Time. A currency so rare and so often too easily spent. For many of us, we could change the world if we only had more time. Here is how I am working to use the precious time that I have.
I use Trello to organise everything Digital. I use a notebook to capture everything offline. Between them, I jot down meeting notes, blog ideas, quotes, to do lists, books to read, absolutely everything. They are my bug lists, my ideas wallet. I use the Kanban technique to make sure that I only focus on one task at a time but I first spend time prioritising my day into my top six items. I select the most pressing one and I work only on that one task until it is complete. I then move on to the next task on the list.
I plan my whole week in half an hour chunks (using Google Sheets so I can access it any device). This is a practice I learnt from reading Cal Newport’s book “So good they can’t ignore you.” I began the practice firstly to see where my time went and I found it really helped with organising my week and releasing the pressure of upcoming deadlines. Breaking your day into half an hour chunks and then collating them to see where your week went is like a calorie counter for time. If I dedicated half an hour to a particular task, I made sure that I was working on that one task. It is amazing how much you waste without knowing it. I begin my week by looking at the items that I can’t change. I add these into the timeslots. My morning ritual is locked down every day. I go to bed to get eight hours sleep EVERY night. This practice has changed my life. I wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day EVERY day. I wake at 5.30am every morning and if you do the math on that one, it is a 9.30pm bedtime and I love that. I began my morning ritual as a way of getting some time to myself. For those with kids, you’ll know what I’m on about. I need time for me. I am an introvert who gains energy by being by myself. The morning ritual of exercise, stretching and meditation helps get me physically and mentally ready for the day. It also means that when the kids are up and about, I am home and present. Once I have locked down the items that can’t moved, I add in the items that I wish to use my time on. This is my priority list. As you can see in the image below, I even write in when I drop off my kids to school and when is family time. This might seem odd but I struggled with transitioning from work to home. Now I follow the list and focus on being present. I have noticed the difference in my headspace. I plan for success and this means getting the work out of my head and into an easy to manage planner. This deliberate practice helps reduce my stress because I have allocated the mental resources to map it out and then the time counter keeps me honest.
I used to check Twitter and emails while I was at home in the morning but I am changing that habit. I still check Twitter from time to time but I have stopped checking email as it would often ruin the start to my day. Email is the one thing in my job I would give up in a heartbeat. I now don’t check email until 10.30am. I am at my most creative and sharpest at 8am and so I work on my big ticket items, my number one priorities for the first two and half hours of my work day. I used to spend my days going from meeting to meeting and just checking email and it made me miserable. I would leave work feeling like I accomplished nothing but the acquisition of more work and less time to do it. Working in two and a half hour blocks also really helps me get into the flow of work. I work in an open plan office and so I put my headphones to show everyone that I don’t wish to be distracted. It doesn’t always work but it does help me keep in the zone. I made the change to not check my email after reading in Cal’s book the following question:
“Do you want to be known as the person who is good at responding to email or the person who gets things done?”
I know which one my Principal would want. Checking my email only twice a day also means that I skim looking for the important emails. If a response requires more than 2-3 minutes of my time, it is a phone call or a visit to that person. This is in my opinion is much more personable and time efficient. The next item on my time list I am looking to reduce is my meetings. Meetings are way too long and often a poor use of time (gross generalisation here but my two cents). I want to try walking meetings. It worked by Steve Jobs and it really makes sense to me. Everyone gets exercise, gets away from screens and connects with other humans. What’s not to like!
If you spend time analysing where your time goes, you will see where the leaks are. You have more time than you think. It’s just how you design your day to take advantage of it to make it work for you.
I would love to hear your strategies for managing your time. Comments always welcome!