Most of us would like to have just a little more time: how much more you could get done if you had just an extra hour or two a day? While I can’t magically transport you to Bajor, where they have 26-hour days, I can share a few tips that will help you to take control of your schedule and help to make it seem like you have a few extra hours.
- Decline meetings. I don’t accept every meeting. If I don’t see real benefit resulting from my attendance, either for me or someone else, I decline the meeting. By only going to meetings you need to attend, you free up some time to do something productive.
- Have effective meetings. Strive to have shorter, more effective meetings by being organized and always having a definitive end time. Spending a few minutes preparing for a meeting and send out an agenda and other materials in advance; it will mean that you get through the meeting faster, with less floundering around figuring out what you need to accomplish. I also try to keep people on track during the meeting and attempt to end on time or early when possible.
- Schedule work. We all have certain tasks that require uninterrupted time where we can focus. For those activities, I try to free up big blocks of time on my calendar, and I schedule those tasks the same way that I would schedule a meeting, which allows me the time to work uninterrupted.
- Schedule recreation. I also schedule my workouts just like any other meeting on my calendar. This has a couple of advantages. First, I get a reminder when it’s time to work out, and second, it discourages other people from scheduling over my workout and makes it more likely that I will be able to find the time for staying fit.
- Take advantage of off-peak times. Try to schedule activities at times when you can do them in less time. When I need to drive to work (a 45- to 60-minute commute), I get up early to beat some of the traffic and schedule my workout after work, so that by the time I’m done exercising and ready to drive home, the traffic isn’t as heavy. I also try to avoid grocery shopping right after work or going to the bank at lunch.
- Group and combine. Where possible, I take advantage of logical groupings to minimize travel time, such as scheduling afternoon meetings downtown when I know I need to be there for an evening event. I also try to combine meetings where possible, and I often meet with people for informal discussions at local tech events or prior to meetings. By combining meetings with meetups, I can get more done.
- Be flexible. I try to be flexible with my schedule to maximize productivity. On days that I work from home, I start work at six or seven in the morning and then take a slightly longer lunch with a workout, which helps me start the afternoon refreshed. I also tend to move things around on my schedule and be flexible to take advantage of unexpected, but productive conversations with coworkers or to stay “in the zone” when I’m really being productive on a chunk of work.
- Take breaks. When we get really busy, we tend to turn into workaholics and attempt to power through the work even when we aren’t being productive. While taking a break sounds like you will lose time, in many cases, it can help you get a new perspective on a difficult problem. A short walk can help, as can taking a break to accomplish something else, like running an errand or getting in a workout. After a little break, your brain will be refreshed and ready to be productive again.
- Turn off the television. I used to watch a lot of television in the evenings until I realized I was spending too much time watching other people and not enough time experiencing my own life. I was surprised at how much time I had for hobbies, reading, fitness or even just getting a little work done in the evening when television wasn’t sucking hours out of my day.
- Block out time for you. I block out my calendar from 4:30 to 5:00 every afternoon to give me a few minutes to reflect on the day, double-check my task list and wrap up any last-minute projects. In a past job where I often had back-to-back meetings all day, I used to block out my lunch hour just to give me time to eat! I know others who block off some time in the morning or afternoon to have time to take their kids to and from school. Think about what is important for you and make sure you find time in your schedule for what you want to do.
Check out Paragon Strategies Time & Priority Management class on May 25