No Time to Think?

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Time management is a fast growing trend. Most of us have been to time management courses before, read books, and listened to YouTube videos on the topic. However, we have not really cracked time management just yet.

The problem with time management is that we are trying to cram in more and more activities into our packed schedules. We want to get through our tasks faster so that we can do even more. Yet, we hardly ever admit to ourselves how exhausted we feel physically and mentally. Handling our current work load is already hugely challenging.

Does the solution lie in booking another holiday, applying for a different job, or taking part in a new stress management course?

Seventy three percent of workers feel anxious at the prospect of an upcoming holiday, according to the Institute of Leadership and Management which surveyed over 1,000 UK employees. Changing to a different line of work is a major stress event as published by The American Institute of Stress. Taking part in stress management courses can be helpful. However, the techniques we learn need to be practiced on a daily basis in order for them to work their magic.

Tip#1 - Plan like You Did in 2005

There is real power in good old- fashioned pen-and-paper planning. At the end of each working day, take five minutes to make a plan for your next day. Do not be tempted to use fancy technology. Create two columns: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. List the tasks you would like to complete as well as how much time you would expect these to take. Be warned. Human nature is to underestimate how long tasks would take. Build in some extra time to avoid making impossible plans.

Making plans the day before has at least three advantages. You will save mental energy the following day because you will be able to crack on straightaway. Your brain will be going through your planned tasks while you sleep and it may churn out surprising solutions to problems. As a result, your problem solving will improve. You will feel more motivated in the morning to jump in.

Tip#2 – Less is more

We waste an enormous amount of time without being consciously aware of it. We get into the routine of regular meetings which have no clear agenda. We fight our way through congested traffic commuting to face to face meetings. We come up with fluffy action points at meetings and have vague intentions to follow up on them. We form habits of wasting precious time, because as the author Gretchen Rubin suggests, “Habits are the invisible architecture of every day life.”

A friend of mine, called Claire, mentioned that she frequently travelled long distances to see her London-based clients. Claire worried that the quality of her professional relationships would suffer if she suggested talking to her clients virtually as opposed to face- to- face. Claire secretly resented the time she was spending travelling and was keen to experiment with alternatives.

She agreed that an in-person meeting was essential when starting to work with a new client. However, she wanted to see if she could meet her existing clients virtually without damaging the client relationships.

I have recently asked Claire about her experiment. She admitted that she was super excited about the outcome. Her clients genuinely welcomed her idea of talking virtually. Claire now saves large amounts of time not travelling, and her clients are thrilled to work with her.

Tip#3 – Think Batches

Task batching is a fantastic way to accomplish more in less time. It is the opposite of multi-tasking. You group together similar tasks to complete within a given period of time. You eliminate distractions by focusing on the tasks and increase the quality of your work. You can batch tasks at home and at work. You may batch all the phone calls you need to make, all the filing to get done, the e-mails to answer or the bills to be paid. The possibilities are endless.

The key here is to minimise distractions. Disable e-mail alerts, refuse to check social media, turn off the phone if you need to.

Think of time management as focus management. When you feel disoriented, you feel out of control. When you are distracted, your mind gets cluttered. When you are not focusing on the task at hand, you make some careless mistakes.

The secret is to take a step back and think. Instead of trying to cram in even more into an already overflowing schedule, take your time to plan. There is always time to think.

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