What if I tell you that you are blessed with a resource that puts you in league with the Jobs and Zuckerbergs of the world ?
Would you believe me, if I told you that you have a crucial skill that can act as the perfect accelerator for achieving all your goals ?
It's time! The 24 hours that you get everyday without fail.
Time is something we don’t consciously think about. But, how you manage it can decide what kind of life you will lead.
Time is much more valuable than money. You can’t save it to use it for later, you can’t trade it, you can’t have more of it and once you spend it you can’t get it back.
Researchers of University of California and University of Pennsylvania have found that people who value time over money are happier than those who don't.
Time is what we want most and what we use worst.
The average person uses 13 methods to control how he spends time in a day.
Still only 40% of working Americans say they have enough time in their daily lives.
15% of workers gave up on vacation because they didn't have time to use them.
We have developed the attitude of treating time as an infinite resource. In reality time is a one time specific resource. You can not save it nor can you go back to use it.
There are 1440 minutes in a day, 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. All the time management in the world will never change that. It is not time that needs to be managed but rather our utilization of that resource.
Time management is not simply about getting things done. It means dedicating the greatest amount of time to your highest priorities to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Here are 7 strategies that will help you plan and execute your activities to optimise the 24 hours at your disposal.
1. Prioritise - what you don’t do saves much more time than what you do
On a typical workday employees spend 20% of their effort on high value tasks and 80% on other peripheral tasks. We are so focused on what we need to do, we fail to see the time leeches that sneak in between our actual work. Prioritising can help us weed out these distractions and sharpen our focus on what is truly important.
When it comes to priorities, knowing what not to do is often much more vital than knowing what to do.
Warren Buffett is a big believer in the power of elimination.
He once told his personal pilot to make a list of 20 life goals. Then asked him to pick 5 goals which were most important to him. Once he did it, Buffett asked him to throw out the 15 goals list and concentrate all his energies on the 5 vital ones. The lesson here was to know what not to do and avoid it at all costs.
The habit guru Stephen Covey shows from his matrix that recognising and avoiding unimportant tasks is as crucial as getting the important one’s done.
If you just start working from a list you increase you output 25% each day. Imagine what all you can accomplish by working from a specific and prioritised action list !!
Stop spending your time on activities that have little payoff or make only marginal additions to your goals. Instead focus on perfecting the crucial tasks that can change outcomes.
Break down each large task into smaller and more specific chunks. This will give you instant clarity about relative importance of each component and the time you should be spending on it.
2. Understand the biology of time and use it to your advantage
Time management is not just mental and psychological. It is also biological.
Our body has its own clock in the form of circadian rhythm. Depending on this our concentration and reaction times vary throughout the day.
Rebecca Spencer, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at University of Massachusetts says that, “You can certainly make better decisions if you are making them at the right time of day.”
Learning to capitalize on your body’s natural rhythms is an important time management skill. So, use your prime time (the scheduling sweet spot for maximum efficiency) to your best advantage.
When is your ‘prime time’?
Research has shown that for most of us our prime time is 2.5 to 4 hours after waking. Willpower expert Roy Baumeister says that, early morning is also when you’re most disciplined: Therefore most likely to stick to a plan.
Laura Vanderkam has studied the schedules of high achievers extensively . Her major finding? They all rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual that kick-starts their day.
So, schedule the ‘low energy’ tasks like sending mail and returning calls in the afternoons.
Work on the ‘deep tasks’ that require focus and effort in your prime time to perform at your best.
Further, mood plays a strong role in how people decide to spend their time each day.
In the PNIS survey on ‘Hedonism and Everyday Activities’,researchers found that, participants chose pleasurable activities when they were feeling down or out of sorts. And, people chose to perform disagreeable but necessary activities when they were feeling upbeat.
Simplest way to keep an upbeat mood? Get enough sleep.
Research has shown that even partial sleep deprivation can make you feel irritable and vulnerable.
3. Spend time to save time - plan, schedule and organise your day
A plan is what, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done.
Time can't be managed - you can only manage yourself.
Time can’t be manipulated. But you can plan and manage your activities so as to get the most from it. When you complain about lack of time, it just means you don’t know how to fit your priorities into a 24 hour day.
The Bureau of Labour has released the statistics that 70% employees work beyond work hours and on weekends.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, office workers waste an average of 40% of their work day. Not because they aren't smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands.
Simple reality is, What doesn't get scheduled doesn't get done.
And the activity which gets a specific time allotted to it gets done.
As part of the Implementation intention study, in the experiment group that was asked to commit to exercising at a specific place, on a specific day at a specific time of their choosing, 91% of members exercised.
Schedule everything - including off time into your day. Assigning dedicated time blocks to all activities will help you get everything done without distractions.
The best selling time management author in history, Brian Tracy, says that, it takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to 2 hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.
Equally important is decluttering and organising your physical spaces along with your schedules.
The 2010 touch survey found that the average employee spends 38 hours per year looking for lost items. It costs $89 billion annually.
Spend time to clear your messy desk and organise your stuff for saving time.
4. Use technology against its own distraction
Technology often gets a bad rap for time wastage and not without reason.
Constant connectivity equals constant interruptions.
Increased access to technology means that we are interrupted with personal issues at work and work issues at home.
The salary.com survey found that time spent on mobile, texting and social media were the top time wasters at work. Additionally, only 20% of workers said they did not check non-work information on the Internet.
It takes 16 minutes to get back to work after checking mail and an average employee checks mail 36 times a day.
In spite of all its faults, technology is also an inescapable reality in today’s world. Instead of fighting it why not use it to manage its own distractions?
The average worker spends 46 minutes a day commuting to and from work. Why not work remotely and save this time at least couple of days a week?
Professionals lose 31 hours or approximately 4 work days per month in unproductive meetings. Why not use webinars for training and hangouts for meeting?
Employ apps like Rescuetime to keep track of the time you are spending on social media.
Use apps like IFTTT to connect the info amongst your apps.
Use automation to handle recurring tasks and events like payment of subscriptions, if you have done the same task more than 3 times schedule it to be done.
Technology is a great servant but a terrible master.
Be mindful that you don’t become habituated to its temporary highs. Use technology as an aid in your high value tasks. Don’t depend on it to tackle your boredom and fill your free hours.
5. The case against multitasking
Do you pride yourself on being a Multitasker? Wait before you pat yourself for employing this new age time management strategy.
Multitasking costs the global economy 450 billion annually.
University of Michigan study found that multitasking causes a 40% drop in productivity.
Not just that, it also increases the probability of errors by 50%. It also increases the time spent on completing each task by 50%.
Our brains are not wired to multitask well. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly.
This task switching comes with a cost.
A typical employee switches task every 3 minutes minutes and it takes 23 minutes to refocus after interruptions.
Not only time, there is also a biological cost. Brain expends energy as it shifts focus from one task to another. Constant switching means brain drain that can temporarily lower your cognitive IQ by 10%.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, organise the tasks one after the other with dedicated chunks of time. Then work with your complete focus on one task at a time.
Try the 'pomodoro' way of work schedule. It works on the principle of working for 25 minutes without distraction with 5 minute breaks in between. Draugiem Group found that it's employees maximised productivity when they worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested for 17 minutes.
Find your own work rest ratio by experimenting with your break times. Be aware that checking on social media or watching TV defeats the whole purpose of taking a break. Use the break to move around, interact with your co workers and give some relief to your busy brain.
Aim to maximise your effort and focus in the work period by avoiding disruptions like checking mail or texting.
The Disruption and Recovery Field study conducted by the University of Illinoi found that the average employee deals with 56 interruptions per day and spends 2 hours everyday recovering from these distractions.
Don’t be distracted by menial tasks in the middle of your work. Set aside dedicated chunks of time for checking emails, scheduling etc.
Don’t mix the work that requires your focus with chores that can be done on autopilot.
6. Delegate to expand time horizontally
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
No matter how good you are at your job, you have only 24 hours at your disposal. This is why delegation is a crucial skill in the time strapped world. The only way you can get quality output within the stipulated time is through delegating the work.
So, are we giving the due importance to delegation of work ? Not really.
A 2007 study on time management found that close to half of the 332 companies surveyed were concerned about their employees’ delegation skills. At the same time, only 28% of those companies offered any training on the topic.
Lack of confidence in the employee, paucity of time and ‘only I can do it’ mentality are the top reasons we don’t delegate.
According to the ‘Time management survey’ by The Alternative Board, 30% of small business owners don’t delegate because they feel they are the best person to do the job. 20% feel their employees are not good enough to take up the job. Another 20% feel they cannot afford the time to delegate. Still 65% of them feel they are good at delegating.
Delegation when done right will relieve your workload and lets you focus on more challenging tasks. But ineffective delegation can actually waste time and cause more stress.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 280 hours (7 weeks) per year are lost by workers seeking clarification due to poor communication. And managers spend 3 hours everyday on interruptions.
Strategic delegation involves assigning the right job to the right person. Follow these 5 key principles to avoid pitfalls of faulty delegation -
Provide clear cut instructions about duties involved, skill set needed, outcome expected and the timeline of the task.
Choose the right employee for the job on the basis of skills, motivation and experience.
Offer regular help in the form of trainings that can build the employee capabilities and enhance existing skills.
Know when to delegate- Follow the 70% rule. If an employee can do the job 70% as well as you can, then assign it.
Invest your time to build trust and communication with your subordinates. Start by delegating tasks on a trial basis giving time to iron out the process.
Delegation is a teaching oriented process. Resist the temptation to jump into the fray at the first sign of trouble. Don’t be afraid of getting results through a process different than your own.
7. Value your time enough to spend it on yourself
Time is your most valuable asset. It is free but it is also priceless.
Take care of it as you take care of your investment.Know how you spend it. Assess how you can make better use of it on everyday basis.
According to 'Wasting time at work' survey by Salary.com, the average worker admits to wasting about two hours of each eight-hour workday, not including lunch or scheduled breaks.
Recognise that, your time is your own personal resource. Wasting it will be only harmful to the employer but can have devastating consequences to you in the long run.
Learn to say NO- to everyone and everything that is a waste of your time. Make hard choices for yourself by choosing long term gains over short term mediocre gratification.
Learn to say YES to ‘me time’.
We don’t know how to take a break and spend time on ourselves. Harris Interactive Survey found that Americans have an average of 9 unused vacation days. Further we are constantly connected to work even when we are off work thanks to our smartphones.
We have been conditioned to view downtime as a waste of time. In reality mental breaks are essential to recharge ourselves and in fact increase productivity.
The rest is not idleness research argues that, when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics’
Constantly ask the question - what’s creating real value in my life ?
Dedicate larger pieces of your time to those activities.
Time management is the prerequisite of success. Time is the great equaliser and can neutralise all other advantages in this extreme competitive world.
So, spend time planning and prioritising your tasks on a daily basis. Use your prime time to ensure the best execution of your plans.
Time management is a learned skill.
Every minute you spend on perfecting this skill will be a worthy investment. Because, if you don’t run your time, your time will run you around.
Take the first step towards becoming a better time manager by trying this time management quiz.