Running Out of Time?
By Dr. Lucille Maddalena
Why is it that some people seem to get so much more done than others? There are only so many hours in the day, and everyone seems to be running like crazy to keep up with an endless list of tasks. Do you want to manage your time better – or do you feel that no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to do all you want to do?
Let’s take a look at how we look at time. First, let’s agree to accept one fact: there is no such thing as time management. We can decide which tasks to complete and when, what priority to give to meetings and people, but we cannot control the clock. Rather than focus on a relative concept, let’s look at what you actually do every minute of every day.
• Busy is as busy does. The coffee-carrying character in the Dilbert cartoons personifies the office colleague who has conquered the art of looking busy without doing any real work. Unfortunately, many of us will have the same result by actually being busy. We can become so absorbed in less important tasks and distracted by activities that keep us engaged, we may miss the big picture. Keeping busy is not the answer: our goal has to be to focus on achieving the results that we seek. Our success provides the self-motivation to continue on to the next step.
• Never enough time. Consider a big project that you need to start – have you ever put off beginning until you can find the “right time”? How often have you found that big block of free time that you know you need to “do it right”? This easy-to-spot red flag can herald a downfall when we actually create our own barriers to getting the job done. Just as you cannot manage time, it is important to remember that time is not free. You are paid for the amount of time you work; you reap the rewards of family interaction by the time you invest in your family.
How can you invest your time wisely?
To-do lists don’t work for everyone as they quickly get too long, becoming a distraction to getting the job done. As an alternative, experiment with the many useful tools available, from hand-written note cards to digital file cabinets, until you find the one that is flexible and easy to access.
What can you do to achieve maximum results from the time you are investing in every activity you experience during the day? Here are a few pointers to get you started focusing on results.
1. VALUE ACTION.
Start the day by identifying what you want to achieve: the results that will make you feel satisfied at the end of the day. Prioritize any actions you know you must take in one-word sub-headings that will keep the movement forward. Organize routine activities such as securing reading in audio form to listen to as you commute0. Appreciate the small successes as you move toward your goal by checking off each accomplishment. Find ways to delegate effectively, whenever possible serving as a role model and mentor. Avoid multi-tasking by committing yourself to perform each task in a way that will bring you maximum results.
2. BENEFIT FROM INTERACTIONS.
Join forces with others to stay on a mutually beneficial time-frame and set clear goals for the conversation, checking your progress along the way. Engaging with others in meetings, conference calls, and impromptu discussions builds working relationships and leads to effective decision making.. Listen for cues that you or others are going off-track, refocusing on the data and seeking practical solutions or decisions that will be most useful to all.
Schedule private time on your calendar just to think: disconnect by turning off the computer screen, phone and tablet. Keep a pencil in your hand with a pad of paper and allow yourself to doodle, or write whatever key words/themes come to mind. Remember the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of your thoughts produce 80 percent of your actions. Consider the actions you plan for the day: assess how each minute invested will most benefit you. Appreciate yourself, your skills and your talents.
4. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
Change is our constant, so plan for change and interruptions. Build up your to-do list by allotting as much time in each day as you typically spend responding to fires, attending unscheduled meetings, or addressing a new issue. As topics are presented evaluate the results you expect to receive from the event, investing only the amount of time appropriate to the value of the investment. When delays occur, use waiting time to review your goals, to acknowledge what you have already conquered today, and what you want to complete before closing your work day.
It seems I regularly send out one-word messages to those I coach, simply reminding them to breathe. With your back straight, inhale deeply, fill the lungs, the diaphragm, hold the breath a moment, and exhale slowly. Air to the brain physiologically calms you. If you are in the middle of a stressful conversation, ask a question on the out breath to gain more information, give you time to think, and maintain your status quo. With a calm mind you can accomplish more.
You can’t do it all. Planning, delegating and really evaluating how you spend the time available to you is the key. Stay focused on the big picture. You can avoid sweating the small stuff by sorting the details you anticipate and staying flexible to address unexpected issues. Imagine a spinning wheel moving toward your goal by focusing on results and being open to change. You can accomplish what you need to achieve.