Whose Time is it Anyway?

Featured ImageYou’re crazy busy. Your to-do list is a mile long, but you can’t seem to make a dent. Why?

Maybe you’re trying to do too much.

Maybe you’re not focusing on the right things.

Maybe you’re letting other people drive your actions, instead of focusing on your priorities.

Maybe you’re letting distractions steal your time.

Studies show it takes on average 21 minutes to regain your focus after being interrupted. 21 minutes!! That means that just 3 interruptions can cost you more than an hour out of your day. Couple that with inefficiencies in your processes and no wonder you can’t get it all done!

If you’re tired of working 12-hour days trying to keep up, tired of missing little Susie’s games because you have too much work to do, or just plain tired, know that it really doesn’t have to be this way. Take a step back and evaluate how you’re actually spending your time each day. I’ll bet you’ll find lots of ways to spend it better.

Here are 10 ways you can reclaim your time – and your life!

1) Schedule your priorities.
 A to-do list is important, but even more important is a to-do schedule. Block out time on your calendar for your to-do list items, and stick to it. If you don’t schedule time to address your priorities, it’s far too easy to get swept up in whatever comes along that day. Next thing you know, it’s the end of the day and almost nothing you had planned to do has gotten done.

2) Put down that phone.
A smartphone can be a helpful productivity tool, but only if YOU control it, not the other way around. Turn off notifications for social media and email, and access them only when the time is right for you, not every time they “ding” to summon your attention.

3) Stem the tide of incoming email, and check it only at scheduled times.
According to TheAtlantic.com, roughly 200 billion emails were sent and received in 2015, with the average businessperson receiving 122 emails per day! Unsubscribe from lists for email that you don’t actually read. Schedule 2 or 3 short blocks of time during the day for processing email. The world won’t end, I promise.

4) Limit other types of distractions, like phone calls and “drop-in” visitors.
Outside of true emergencies, stick to your schedule. Schedule “open office hours” if you need to, and schedule a block or two of time each day for making/returning phone calls.

5) Stop multitasking.
A Harvard Business Review post said that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ. People can’t actually do more than one task at a time; what we really do when we “multitask” is switch between tasks. It takes more time to get tasks completed if you switch between them than if you do them one at a time, and switching leads to more errors.

6) Downsize your stuff.
The more stuff you have, the more time it takes to manage it. Everyone’s needs are different; work toward having the optimum amount for you. Eliminate clutter, keeping only those possessions that you need, use or love. Shred or recycle obsolete or unnecessary paper documents. Delete obsolete or unnecessary electronic files.

7) Organize what you’re keeping.
Have efficient “homes” for everything. A home should make access easy, relative to how often you use the item. Develop an effective filing system that you can easily maintain. Use folder structures and file naming conventions that enable you to easily locate electronic records. Develop and enforce a records retention policy – don’t keep more than you need to, and archive historical records that you don’t need to access regularly.

8) Develop systems for every routine task or process, and document them.
When you start from square one every time you perform a routine task, you waste valuable time. Have a system, with templates and procedures, for all repetitive processes, like responding to inquiries, following up with new contacts, sending invoices, etc.

9) Get help.
Noone can do it all, and do it well. If you’re not ready to hire, contract or partner with people who can do the things you dislike or aren’t especially good at.

10) Just say no.
You can’t do everything that everyone asks of you. Sure, you want to be helpful, most of us do, but you need to balance that with helping yourself. If someone asks you to do something that interferes with achieving your goals, give yourself permission to sometimes say no.

What’s your biggest time management challenge? How are you addressing it?

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6 comments on “Whose Time is it Anyway?”

    • Pat DePalma Reply

      You’re not alone, Lois! Email management is a struggle for most people, but perhaps especially for small business owners, as we try to balance email response times with everything else we need to get done. More to come on this in future posts. Thanks so much for your comment!

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