Welcome to the fourth video lesson in this Module. The topic? Time management.
Can I let you in on a little secret, though? Time management isn’t actually about time. Shocker! It’s about something else: priority management and self-management.
Priority management is what we’ve been doing throughout this course so far, in determining your values and priorities in Module 1.2 and in ranking them for the purpose of prioritization in Module 3.2. All of this with the idea of creating a daily routine for purposeful productivity, that reflects your values and priorities, in the upcoming Module 3.5.
We’ve talked about self-management in Module 2.3 and 3.3 about creating mental space and the importance of self care. We’ve worked through motivation, focus and mental blocks like distractions, discomfort, and procrastination.
What we can talk about when it comes to time, it’s actually crucial, is this:
Tracking your time to see what you spend your time on
Getting clear about what your biggest time wasters throughout the day are
How to make the best use of the time you have each day
So, that’s what we’re going to do.
The first step is to get some clarity on how much time you’re spending on which activities throughout the week. I gave you a heads up in the introduction Module to start keeping track of your days, so maybe you’ve been doing that already while working through this course. If so, good for you!
If not, start doing it now. Track your time for at least seven days. Write down in a notebook, in 15- or maybe 30-minute increments, what you’ve spent your time doing. Or use a digital tool like Toggl. I’ve been using Toggl on a daily basis for a year and a half now and it’s helped me gain so much insight into what I truly spend my time on and what some of my biggest time wasters are. Toggl is a free tool and it also comes with an app that you can download and use on your phone, so that you can keep the timer running and stay on top of your time throughout the day.
Another great free resource and app is Rescuetime. It runs securely in the background on your computer or mobile device and tracks time spent on applications and websites. It then gives you a detailed report based on your activity, so that you have an accurate picture of your ‘digital’ day, so to speak.
Or, of course, you could use the worksheet that accompanies this lesson.
There are plenty of ways you waste the time you already have on a daily basis. Here are just some of them.
First and foremost, not having a routine in place. Having a routine in place for your day helps to put your brain on auto-pilot so that you don’t have to put so much energy into figuring out ‘what comes next’.
Not using a tool or planner to stay on top of your routine and to-dos. Being organized is one of the absolute best ways to save yourself time on a daily basis. We’ll talk about this more in Module 4.
Not being fully present in the moment. You’re more likely to be distracted and work less efficiently.
Struggling to make decisions. If you are someone who often struggles with making decisions, try listening to what your intuition tells you. It can be easy to over-analyze every little detail, but often your gut can tell you the right answer without all of the deliberation involved.
Multitasking. I get it, it’s hard to focus on only one thing at a time. But it can be really hard to get much of anything done well when you’re bouncing around from one task to the next and aren’t giving anything your complete attention. Stop trying to do a million things at once, and I think you’ll find yourself not only producing better work, but being a lot more efficient too.
Not automating things that can be automated. Please, make your life easier. We talk about this more in Module 4.
Watching too much tv. Instead of watching hours of tv every night, try reading a great book that captures your attention in the same way that tv does.
Answering your phone when you’re in the middle of something. Answering your phone when you’re in the middle of getting work done is a surefire way to break your concentration. If you know the call isn’t something urgent, let it go to voicemail so you can call them back when you are finished with the task at hand. Better yet, shut off the sound on your phone so you don’t get distracted in the first place.
Constantly checking social media. Are you someone that is constantly refreshing your Facebook or Instagram feeds looking for the latest updates? Social media can be a huge time suck if you let it be. It’s easy to fall prey to the social media trap when you aren’t aware of how much time you are spending on social media each day. This is something you’re going to work on in this lesson, when you’re tracking your time and analyzing the results.
Constantly checking your email. If you find yourself checking your email multiple times every hour, you’re spending way too much of your day in your inbox. While it’s important to be responsive with emails, especially work-related ones, it isn’t necessary to be checking your inbox 10 to 15 times per day. Try checking in just two or maybe three times a day so you can focus more time on getting your to-do list done and less time getting sidetracked.
Not putting things back where they belong. When you get home from a long day, it’s easy to take the lazy route and toss your coat over a chair, drop your keys on a random table, and kick off your shoes and leave them whenever they may land. If you take an extra minute or two to put these items where they belong when you get home, you will likely save yourself even more time when you’re trying to look for them the next time you leave the house.
Clutter. We talked about this in Module 2.2 about creating the right physical space for work and life. If you find yourself constantly sorting through clutter to find things, then it’s time to get rid of some of those things.
Spending time with toxic people or people you don’t even like. Don’t, just don’t.
Your commute. I sympathize. I too once had a super long commute that involved driving 1.5 hours to and from work every day. Do you take full advantage of that time spent in your car? Try listening to an audiobook or podcast to learn something new or use the voice recorder in your phone to brainstorm a meal plan for the week.
These are just some examples of big time wasters. Now, I want you to identify what YOUR biggest time wasters are throughout the day. Whip out your worksheet or notebook or Toggl report or whatever you’ve been using to track your time, really dig in deep, and start identifying these time wasters. Where do you ‘lose’ time? Are there days where you wanted to spend a half hour on social media, but it turned out to be an hour and a half? Do you spend a lot of time looking for stuff or organizing and re-organizing (and re-organizing)?
Write your biggest time wasters down on the worksheet and then, next to each time waster, write down a few ideas of what you can do to stop that task or thing wasting your time. Can you stop doing that thing altogether? Can you set time limitations or assign specific parts of your day to do that task? I also gave you some suggestions of what to do just now, when walking you through some time waster examples.
Have you heard of fringe hours? It’s a term coined by Jessica N. Turner. Fringe hours are those pockets of free time in the day that are under-utilised. It could be your commute or that time of day late afternoon when you’ve hit a slump and just stare out the window or that 15 minutes between coming home from work and starting to cook dinner. Go back through how you spent your time this past week and see if you can identify any fringe hours, those pockets of time where you could have used time better. Write them down on the worksheet.
Ways to best make use of your time
Now, for some suggestions of how to best make use of the time you have.
I believe it’s important to set work hours for yourself, whether you’re in business and are own boss or you work for a boss, whether it’s a traditional 9 to 5 or a more non-traditional schedule. Do it. Set your work hours. And then stick with them.
Manage your distractions. Don’t open Facebook or Twitter while you’re working, don’t read your emails while having dinner with a friend, and don’t watch tv while you’re cooking dinner. It does come down to discipline, but there are also a few tools and apps that can help you by blocking of access to certain websites or social media. And make it easy on yourself by turning off notifications on your phone (or turning off your phone altogether, if that’s possible) or through setting a designated email-checking time or tv-watching time.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. Overscheduling and trying to squeeze in as much as possible into your day is a mistake. It only leads to overwhelm, stress, and burnout. Think about it, how would you feel when you have 20 tasks scheduled, but only manage to do 7 of them in comparison to having 5 items on the list, and checking all of them off with time left-over? I love this motto: ‘If you schedule less, you’ll accomplish more’.
While overscheduling is a bad thing, overestimating your time is actually a smart thing to do. Put a little cushion into your schedule to allow for the unexpected.
And finally, make sure to keep the right mindset. Anytime you’re tempted to say “I don’t have time”, pause, and replace it with “It is not a priority”. That way you keep it fresh in mind that you’re not a helpless victim to passing time. You’re in control of your routine.
Okay, let’s continue with the worksheet. Go through your time-track entries and identify your most productive hours. When did you get most work done? When did you do your most intensive work? At which point in the day did you feel best, was your concentration highest, or were you in a flow?
Identify the things or tasks that you want to stop doing. Are there things you’re doing out of guilt or obligation? What are they?
Identify the things or tasks that you do NOT want to stop doing. What gives you joy? What makes you excited to do?
This might also help you, label your time-track entries. Where do they fall in this quadrant? Are they important/urgent, important/not urgent, not important/urgent, not important/not urgent?
Now, it’s time to use your worksheet and set work hours. With your values and priorities in mind, how many hours a day do you want to work? And during which times? How many hours a day do you want to be personal time? Or creative time? And what about errands and household chores? Now, is also the time to set designated hours or times for certain activities, like email (How often do you need to check email per day? When?) or tv or social media (Set a maximum amount of time for both of these things).
In working through the worksheet, take time to reflect as well. Are you’re a morning or night person? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? What do you really need right now in your work and life? And what do you truly want or desire? A few months from now, what do you want your life to feel like on a day-to-day basis?
Phew, those were some tough questions! But now comes the fun part. Now, we’re going to take all of what you’ve been doing and working on and use it to create a tailored-to-your-needs daily routine for purposeful productivity.