Do you plan out your day every night before bed? When you wake up the next morning, feeling fresh and ready to tackle your day – do you find that before you know it you are writing the next day’s to-do list and all you are doing is shuffling today’s tasks to tomorrow (and adding a few more)? Are you continually asking ‘Where did the day go?’? Do you wonder how you can possibly get better at managing time when you don’t have enough of it to manage in the first place?
If this sounds familiar, you are far from alone.
We all ask ourselves where the time goes and bemoans that it goes far too fast. But there are twenty-four hours in a day – every single day, for every single person. It is not going any more quickly or any slower for anyone else.
It is about using that time carefully to get what you need to do… done.
Sometimes you need to circle back and look at the simple things you can do to improve your time management and productivity. We all need those reminders every once in a while. That’s my aim with this piece – to share with you 3 ways you can get better at managing your time when you feel like you don’t have enough of it. When you adopt any or all of these tips, you’ll be in a better place with managing time than you were before.
Just Say No
“It is only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs
The main reason why we never seem to have enough time to do everything is that we are trying to do everything, usually in the span of a short time period (like a day or a week).
I can speak from personal experience. During the summer months, my kids are home from school and I still need to run my business. For years I tried to do “all of the things” in both areas during the months of July and August (the months when my kids are out of school).
I couldn’t do it all then. I know I couldn’t do it all now.
The problem is, we are all generally not great at saying no. From a young age, it is drummed into us that saying no is rude and disobedient – and we naturally want to be people-pleasers.
That’s all well and good until it takes over our lives and away from the important things.
Obviously, we can’t say no to working our regular job and we can’t say no to looking after our families. But there are always some things that we can say no to.
If your boss calls you up and asks you to do an extra shift as a favour, you can say no. Got a friend is badgering you to be her workout partner? You can say no. Someone is asking you to drive out of your way to pick them up? You can say no to that, too.
It can be difficult to start saying no, but when you realize just how much more free time you have to spend with your family, writing that book, earning that extra money freelancing or doing something that you enjoy, it will become a lot easier.
If you are finding it hard to say that word, then think about what my good friend Patrick Rhone shared with me years ago: Saying no is saying yes to other things.
Use Tools Designed to Help with Managing Time
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates
A few years ago, the only tools that you would have had to help you to manage your time would have been a paper calendar and a notepad with a pen to write out a to-do list.
Today we have far more to work with. Technology has helped us to develop a whole range of tools and apps to help us to organize and start managing time in a better way so that we can get the very best out of it.
For example, if you are a business owner, you might feel the struggle of time management more acutely – particularly in the beginning – when you are trying to get everything up and running. Instead of creating new documents such as contracts and proposals from scratch every single time, you can use documentation automation. This sounds like a small thing, but if you create several documents a day, that time can add up. Once you have something like this in place, you have a considerable chunk of time to spend on doing something else important.
There are other great tools to help. Search through apps on your cellphone or Chrome extensions and you will find no end of Pomodoro timers. The Pomodoro Technique is a method where you concentrate on one task for 25 minutes, and then take a five-minute break, and repeat this four times before taking a longer break of around a half an hour. It keeps you focussed and on task. There can be problems with exclusively relying on this technique – I’ve written about this here – but for certain types of tasks The Pomodoro Technique can be a valuable ally.
Stop Multitasking & Start Batching
“Most of the time, multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you’re wasting time switching from one task to another.” – Bosco Tjan
You’ve heard this myth before: Multitasking equals greater productivity. In reality, that could not be any further from the truth.
When you start trying to do too many things at once, you can’t do any of them as effectively or efficiently as you would if you were to choose one task and focus it on it. When you start to use some of the elements of my TimeCrafting methodology – things like theming your time and working by mode, you can effectively “batch” your work either by the theme of the day or the time period. You could also tackle your to do list by the resources you need to be using, the energy level you have, the type of activity (such as writing), or the time it will take to work on tasks.
By batching tasks, you can get into and stay in the mindset you’ll need to have do give your best to that task rather than floating from one task type to another, opening and closing tabs and programs on your computer and so on. This way of working can be applied to anything – housework, business tasks, parenting and school work.
Start Leading Time
You only have – and will always have – twenty-four hours in a day. That is, frankly, plenty of time. Managing time is the starting point – and these tips will help you with that.
Ultimately, you want to go from managing time to “leading time.” You do that by consistently applying these tips and evolving them to work for you over time.
If you are struggling to find the time to do everything, it’s likely because you are taking on too much. It’s important to get comfortable with saying no. You need to do this for the sake of your own mental health, for your family, other relationships, and to be able to achieve your own goals.
It’s important to take advantage of the range of sophisticated tools and software that has been developed in recent years to get the very best out of your time. There are plenty of tools out there and resources to help you use them. You need to find the ones that will work for you and then stick with them to make them work for you over the long term.
Finally, focus on one task at a time. Use themes and modes to help you with this. It’s possible that it will involve some short term pain while you start to operate in this fashion. But, like with the tools mentioned above, stick with it and it will become a new way for you to operate as you go through your days.
To be more productive – to give attention to your intentions – you have to start to do these things. As much as we would all love to add a few extra hours to the day, we can’t. So employ these tactics to help you get better at managing time. Then you can start to invest the time that you do have wisely. The dividends you’ll receive when you do that will be worth it.