“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
The theme at our most recent Dynamic Leadership Forum centered around productivity. A big part of productivity is making effective use of your time (duh). So naturally the discussion drifted towards time management. Time management is a hot topic these days. I Googled it and got about 1.6 billion hits. Yet for all the discussion about time management, it seems like most of us still struggle with it. Why is it so hard?
I’m not a psychologist, but more effectively managing your time involves changing what you are doing, and any kind of change is hard. Particularly, change can be hard when you don’t have any specific idea of what to change. Just saying, “I need to more effectively use my time” isn’t going to make it happen. You need to be specific – what exactly are you going to do? Here’s a few ideas:
- Turn off your email – No, relax, I don’t mean forever. But I do mean for specific periods of time. For example, my general rule is that I check my email at 8am, 10am, 2pm and 4pm. In between, not only do I not check email, I don’t even have Outlook open on my machine. Nothing kills more time than stopping what you’re doing to check an email. And then checking two emails. And then acting on them. Pretty soon, an hour has gone by. Now try going back to what you were working on and see how long it takes you to get back in the zone. Do that twice a day and I bet you’re wasting at least 10% of your time trying to re-start work. Stop it.
- Have a “No Meeting Day” – The software company Asana has “No Meeting Wednesdays”. They make exceptions for extreme circumstances or uncontrollable outside issues, but that’s pretty much it. It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with meetings. They’re important and can be valuable. It’s just that getting ready for and coming back from a meeting is another stop/start that just adds time where it shouldn’t. If you had one whole day with no meetings, how much could you get done?
- No multitasking – For starters, multitasking is a fallacy; it doesn’t exist. The human brain doesn’t/can’t actually focus on two things at once. All you’re really doing is quickly switching your attention from one thing to another and back again. The result is you’re really focused on nothing. If stopping & starting wastes time, why would you intentionally stop/start as fast as you can?
- Work less – Seriously. The human brain is wired to be most effective if you’re working 50 or fewer hours a week. Anything more than that and productivity drops sharply. You actually get less work done working 70 hours than you do working 50. Part of the reason is physiology, and part is…
- Sleep – Chances are, you need more of it. With very few exceptions, humans need 8 hours of sleep a night. Not possible, you say? Make it possible. Turn the TV off an hour earlier. Get up 15 minutes later. Just like working less, sleeping more actually makes you more productive.
There are hundreds of other possibilities – the point is DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT with your time. Some of you probably already have some tricks to help get more out of your day. Are they better than these? Let us know!