The stresses of daily modern life and running a business or doing a job effectively mean that most of us struggle to get enough time to do everything. So here are 3 ways to create more time for yourself. Not everything stated will work for everybody, but try them out, customise them and see what works for you.
Accept That You Do Not Have Time For Everything
For many of us, we take the view that if we can only just clear all our tasks we will be able to relax. We defer pleasure or relaxation until we have all our jobs done. Consider: is this realistic? Will there ever be a point where we have done everything we need to do and there is nothing more for us to do?
The reality is that we will never complete all our tasks. Once we let go of the notion that we can then we are in a much stronger position to manage our time effectively.
With any task ask yourself, ‘Do I have to do it now?’ Break this down as:
- Is it something that I have to do or could I delegate it?
- Is it something that has to be done? In other words, how important is it that this be done?
- Does it need to be done now or can it wait?
Questions (2) and (3) are addressed in Stephen Covey’s time management grid, where tasks can be analysed as follows:
|IMPORTANT||Quadrant I:Urgent & Important||Quadrant II:Not Urgent & Important|
|NOT IMPORTANT||Quadrant III:Urgent & Not Important||Quadrant IV:Not Urgent & Not Important|
|Source: Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People|
Many find that their tasks fall into Quadrants I and III without distinguishing the difference in importance. Even more crucially Quadrant II tasks, such as long-term strategizing and development, can easily get overlooked because they are not urgent. The key is to consider how important a task is and not just how urgent it is.
Since you do not have time to do everything then it is a good idea to schedule less. Almost everything takes longer than you think it will. So the more you try to fit in the more rushed and under pressure you will feel as you inevitably fail to get done what you thought you could achieve. On the other hand when you schedule less you will stay calm and accomplish more.
Connected with that, schedule some time for the unexpected that will inevitably happen. For instance, if you have an appointment and you think it will take you 15 minutes to get there, allow 25 minutes. You will arrive in better time feeling prepared and able to make much better use of the appointment.
Use To-Do Lists
To-do lists keep you organised and focused on the tasks in hand. It is much more productive to spend time considering all tasks together and considering their relative importance than it is to jump randomly from one task to another.
Draw up your to-do list every day. Some find it best to put the list together at the end of the day before leaving work. You sleep more restfully because you’ve already committed to how you’re going to action the things that are on your mind. And once you get up the next day you already know what you need to do and can get straight on with it.
Rank each item on your to-do list with a number and tackle tasks in that order. By prioritising your list, perhaps by using Covey’s time management grid, you can deal with the most important things first so that even if you can’t get to everything you will have accomplished the most important things.
The 80/20 principle also helps here. This is based on the idea that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. In other words if you have 10 items on your to-do list, 2 of them are the most important and will lead to the most accomplishment. Identify these and do them and then everything else becomes a bonus. Or a task might be as good as finished when you’ve dealt with the most important 20%. This can help you avoid being a perfectionist trying to finish every minute aspect of a job when the returns from doing these things are rapidly diminishing.
Any tasks that are not completed by the end of the day should be transferred to the next day’s list. But if you notice that a task is slipping from day to day ask yourself whether that’s because it’s not really important. Some tasks can wait for months or perhaps it would not matter if it was never done. If that’s the case remove it from the list!
Avoid The Paralysis That Comes From Feeling Overwhelmed
When a job is daunting or the tasks you need to do seem to be mounting up uncontrollably it is easy to feel stressed. While a degree of stress helps us to focus and be productive, too much quickly sends us into distraction and a lack of productivity. When we get overwhelmed we tend to become paralysed not sure which way to go, or we flit from task to task trying to get bits of each one done, or perhaps we indulge in feeling sorry for ourselves and get nothing done. How can this be avoided?
One thing to do is be professional. Don’t wait until you feel like you are in the mood or ready to do something. Just get started. Now rather than spending time worrying you will begin to feel more in control.
Write things down on paper. Describe what the task or problem is and why it is concerning you. Then write down as many solutions you can think of. You might find that something is no longer as big as you thought it was and you now have a direction in which to start to tackle it.
Further from this you could write down each task on an index card or small piece of paper. Then divide them into those that must be actioned today and those that must be actioned tomorrow. When you get to tomorrow, repeat the process.
Do not be fooled into avoiding planning. The temptation when you have little time is to skip planning and get straight into things because that has to be quicker, right? Wrong! Planning helps you to methodically consider your approach to any task and put each step in order. This considerably shortens the amount of time you will spend on each step and the overall task is completed in less time.
And finally resist the urge to multi-task. Many multi-task feeling it must be more efficient because tasks are being done in parallel. But the reality is that we can only focus on one thing at a time. So what a multi-tasker is actually doing is completing each task in serial, but with lots of interruptions. Interruptions slow you down and prevent deep thought. Each time you resume a task after an interruption you have to think about where you got to, why you were doing that and what you need to do next. This takes up time and increases feelings of stress and anxiety. It is more efficient and you will do a better job if you are able to tackle tasks one by one.