Your time is precious – here’s how to use it wisely

We hear about ‘hacks’ all the time – we’re told that we should hack our productivity, health, and spending habits – but the implementation process is not necessarily a simple one.

We all know that change can be difficult, particularly if what needs to change has become ingrained as a habit, or is a ‘social norm’. Think about the people you know who check their phones compulsively (and seem to think it is okay to do so in the middle of a conversation), or consider how many times you have been engaged in a task only to be distracted by desktop pop-up notifications. In the first instance, it takes considerable effort to learn to keep your phone out of sight (and on silent) when you are talking to someone in person, and it requires discipline to disable your pop-up notifications in favour of prioritising a task at hand. These challenges are amplified when certain things are expected of you in your work environment. For example, if you are ‘expected to’ answer emails immediately, it is difficult to get through significant chunks of work because you’re always on alert for when the next email hits your inbox. In fact, people have become so accustomed to getting instant (or near-instant) responses, you may get a phone call or in-person visit about the mail you have purposely ignored!

To improve your time management, and conserve your energy, do the following:

  • Spend the first half-hour of your day planning what you need to do. Eliminate all distractions and concentrate only on the planning.
  • Break up your day into manageable and varied chunks. Get difficult work done earlier in the day. Be realistic about what you can achieve every day and schedule tasks accordingly.
  • Avoid meetings at all costs. Yes, you read that correctly. I felt absolutely vindicated when I started seeing more and more literature which supports the thinking that meetings are toxic. I always felt that most meetings were waste-of-time, energy-sucking distractions of the worst order – and after sitting in three-hour meetings where people read off a printed sheet of paper and talked about completely irrelevant topics (including planning for the next five years), hearing people ramble on about the ‘highlights’ and ‘lowlights’ of their weeks and stories about their children or pets, as well as the infamous meeting to plan another meeting, I decided my company can do without them. If I cannot avoid them, I only attend meetings with a specific agenda – and preferably telecons or video conferences which last no longer than half an hour (and yes, it can be done).
  • Use technology to aid your productivity efforts. While many apps and programs can act as distractions, technology can also be used to increase productivity and improve your output. Trello, Zapier, Todoist, Asana, and Slack are all useful collaborative and tracking tools.

Every minute of your day is precious, so do whatever you need to do to maximise your effort and output – but do it smartly.

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