Monday, October 7, 2013

Time Famine: the New Workplace Reality

We've all felt the starvation pangs of too little time, and it seems to be getting worse.  We are adding more
and more each day to our to-do lists but we are not gifted with any more time within which to accomplish them.  The Boston Globe called Time Famine the New American Epidemic.  We are all starved for more of this precious resource we call time.

In order to combat this, many of us focus our efforts on becoming more productive.  The thought being that if we learn to do more in less time we will have time 'left over' to devote to other things.  The thinking is sound but the problem is that there is always 'more' on the list to do.  We may get more done within our day, than do others, but we still feel starved for more time within which to get yet 'more' done.

Clearly there is an adjustment that needs to be made to the way that we are approaching the concept of time itself.  We all get 24 hours a day.  This is a finite figure and one which we are unable to impact.  What then needs to happen for us to become more Time Affluent?  We can't hoard our time away, earning interest on the unused portions, so we need to become more discretionary in its use.

If we truly begin to view our time as the precious resource it is, then we begin to become a little more conscious of the need to dole it out more cautiously.  The following are some of my key tips for beginning to manage your use of time differently and, hopefully, better...

  1. Assess the people in your life.  This may not be a typical topic in 'time management' texts but people tend to be the biggest drain of and on our time.  If we view our time as the limited resource that it is, then you need to become more conscious of where you want to spend yours.  Take a look at the people in your life and rate them either a plus, minus or zero, according to the positive value that they bring and add to your life.  This gives you an idea of where your time is netting you a return. Reallocate your time accordingly.  
  2. Do 'IT' each day.  We all have seemingly endless to-do lists.  We start each day knowing there is no possibility of completing everything.  However, it is never truly about crossing the most off of our list, but rather about crossing the right things off the list.  Don't mistake completing quantity as synonymous with quality.  Start your day by highlighting the one thing on your list that adds you the most value, that moves you ahead, that makes a difference to you... and do 'IT".  Do 'IT' first.  Don't compromise on this element for it's the one that does the most for you.  There will be no shortage of people clamouring for your time and attention over the course of the day, but doing 'IT' each day (whatever it happens to be!) will ensure that you spend time every day devoted to moving you forward, to making a difference to your life. 
  3. Stop Waiting.  We are conditioned to stand in lines, waiting patiently for other people's time.  We do it in grocery stores, in banks, at the doctor's office, on the phone waiting for the 'next' customer service rep to become available. This represents down time for you.  Your time is as valuable as theirs so ensure that you plan for these delays.  Save tasks on your to-do lists for these moments.  Anticipate and plan the wait into your day so you aren't frustrated by it but grateful for it.
  4. Their Crisis vs. Yours.  Don't allow a crisis on someone else's part to become a crisis on yours.  Know your schedule, know your needs and know where the person fits on your list from Point One above.  Just because someone is mis-managing their time/day/life doesn't mean that they automatically have the right to manage yours.  I understand that they want your help, they may even be at a point where they truly need it, but it isn't an automatic 'thing'.  Be judicious with your 'yeses'.  They are not a given nor are they an absolute.  Your day, your time, your schedule.  If tomorrow is better for you... say so and, if never is better, say that too.  Other people's mismanagement does not need to become your problem or issue... unless you let it.   
  5. Book 45 minute meetings.  Everyone seems to schedule their meetings in 60 minute intervals.  Even if they begin and end on time it will become impossible to remain on schedule.  Additionally, it does not leave you time to mentally shift gears in between, to 'travel' from one meeting room to the next, to handle that 'one' issue that's pressing.  There is nothing you accomplish in 60 minutes that can't be done in 45.  
  6. Take a Break.  You're not going to get everything done if you don't take a break, but you will likely get more done if you do!  Taking a break (go for a walk, go work out) helps to recharge your batteries, giving you more energy to apply to your tasks when you return.  Also, let's face it, inspiration rarely strikes anyone at their desk!  Getting out and moving will help to light that spark of creativity needed for the problem you left behind.  Plus... you need to build in time for you, keeping you happy and healthy.  Sitting at your desk all day, every day robs you of your health, focus and energy.  Build in 'you' time each day, during the day to replenish, restore and revitalize your body, mind and spirit.  

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