “real
thing” to be easier than you think.
Shortcut 2: Define Your Time:
You can define your
time by thinking about the various activities that take your time
and grouping them together. Start with the basics, such as meeting
days (when you are available to meet with other people), work days
(those you keep to yourself to do your own work), flex days (to have
a cushion for spillover activities), admin days (for catching up on
paperwork and other administrative tasks), and days off (for rest
and renewal). If a whole day seems too long to devote to a single
kind of work, then go by half days or even two-hour blocks. You can
make your days as specific as you want.
If you don’t define your days, then every day you bounce
around from one activity to another to another, all day long. Time
is lost as you try to transition from a high-energy activity to one
that requires you to be calm and quiet. You have a harder time
getting focused because you’re constantly changing the focus. In
contrast, defining your time allows you to get into one mindset for
a particular type of activity and stay there. You can find your
rhythm and get into a groove so you actually accomplish more in less
Shortcut 3: Make Appointments with Yourself:
appointments with clients, and you keep them. You schedule time with
your boss, and you show up. You commit to meetings, and you attend.
Now apply the same concept to yourself. Set a meeting with a
specific purpose and be there to get the job done.
You don’t have to set a recurring meeting that happens every
week. You might just need to make one appointment to do some quality
thinking or make some important phone calls that keep getting
brushed aside. The important part of this strategy isn’t the “what”
or the “when” or the “how many” of the appointments. The important
part of this strategy is the fact that you recognize there’s
something specific you want to do, decide when you’re going to do
it, and schedule the time. Keep that appointment and you’ll have the
time you need – guaranteed.
Shortcut 4: Breaking Time Rules:
Whether we know it
or not, we are all operating on unspoken time rules, such as:
You must work
eight to ten hours per day.
You must take
time off on Saturdays and Sundays.
You must be
available by phone and email at all times.
You must take
vacations in full-day or full-week increments.
However, you can escape the rules of time. How you spend
your time is a choice. For instance, maybe you’d rather leave work
every day at 3:00 p.m. but work six days a week. Maybe you’d rather
get a long massage once a month instead of taking a full-week
vacation. Start defining the length of your workday by the results
you achieve instead of the hours you work. Time rules don’t
necessarily mean working less, but they do mean working with more
freedom and choice.
If you think this won’t work in your company, the first
question is, “Have you checked?” A host of creative work options are
available as people and their companies look for ways to use time in
a way that works for them. And if not, there are plenty of creative
ways for you to break time rules within your existing agreements.
Ask for what you want. Make a proposal. If you’re willing to be
fair, negotiate and persist, you will be surprised at how
accommodating others will be.
Shortcut 5: Replace Multitasking with “Unitasking”:
a fact of life in a high-speed world. And it does work to help you
manage complex, non-linear tasks, like being available to people
whenever they need you, staying on top of “moving targets,” and
handling phone calls and requests that come in at random.
But recognize the impact multitasking has on you. Your
actions become fragmented, your thinking is interrupted, you make
hasty decisions and you do things poorly. To get the focus you need
to be effective in achieving your vision, try replacing it with “unitasking.”
The whole strategy is this: do one thing at a time.
Doing one thing at a time – even for a short time – improves
concentration, calms you down, and allows you to get more done in
less time. Considering that on average only about three minutes out
of every hour are used with maximum focus, you can improve your
“concentration rate” in just five minutes at a time. Then fifteen.
You don’t have to unitask all the time, just when it counts,
like when you are strategizing, visioning, goal-setting,
brainstorming, planning, and having one-on-one conversations. These
are the kinds of activities that benefit from unitasking. Unitasking
communicates a respect for the people and processes that deserve
your full attention. As much as you possibly can, practice dong one
thing at a time. Set the time aside, focus, concentrate, and you’ll
get your tasks done both fast and well.
Accomplish More in
You will never
have control of your time until you take control of it. So while
your day will still consist of 24 hours just like it always has,
when you implement these five shortcuts you’ll feel like you
accomplish more because the time you use will be most productive.
Therefore, stop long enough to get a handle on how you want to spend
your time, and then implement these new ways to maximize the time
you do have. Rethinking your relationship to time takes an open
mind, it takes commitment, and (ironically) it takes time. But the
investment you make in it will pay you back hour after precious
find that you’ll achieve more progress and fulfillment in all areas
of your life – and in less time than you ever imagined.
Read other articles and learn more about
Joelle Jay, Ph.D.
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