“I don’t have time!” How many times have you heard yourself saying or thinking this over the past week? Juggling parenting with work and keeping on top of home life can be relentless and it’s easy to slip into the mindset of there never being enough hours in the day. A parent on one of our workshops knew something had to change when he found himself saying through gritted teeth “no, I don’t have time to read you a bedtime story” to his kids.
The quest to do more with our time isn’t a recent phenomenon and it’s not exclusive to parents. The first book on time management was written back in Roman times. However research shows that many courses and books aren’t effective as we quickly revert back to old habits. What’s more effective is to changehow we think about time.
I’m far from perfect, but I do work really hard to make the most of my time and spend it on the right things. I’ve reduced how much I work – I work for 8 months of the year and on average do a 4 day week yet I’ve grown my business and increased my income.
There’s no ‘quick fix’ but these points, taken from research and psychology, have helped me make the most of my time.
Your Mindset: Psychologists suggest that we adopt either a ‘Hawk’ or a ‘Dove’ attitude towards time. Hawks feel like they never have enough time to do everything they want to do, feel frustrated when they can’t get everything done and are always battling against the clock. This leaves us feeling anxious, disappointed and can make it hard to switch off. Doves on the other hand accept that they will never be able to do everything they want to do, and instead make smart choices about what they need to focus on.
Action: Make conscious choices about what you’re spending your time on.
Figure out what is urgent and important. At times it can feel like everything is important and has to get done. Getting a sense of what is truly urgent and important helps us to prioritise. Many things masquerade as being urgent, the ping of an email, the buzz of our phones, a request from someone at work, laundry piling up at home… the list goes on. But are they really important?
Action: watch this 2 minute video.
- Ask yourself what is most important to you in your life. These become your ‘rocks’.
- Everything else is just stuff that needs to get done – this is our ‘sand’.
- Now imagine you have an empty jar. This represents the time we have. If we don’t prioritise that jar becomes full of sand, leaving very little room for the important rocks. If we reverse that and fill our time with the important stuff first, then we can fit the other stuff in around the gaps. What might this look like in reality?
- I sit down and play/talk to my kids for 15 mins when I come home from work instead of launching straight into dinner and chores
- I put my phone away in a drawer between the hours of 6-8pm so I don’t get distracted
- I use my commute time to catch up on social media and groups chats
- I say “no” more often. For tips on how to do this read our blog.
Focus. The impact of multi-tasking is a huge drain on our time. Pick and task and do it, uninterrupted for 15 mins. Set a timer to keep you focused. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you do just one thing.
Manage your time bandits. What steals time away from you? Social media? Phones? Netflix? Too many meetings? Emails? Your commute? Write a list all the things that are relevant to you. Now ask yourself ‘can I influence this?’ In most cases the answer will be yes. For example:
- Time on phone – set boundaries about when you check your phone. Put it away in a drawer for chunks of time.
- Email – set up an outlook filter. Reduce the amount of times you spend checking mail. Turn off email alerts when you’re working at your desk. Take work email off your personal phone.
By focusing on what’s within our control we can take ownership of how and when we spend our time.
Get better at estimating. Back in the 1700s Samuel Johnson predicted it would take him 2 years to write the world’s first ever dictionary. It took him 70 years. We may not be as bad as Samuel Johnson however most of us routinely underestimate how long things will take. Factoring in kids adds a whole other dimension! Getting more realistic about how long things are going to take helps to manage expectations and reduce frustration. I routinely used to allow 15 mins to walk to school with the boys. In reality, it takes closer to 25 minutes by the time we locate the thing that they really really need just as we’re leaving, or things they want to stop and look at on the way there. By leaving 10 minutes earlier we all have a better morning and don’t feel so rushed.
Stop Procrastinating and Do. On average we spend 1 hr 20 mins a day procrastinating over something we need to do. What a waste. Make it your mission to start the day by doing that thing you’ve been putting off. Or, if it’s too big, just allow 15 minutes to make a start on it. My application to become and Irish Citizen has been sitting on my desk for weeks, the thought of starting it fills me with dread. But I’ve set a goal of just doing 15 mins a day on it – and it’ll soon be done.
And finally, none of these things work if we just think about them. To make the most of the time that we have – pick one or two that might work for you and DO them. Remember
“Time flies, but you’re the pilot”