“I’m so busy!” is the most constant and consistent (and annoying) response I get to asking people how they are at work, before they embark on a 40-minute conversation about [insert non-work related topic here]. There is a lot to be said for working smarter and not harder.
I remember reading a study that reported something like 70% of our work day is wasted on lost productivity due to non-work related interactions. I often wonder what the world would be like if the time we spent at work was only to work and not to have social interactions. We would get so much done. Much more money would be made.
This does not take away from the anxiety that we feel with regards to overwhelm and what we need to complete in our personal and professional lives, and feeling we never have enough time. House cleaning, lawn mowing, cooking, washing, attending mandatory events (birthday parties for example), work, and time for ourselves/play – we have to make time for it all.
Even as I write this, content to produce, books to read, renovation quotes to get, query letters to write, a house to clean, ski gear to organise post-holiday, research to conduct for next holiday, phone calls to make (to negotiate a reduced rate on mortgage), food prep, and general sorting (I am the messy one in my relationship), sewing, and music to write – are all competing for my attention and energy. My phones are flashing up and I’ve just had to turn them over so as not to be distracted.
If we just focus on the task at hand, it takes less time to get done and we can actually achieve what we set out to achieve. The way I like to look at it is:
Busy = chews time
Productive = spits results
or as Lifehack so perfectly put it:
Here are some tips to help you implement better structure in your day and reduce your anxiety and overwhelm:
Find out what motivates you
Get to know yourself. Are you task oriented or goal oriented? I get a sense of achievement out of the completion of tasks, and experience a level of anxiety when I suffer from overwhelm. So, I focus on doing my tasks in full, or, if it’s a big one, I break it down into achievable milestones. You might enjoy the process. If you do, then focus focus focus and enjoy the process, without thinking about other things.
Get your day’s routine in order
I’m not talking about day after day repetition. I am talking about focusing on one day at a time. For example – today, I have set my alarm for 90 minutes’ time, which will enable me to finish and post this blog. I know I’ll want to watch the football tonight (Brisbane Lions to beat Melbourne Demons, thank you very much) and I won’t want to have my unfinished tasks hanging over my head.
Today is my day off work, also my Goddess Day, and my massage therapist is coming over in 1.5 hours for 1.5 hours to give me some self-care. I also want to watch the midday movie, a guilty pleasure I never get to do, so I’ve recorded it so I can fast-forward through the advertisements and what would take 2 hours including ads will only take about 1.5. And I’ll probably take a nap at some point. Winning.
Also, if you like mindlessly scrolling or Tik Toking, there’s nothing wrong with that but create some time to do it in so you have a boundary around how much time you spend mindlessly scrolling and can honour that process that you enjoy.
If you’re an author, set a goal for a chapter a day, or a scene or similar, so you can carve out the time to do that.
I love identifying pockets, and no I’m not talking about the pleasant surprise when you try on a gorgeous new dress. When others are running late, when I am early to somewhere (it does happen), when I have won unexpected time back, when my set tasks (mentioned above) take less time than I thought they would, I’m straight on my phone taking notes for ideas for future posts or blogs while it’s on my mind. Or I simply sit still and meditate for 5 minutes. Pockets are great for productivity.
I am one easily distracted woman (Look! There’s a unicorn!) so I’ve always got a note pad and pen at the ready when I’m in the zone to take note of what I have to do later, and then refocus on the task at hand. For example, right now, I just realised it’s my cousin’s birthday today. So instead of stopping this blog and calling her right now, I’ve jotted it down so I can call her in 3 hours (after massage therapist leaves), so as not to eat into my dedicated writing time. I will finish this blog, get the sense of achievement I so desire, get my massage and facial, and fulfil my duty as a responsible and caring cousin by acknowledging her birthday. I also remembered I need to reply to someone who cancelled our catch up today (and that becomes a big pocket!); again, she can wait an hour or two while I work on my current task.
Stop being a slave to the phone – it can wait
At work, unplanned interactions can be a welcome distraction, but they can also wreak havoc on an otherwise well planned day. Unless you’re waiting for a super important or urgent call, don’t answer your phone. We can’t predict the future and we don’t know how much time or energy the person is going to steal from us. So take your power back, and return their call in your time, and finish your task. It takes a long time to refocus after a distraction. You’ll be more productive if you finish your task, and then return the call.
One of the things that just happened before I turned my phone over, was that my videographer sent me a message saying his latest reel (which is actually of my husband drumming!) has had 12k views in about 5 minutes! It was hard but I have resisted the urge to respond immediately, because I’m focusing on this task at hand, and it will still be there to respond to in a couple of hours. It can wait. Because – if I “just quickly respond” and take one minute to check out the video going viral, it’s not going to take one minute. I’ll get distracted by other notifications, get lost down the Instagram hole, take 15 minutes instead of one, my massage therapist will have arrived, I won’t have achieved my goal and I won’t be able to watch the midday movie! AND – I would have forgotten the reason I picked up my phone was to check out the reel, and would have lost time doing completely unrelated and unproductive tasks! Bye bye time.
Turn off notifications
Turning off Outlook and App notifications have been a godsend for me. When I’m working on my laptop, the distracting messaging popping up in the corner does so no longer. On my phone, no more banners. And I haven’t missed a thing!
One thing I can’t speak highly enough of is outsourcing. Identify where your time is going to activities that you could pay someone to do. Two examples I can give are cleaning and social media posts. I recently outsourced social media for my band, and it has freed me to focus more on what I’m good at and has removed that particular creative burden. And it was cheap. Like $150/month cheap. I have yet to find a cleaner (not for lack of trying), but I am calling one in and I know it will happen when it’s meant to. Plus, outsourcing will provide revenue for someone who needs it, and will help keep money circulating through the economy.
Managing time and being productive is a challenge, a skill to grow and a muscle to exercise. So you have to make sure you celebrate your wins and recognise yourself for your achievements. What you’re actually undergoing is a change process, so it’s always difficult to navigate and adapt but when you do it in small steps, you’re actually taking giant strides making your habits become the norm. When you make time for your distractions, you create dedicated space and boundaries for your Tik Toking, for your YouTube Rabbit Holing.
Share your Hot Tips for time management below! Or if you need any HR Hot Tips on how to better manage your time, reach out to me on Facebook or here.
Til next time!
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