March 9, 2010 – Imagine you had three extra hours this week to devote to
your own improvement as a leader. What kind of difference do you think that
would have on your effectiveness, accomplishments and long-term success?
Or imagine you had half a day this week to catch up on some
of the backlogged work that never seems to get done. How would that help you
clear the way to your bigger goals?
Or what if you had a whole day off this week to use for rest
and renewal? What would you do? Do you suppose that would make you feel more
refreshed? How would a dose of restoration affect your mood, your thinking,
your relationships and your decisions?
Each of us can think of valuable ways to spend our time and
chances are some of those ideas are more valuable than the ways you’re spending
your time right now. The fact is that when you maximize your time, you actually
do have more hours in the day. So if you’ve ever wondered when things would
slow down, you’re in luck. The time is now!
The key is to take advantage of shortcut strategies for
maximizing your time. Here are five ideas that will dramatically reduce the
time you spend racing around the fast track so you can exit into a life of
leading and living well.
In many industries, modeling is a strategy used to mock up
an end product before investing the time, effort and expense required to
complete it. Your time may be the most precious resource you have. Make a model
before you go out and spend it.
Figure out what the ideal schedule would look like. Sit down
with a pencil and a sheet of paper and sketch the way you’d like the next
stretch of time to look. In just a few minutes you can design your ideal week, or
for that matter, your ideal day, month or year. It will take time to turn the
model into reality, but now you know what’s possible. You may actually find
creating the real thing to be easier than you think.
Define your time
You can define your time by thinking about the various
activities that take your time and grouping them together. Start with the
basics, such as meeting days (when you are available to meet with other
people), work days (those you keep to yourself to do your own work), flex days
(to have a cushion for spillover activities), admin days (for catching up on paperwork
and other administrative tasks), and days off (for rest and renewal). If a
whole day seems too long to devote to a single kind of work, then go by half
days or even two-hour blocks. You can make your days as specific as you want.
If you don’t define your days, then every day you bounce
around from one activity to another to another, all day long. Time is lost as
you try to transition from a high-energy activity to one that requires you to
be calm and quiet. You have a harder time getting focused because you’re
constantly changing your concentration. In contrast, defining your time allows
you to get into one mindset for a particular type of activity and stay there.
You can find your rhythm and get into a groove so you actually accomplish more
in less time.
You make appointments with clients and you keep them. You
commit to meetings and you attend. Now apply the same concept to yourself. Set
a meeting with a specific purpose and be there to get the job done.
You don’t have to set a recurring meeting that happens every
week. You might just need to make one appointment to do some quality thinking
or make some important phone calls that keep getting brushed aside. The
important part of this strategy isn’t the “what” or the “when” or the “how
many” of the appointments. The important part of this strategy is the fact that
you recognize there’s something specific you want to do, decide when you’re
going to do it, and schedule the time. Keep that appointment and you’ll have
the time you need – guaranteed.
Breaking time rules
Whether we know it or not, we are all operating on unspoken
time rules, such as:
-You must work eight to ten hours per day.
-You must take time off on Saturdays and Sundays.
-You must be available by phone and email at all times.
-You must take vacations in full-day or full-week increments.
But you can escape the rules of time. How you spend your
time is a choice.
For instance, maybe you’d rather leave work every day at
3:00 p.m. but work six days a week. Maybe you’d rather get a long massage once
a month instead of taking a full-week vacation. Start defining the length of
your workday by the results you achieve instead of the hours you work. Time
rules don’t necessarily mean working less but they do mean working with more
freedom and choice.
If you think this won’t work in your company, the first
question is, “Have you checked?” A host of creative work options are available
as people and their companies look for ways to use time in a way that works for
them. And if not, there are plenty of creative ways for you to break time rules
within your existing agreements. Ask for what you want. Make a proposal. If
you’re willing to be fair, negotiate and persist, you will be surprised at how
accommodating others will be.
Replace multitasking with “unitasking”
Multitasking is a fact of life in a high-speed world. And it
does work to help you manage complex, non-linear tasks, like being available to
people whenever they need you, staying on top of “moving targets” and handling
phone calls and requests that come in at random.
But recognize the impact multitasking has on you. Your
actions become fragmented, your thinking is interrupted, you make hasty
decisions and you do things poorly. To get the focus you need to be effective
in achieving your vision, try replacing it with “unitasking”. The whole
strategy is this: do one thing at a time.
Doing one thing at a time – even for a short time – improves
concentration, calms you down, and allows you to get more done in less time. Considering
that on average only about three minutes out of every hour are used with
maximum focus, you can improve your concentration rate in just five minutes at
a time. Then 15. Then 20.
You don’t have to unitask all the time, just when it counts,
like when you are strategizing, visioning, goal-setting, brainstorming,
planning, and having one-on-one conversations. These are the kinds of
activities that benefit from unitasking. Unitasking communicates a respect for
the people and processes that deserve your full attention. As much as you
possibly can, practice dong one thing at a time. Set the time aside to
concentrate and you’ll get your tasks done both fast and well.
Accomplish more in
You will never have control of your time until you take control
of it. So while your day will still consist of 24 hours just like it always
has, when you implement these five shortcuts you’ll feel like you accomplish
more because the time you use will be most productive. Stop long enough to get
a handle on how you want to spend your time and then implement these new ways
to maximize the time you do have. Rethinking your relationship to time takes an
open mind, it takes commitment, and (ironically) it takes time. But the
investment you make in it will pay you back hour after precious hour. You’ll
find that you’ll achieve more progress and fulfillment in all areas of your
life in less time than you ever imagined.
Joelle K. Jay, PhD, is
president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting. As an executive coach, author and speaker,
Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients
include presidents, vice presidents, and c-level executives in Fortune 500 companies.
Joelle is the author of The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal
Leadership. To find out how Joelle can help you reach the next level both personally
and professionally, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.Pillar-consulting.com.
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