A matter of time

In today’s 24/7 society, time is an increasingly scarce resource. It is something that we all strive to have more of. But will a 30-hour day solve the problem? The answer is no, because it doesn’t matter how much time you have, there will never be enough time to do all the things that you want to. The answer lies in prioritising how you manage your actions.

  What is time?  Is it the ticking of the clock, the calendar on the wall?  Time is relativity. Einstein explained this beautifully in one of his papers in the 1930’s as ‘When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!

Time is concerned with motion and represented through change. When we are really engaged and immersed with something (or someone), time does not seem to exist and we often remark “hasn’t the time flown”. The physicist will say that all moments exist equally – at the same time (yes, mind blowing stuff). It is only our human consciousness that separates the present, past and future.

So we can’t really manage time, what we can do is manage our actions. People often say that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. We all have the same amount of ‘clock time’ and what you do with it and what priorities you set, determine what you get done.

 6 strategies to help you manage your actions so that you are more productive

 Always have the bigger picture in mind : Go back to basics, and ask yourself, “what is important to me and who and what do I value in my in my life?” So, if you value good health and well being, setting aside time for exercising and eating healthily will be high on your list of priorities.

Ascertain what you want out of life: for yourself, your family, and what is it that makes you happy? When you are clear about these things, the rest will follow.

 Plan  Plan  Plan : It’s boring but you ask any busy person what her secret is and her response will be ‘planning’. Plan a year ahead and put those all important dates in your planner (you should only be using one) – meetings, conferences, birthdays, anniversaries, children’s school events, school holidays…

Break down your yearly plan into quarterly, monthly and weekly. That way you always have the bigger picture in mind.

If you plan well, the only surprises should be emergencies and if you have planned and prepared well, you will have strategies in place to deal with them!

 Prioritise : Focus on priorities of tasks and plan to accomplish them in order of importance. For example, must do, should do, would be useful to do.

 Delegate : Whenever you can, delegate. If you are running your own business / team, you should not be doing anything that can be done just as well by someone who is less paid. If there is another person who can handle it, stop doing it and remember that your way is not the only way!

Coach and support your staff to undertake tasks that will stretch them. Whilst this may take time to start off with, the benefits are worth the investment. You could be using the time to undertake other more strategic tasks.

 Handle information only once : Information includes email, voice mail, fax, paper. Use one of the 5 D’s to sort:

  • Delete – be ruthless, if it is of no importance then delete it
  • Delegate – to someone who is competent to undertake the task
  • Do it
  • Date it and place in the ‘to do’ folder, if you cannot attend to it immediately
  • Drawer (file) for reference – if you don’t need to act upon it

 Be self aware and know thy self :

  1. You know when you work best and are at your optimum. Tackle your challenging tasks when your energy levels are at the highest.
  2. Break up big overwhelming task into bite size chunks.
  3. Have a break in the day to re energise. The well know story of 2 woodcutters busy at work, exemplifies this. One of them stops for a bite to eat and to sharpen his saw. The other says he has no time and carries on. Who do you think was more productive?
  4. Exercise to keep yourself sharp and to boost your energy levels

 Always keep the bigger picture in mind so that you are able to engage in activities with and for people who are important and valuable to you. Having ‘no time’ is simply another way of saying ‘this is not a priority for me’. Identify the priorities in your personal and business life and know what is important and valuable to you.

Time goes, you say? Ah no! Alas, time stays, we go (Henry Austin Dobson)

 How do manage your actions? What strategies do you use?



About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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