By Dannie-Lu Carr
It’s ironic but how many of us actually spend valuable hours planning our time instead of just getting stuff done? I’d say it’s a lot of people.
Don’t get me wrong, some healthy organization ahead of time can be very useful but all too often we use valuable time ‘planning’ instead of ‘doing’. It’s a way of procrastinating; one that makes us believe we are getting stuff done when, in fact, we are falling more behind.
We often tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done when, in fact, it’s usually that we simply aren’t giving ourselves the permission to take the space we need to simply do it.
Interruptions and unplanned events are facts of life so it makes no sense to not allow for these things to happen in our day to day. A recognition that interruptions will happen and allowing extra time for them can be very helpful.
So too are the permissions we give ourselves to have the necessary assertive conversations and how much time we actually allow ourselves to get involved in the unpredictable. Limiting how much we give to the unpredictable is essential. Having the conversations is crucial.
So with those things in mind, here are five simple tips that can help us to utilise time and not just manage it.
- Eliminate social media activity during ‘work time’ unless you are specifically using it for business promotion or client connections. Even when you are using it for business reasons, dedicate specific windows of time to check in with it. It has been proven that the more we skip between screens on phones, tablets or computer screens, the more we train our brains out of the ability to focus on one thing for any given length of time – namely, the focused time we need to get things completed.
- Get out of the habit of responding immediately to emails and picking up phone calls unless they are scheduled. These interruptions have the same effect as point one. If you must pick up the call, arrange a convenient time to call back. Not only are you managing your own brain patterns but you are sending a clear message to whoever is getting in touch that your time is important and therefore scheduling is paramount.
- Assign a decent window of time for the important and/or scheduled conversations and email exchanges. Don’t just shoehorn them in between your other work. Conversations are key to every business therefore your full attention will pay off in terms of clarity of thought and clarity of communication.
- Get out of the habit of rescheduling unless it is essential. The more we reschedule, the more unconscious permission we give ourselves to procrastinate and waste time. If we have to stick to key appointments then ‘desk time’ becomes less fluid, meaning we become more accountable and get things done.
- When you really need to focus on something, put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and leave a voicemail stating that you are unavailable for calls between x hour and y hour and that you will respond after that. Do the same with the Out of Office on your email. The five minutes you spend setting up signs, voicemails and automated emails could save you hours during the day.
It is important to recognize that all of these things are based around changing habits. Practical habits take time to shift so go easy on yourself. If you fall into the old behaviours, having an awareness of it without giving yourself a hard time about it is everything. Simply notice it and make a mental or physical note of what you can do about it next time. Bit by bit, you will be getting stuff done and to a much higher level than usual. Guaranteed. Keep at it.
Find out more about the CIPR’s ‘Time management and personal effectiveness’ workshop run by Dannie-Lu Carr.
Image courtesy of Matteo Ianeselli under Creative Commons