A few weeks ago I sent an email to the ThreeSixtySkills community with this simple question:
What is the biggest problem you face in your professional or personal life?
A good third of the responses referred to difficulties with managing time and responsibilities, and with being productive during the working day.
I’ve also run into these kinds of problems and have had to find ways to solve them.
In this article I reveal how to have more time, using five simple tricks. Ready? Let’s go!
Identify your absolute priority
Before starting work in the morning, clearly define your main objective for the day.
What is the one important thing that you ABSOLUTELY want to get done during the day?
Having a clear idea of a single important objective allows you to adjust everything else accordingly. In this way, you have a reference point to help identify whether the other activities, either planned or unexpected, fall into the categories of urgent, important, not urgent or not important.
Gary Keller, author of the book The ONE Thing, maintains that to have more time and to be more productive you need to do less, not more.
To have more time, focus your energy on one thing at a time and eliminate the unnecessary. You’ll be amazed by how much more you’re able to achieve.
‘Chi insegue due lepri, non ne prende nessuna…’ According to this old Italian proverb, if you chase two hares, you won’t catch either of them.
Plan more, waste less
The more time you spend on planning your activities, the less time you’ll waste while you’re doing them. The secret is to make your to-do list so simple and intuitive that you no longer need time to think about how to carry out each of the items on your list.
Spend a few more minutes during the planning process to ensure that tasks are described as a series of concrete actions.
For example, ‘organise a meeting’ is not precise enough – instead you could list various activities. Actions that are much more specific and easier to carry out include:
- Call Patrick Porter to establish the date and time of the meeting;
- Book the meeting room;
- Draft the agenda;
- Send an email to Carla, James, Luke, Rajesh and Maria to invite them to the meeting;
- And so on.
On top of this, don’t forget to make sure the activities you identify are genuinely relevant to your goal.
Split your objectives into defined activities
If you want to have more time, you’ll favour short, clearly defined tasks over long and vague ones.
Break down your objectives into specific activities, and focus on each of them, one at a time, so that you are completely clear on what you have to do and how much time you’ll need to finish it.
Many of my coaching clients get discouraged when they think about the many things they have to do. They are convinced that their objective is too big and too difficult to reach, that it’s beyond their resources.
Simply by subdividing the task into smaller actions – for example, actions of 30 minutes each – they realise that, one step at a time, they will arrive at their goal.
They can therefore concentrate on carrying out the first step, then the second step, then the third, and so on.
Make it a habit
To be consistent and to see initial results, it’s important to make a habit of doing those small tasks that you identified just now.
You can associate the new activity with something you already do every day. Think about it like this:
After I’ve done __________ (something I already do regularly), I will __________ (something I’m planning to do).
After I’ve drunk my coffee, I will immediately write down the single priority I want to focus on for today.
After I’ve finished lunch, I will spend half an hour writing the book I’ve been meaning to write for years.
Over time, doing the new activity will become automatic.
Learn to say no
Finally, it’s important to know how to say no, even if doing so could cause you discomfort.
Many people compete for your attention every day: your colleagues, your family, your friends, people handing out flyers in the street, people who call you or write to you. They are pursuing their own priorities, not yours.
You can say no politely, without trying to find an excuse, simply by explaining that at the moment you’re occupied: ‘No, I can’t, I’m busy.’
Saying NO to people who try to steal your precious time is the same as saying YES to your priorities.
How to have more time
Summing up, to have more time you can:
- Identify THE absolute priority;
- Plan more so that you waste less;
- Split your objective into defined activities;
- Make a habit of carrying out these new activities;
- Learn to say NO.
I’ve tried these techniques and they have helped me manage my time better. Because I work independently, I often find myself faced with this challenge, so I’m always on the lookout for strategies that can help optimise my working days and make me more efficient.
How about you? What methods do you use? What helps you to have more time?
Let me know in the comments section! And if you’re interested in this topic, in upcoming articles I’ll share some of my other tried-and-tested strategies J
See you next time,