In my role as a Development of Potential Expert, the one question that most people seem to want to spend time thinking and talking about is how to ‘manage their time better’. And given the fast paced nature of the modern world, there will always be a lot more to be done with an ever diminishing amount of time. Does this sound like you?
But when people take time to reflect, they begin to realise that everyone has the same 168 hours in a given week to use. The richest man in the world has 168 hours to use. And if people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett have used their time to build the vast wealth and successes that they have, it’s certainly worth your while reflecting on how to wisely use yours.
One of the challenges in being more effective time however is that there is no single “one size fits all” approach. If there was, we would all have found it on Google and be implementing it on a daily basis.
But the following are seven simple strategies that I would encourage you to reflect upon. They are practical approaches that others have found exceptionally useful in making sure that they get the most out of the 168 hours.
And even though we all try to manage time, I would suggest it is less about how we “manage time” and more what we choose to prioritise within the given timeframe. And as we go through studies and careers, priorities do and will change. To ask yourself the question “what is the most important thing that I need to get done today?”. Now you begin to get a sense of where you need to spend most of your time.
Stop saying yes.
The most effective word that people say to allow them use time more effectively has been to start saying “no” more often than they say “yes”. Falling into the trap of saying ‘yes’ to lots of requests can rapidly consume your time and leave you very little allocated those things that are priorities. Interestingly, research says that the one word that allows us be more happy is “yes” … But the one word that allows us be more effective is “no”.
Don’t check your email.
A scary amount of research is done on the amount of time we take checking our email. The challenge with email is that its arrival drives our behaviour and responsiveness. The notification noise on your computer or the little badge on the application on your smartphone can cause you to use up a lot of time that you had not intended to. And interestingly, the most effective people talk about avoiding the email systems at all in the morning time, and leaving the evenings to respond to messages. So turn of those notifications and only check when you decide.
If you were to do an audit of those things over the last week that distracted you away from managing your time effectively, what might they be? Chances are a lot of them could be eliminated or removed completely. Students studying talk about a number of times they are interrupted as they try and prepare for exams. Friends messaging them on Facebook or family coming into the room checking up on them! This is why some people choose to go to the library or put up a sign on the door to highlight the fact that they don’t want to be disturbed. Say no to distractions.
Who do you know?
Chances are you know somebody who is particularly good at managing their time. They seem to get everything that needs to get done within their timeframe. SO why not ask them what their secret is? Chances are that there are one or two simple techniques that they have adopted that serve them well. And worst-case scenario, if you find yourself running out of time to get your things done, question yourself as to what that person might do if they were in your situation. And don’t be surprised if more informed insights begin to drive your actions.
Your phone as a tool.
There are a myriad of applications available nowadays that you can use to streamline, refine and drive your activity. Your calendar is the most obvious one. Are you currently using it? How might you start to use it to make sure that you deliver against those priorities? The simplest app available will always be your calendar. Use it to plan your time and then stick to what you planned. And you’ll be amazed at how much more you get done.
This acronym stands for “maximum impact; least effort”. When you think of the things you could do during the day that bring you closest to your goals with the greatest impact, and yet require the least amount of effort from you, then I would encourage you to prioritise these “MILE” items.
The above are merely a few suggestions to get you thinking. I would encourage you to take them, refine them and make them your own. Find the ones that work best for you and begin to adopt them as part of your daily routine. And the one piece of advice I would have is to persevere. Typically it takes 66 days for some of these to become habits.
But it will be worth the effort.