How to get the right things done
It is easy to fall into the trap of being always on the go. Time slips through your fingers like water as you juggle multiple tasks. You reach the end of the day wondering what you've achieved. There is another way.
Do you reach the end of the day wondering what you've achieved? You might find it hard to sleep as your mind is buzzing. The to-do list gets longer. You have pulled in so many directions that it is hard to focus. The result is exhausting.
There is another way. Try budgeting time as would you budget for other precious resources. Get started by choosing a work task that you'd like to complete and a personal activity you'd like to enjoy.
It is not about being miserly with your time or losing the fun of spontaneity. Creating a time budget for critical work and personal space puts you back in control. Be prepared for slip-ups along the way. Exercise a little self-compassion by accepting that no one is perfect.
Here's how to get started:
Audit how you spend your time. Often our calendar says one thing, but our day to day activities tell a different story. How do you spend your time? Think back over the past week. Where are the time leaks? Do you need to be at all those Zoom or in-person meetings? Could someone else go in your place and report back? Is there a clear agenda?
Is opening email the first task of the day? The last one is an instant focus killer. Soon you are in reactive mode. Try setting aside the first hour of your day to progress a vital task. Then deal with routine email.
Interruptions can be self-made by being distracted by bright shiny new things. A lack of preparation can also disrupt your focus to complete a task. Sometimes lack of boundaries is the issue. The result is that your valuable time drips away as others choose to spend it for you.
The key is to identify the most common interruptions and do something about them. It can be as simple as letting co-workers know that you are spending time on a particular task. Or add a message to your email or voicemail stating you will respond by a certain time.
Decide how to allocate your time. Start by visualising yourself as you want to be. A useful technique is to see yourself as already a well-organised and highly productive person. What would be different about the way you behave? Create a picture of yourself as calm, confident, highly effective and about to complete an important task.
Now try acting as if you are that person. Think of yourself as organised in everything you do. How would you approach your day? What would be different about the way you act? What systems and processes would you put in place to help you?
Using visualisation is a powerful way to help you form good habits. It is especially useful if you commit to act by naming the task, then allocate time to do it on a specific date in a particular place. If you can imagine it, you can work to become it.
Apply your time-budget. Now choose a work task that you may have been putting off. Allocate a budget of time over a week to work on it. Schedule the time in your calendar and - now the hardest part - stick to it.
Similarly, how about creating a time budget for relaxation, exercise and fun? Mark it in your calendar. Tell others you are committed to doing it, as this will reinforce the decision as to how you will spend the time in your mind.
Remember, the better you budget your time, the better you will feel. With more energy, you will get the things done that are important to you - at work and home. After all, if you don't take your time seriously, why should anyone else?