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Take control – how to create more time in your day

Take control – how to create more time in your day

Ask anyone how they are and you are likely to hear that they are so busy, that things are hectic. People wear their “busy-ness” like a badge of honour.

I’d like to challenge this thinking; we need to give ourselves time to be still, to think so that we can be creative in our work and our lives. We need to take back control of the hours in the day. Here are a few ways that you can get time back on your side:

1. Get up earlier. You can easily give yourself an extra hour in the morning; set the alarm clock for 5am and use this time to prioritise what needs to be done and plan the next 12 hours of your day.

You may choose to go into the office earlier; imagine how much you will get done without any interruptions. Start slowly, by waking up just 15 minutes earlier each week. Within a month, you’ll have created an extra hour in your day. That’s an extra 15 days over the course of a year!

2. Know how you spend your time – how much time do you waste looking for your car keys each time you leave the house or searching for the documents you need for the meeting at 10am?

A good way to keep track of where the time goes is to keep a log of everything you do in a day, how much time you spent doing it and why your time was spent in this way e.g. Monday 7:46, 5 minutes/ looked for car keys/ I put them down in random places.

I encourage people to do this for at least two weeks. That’s usually long enough to identify trends in your behaviour. Once you know how you spend your time, you can identify where time is wasted and where you are unproductive. It really is worth doing this exercise; the only way to manage a problem effectively is to understand it fully. Don’t stumble at this first challenge!

3. Get control – look for the time wasters in your log and work out how to avoid them e.g. if you waste time looking for your car keys, find a sensible place to put them and ALWAYS put them there.

You’ll be able to find them without wasting any time. This consistency should be applied to everything you own and work with. Remember the adage “a place for everything and everything in its place”?

You should also look for the unproductive time in your log e.g. time spent gossiping around the coffee machine, interruptions at your desk that mean you have to review the same document multiple times. Look at ways to avoid or limit unproductive time e.g. I don’t write unless I am feeling creative.

If I have scheduled time to write and the words don’t start flowing within a few minutes, I do something else. I don’t spend hours staring at my computer screen, waiting for creativity to strike.  If I have an important document to review that requires focussed attention, I find a quiet room and close the door.

The silence and lack of interruptions allows me to get the work done quickly by reading the document only once and with the focus needed not to miss anything.

4. Stop multi-tasking immediately – no matter how good you think you are at this, you can be more productive by focussing on a single thing at a time and, as much as possible, finishing that before moving onto the next one. Trying to focus on more than one thing causes a drop in productivity of 40%. That’s unproductive at best and can be downright dangerous.

5. Reward yourself – knowing that you have more time and that you are using it wisely, you can now allocate some time in your day to do something that you enjoy. Take a walk on the beach, read a book, have a massage or enjoy a coffee break with a friend, all guilt free.