It comes as no surprise that most of us struggle with managing our time and controlling our time. With the on-going interruptions of your smartphone, the endless emails, the days of meeting after meeting and even sometimes the old fashion phone ringing ... where does someone find time to work?!
Most people think the issue is FOCUS or PRIORITY. In some ways, it is. But the second dramatic improvement that can be made for all of us, in terms of time management, is CREATING time! Now all of us are granted the same 24 hours in a day to begin with, but the speed at which we use that time varies with each of us and depends often on our task at hand. When we CONDENSE a task, we create a gap of time. When we SPEED through a task or set a TIMELINE, we create time. Imagine you and a friend agree to walk a block down the road and you start to run halfway to the finish and end up waiting at the end of the block for your friend, who is walking, to arrive. You have created time that you then spend waiting for them. What if you could use that waiting time for the next block or the next task? It is simple example of how time is created.
Time is a constant, what you need to create are gaps where you don’t have a set task or have choice of how you want to INVEST that time.
When you book a meeting is it always 60 minutes? When you sit down to do email, is it a set period of time, like 30 minutes? How many 15-30 minute breaks do you have between events in a day? Could you condense these or eliminate them? Think of going on a vacation … you condense your time and tasks to get 1000 things done the day before you leave. You move fast, you don’t take the usual breaks, you feel urgency. How often do you create these conditions in your normal work week?
One of the best exercises to condense your time is taking a 5 day week and being forced to condense it into a 3 day week. You are instantly forced to look for opportunities to save time and put limits on things that can be limitless (ie. email).
Here are 7 other tips:
1) Set time to review email ... and then TURN IT OFF. Yes, I am saying that to really maximize your time, you need to cover off emails early in the day and again later in the day but turn off the incessant brings, alerts and notifications.
2) Cut your meetings from 60 minutes to 45 and then to 30 minutes. Try odd numbers to make the time limit more obvious and conscious - 28 minute meetings work better than 30 just like 41 works better than 45.
3) Stop accepting every meeting that is requested of you. Review all meeting requests once a day and book in only those that add value to your role or work. Have someone else in your office cover the meetings that “might” add value - get a report in 5 minutes instead of attending a 75 minute meeting.
4) Know what the top 3 ways you create value are and ensure that 80% of your time is dedicated to these focuses. Just say no or delay other items (most of them go away).
5) Move weekly meetings to bi-weekly with slightly more time.
6) Have stand-up meetings and daily huddles with your team - 10 to 12 minutes to review and update!
7) Set meetings back to back with 5 minutes to transition; have your meetings 3-4 in a row to cover them off in a half day and then enjoy a half day back at your desk where you can get some work done.
8) Work outside of your office in a meeting room or outside place (a coffee shop) to avoid interruptions and distractions. Having a “third place” is key for creativity too.
9) Don’t set any meetings until 10am. Create a work period for yourself which your team and colleagues know is a Do Not Disturb period. Buy a sign for your door if it isn’t clear to others. If that fails, buy a lock.
10) Review meeting agenda’s and participate in only the pieces that affect you. Excuse yourself when you are not vital to a conversation. A 60 minute meeting may only require you for 20 minutes.
As you start to create time, by condense your time and creating urgency, it will be something people begin to respect and honor (maybe not in the first 4 weeks but soon after that). Move your 5 days into 3 days and watch how you suddenly feel a new control on your time and your workload.