Productivity

Five ways to make time work for you

Eve Ash /

Time, as we are periodically aware, is elastic, intangible and very much in the eye of the beholder. Some people habitually waste time, others schedule their days and weeks with relative ease.  You might find you do both, depending on the nature of the task or the person requesting your involvement. When under pressure, there never seems to be enough time.

Making time is closely allied with willingness to help. On a par with “no idea”, “sorry, can’t help” is the person who thinks s/he doesn’t have time. Perceived lack of time is also entwined with procrastination — producing a gradual pileup of chores that become impossible to manage.

Whether you’ve been in, or want to get into, holiday mode, shifting gears into back-to-work mode can feel onerous. You yawn your way through Skype meetings (not a good look!), fidget in your uncomfortable work clothes (wishing for something comfier) and daydream about the bliss of time out, no more traffic, no more issues to manage, no more conflict …  All unhelpful daydreaming! 

Sometimes we need to reorganise our time in order to make more. 

1. Focus on time available

Instead of bemoaning all the things you have to do, and those whose expectations must be satisfied, see which tasks must be prioritised. They are not all equal, as you’d know. Consider the deadlines and resources at your disposal. Seek others’ input if you need it. Research more effective ways to speed up what you’re working on. Begin your day earlier or finish later.

2. Prioritise and start

No matter how overwhelmed you feel and how pressing everything seems, the best way to increase your time is to simply get started.

Make a list, grab the (legal) stimulant of your choice, put away your phone, take a deep breath and … plunge. Do the little things first if this helps build momentum, or draw up a planner. Or pull out that massive or hard task you’ve been avoiding. You will feel so good knowing you are doing what you have to get done. Be someone who likes to hit deadlines without stressing yourself and others. Highlight the priorities on paper and/or electronically, so your brain accepts the deadline truths, then you can enjoy crossing things off as you complete stuff.  

3. Leap to complete

Ugh, what?  Yes, on your marks, get set — and go! What happens when you start running? You puff, pant, gain momentum and … get places and achieve completion quicker. “All very well,” you’re thinking. “Sprint? Ha! I’m running a marathon”. Does the long-distance runner slacken? By no means. S/he may slow temporarily, but it’s to marshal energy to push on. Whether you’ve got a massive job to complete, or lots of little ones, keep your goal in sight, and where possible, hit the accelerator. The key is that initial momentum gives you excitement and energy to do more and complete, versus falling into guilt and procrastination. Turn anger and upset into tidying and getting organised for your best efficiency.

4. Smile away distractions

Now you’re focused, running smoothly, and your long list of “to-dos” is slowly shrinking. You’re feeling peppy, sitting up straighter and along comes a meeting, impromptu lunch, day-long event (that you would in fact like to attend), or a colleague wants to show you photos of their recent trip to Tahiti. It does indeed look nice, but if you really want to break the back of what you’re doing, request with a smile that you catch up later (and do so). It’s delayed gratification — more enjoyable when you’ve blitzed your workload.

5. Free up time for others

Too many people say time is one luxury they can’t afford. Yes, everyone knows how busy and over-extended you might be, but don’t be excessively focused on your needs, your schedule. Make time for your nearest and dearest, those who really need to chat and so on. You gain by doing so — in knowledge, appreciation of others, understanding and awareness.

Don’t be remembered as the person whose catchphrase was, “I don’t have time”. Yes, you do; yes, you can; and yes, it’s more fulfilling.

NOW READ: Eight ways to boost motivation

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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