Two Simple Ways To Manage Time Effectively
By: Linda Shaw
I have been asked many times to help senior people with time management strategies. It seems that regardless of profession or type of industry, many people feel the need to add to their time management skills as they are constantly drowning in workload.
We can all relate to the ever increasing workload, but forgive me when I say each time I stand in front of top business leaders, lawyers, accountants and so on to deliver time management workshops, I wonder what on earth I am doing there.
I look out at a sea of faces and I invariably see a group of highly intelligent, resourceful, focused individuals whom have proven themselves hundreds of times in terms of time management. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t be such high achievers. People don’t otherwise accumulate academic achievements, an abundance of skills or lucrative lifestyles.
To be perfectly honest, I feel almost a fraud by extolling the virtues of time management when clearly they have proven themselves in this field tenfold.
I have pondered this dilemma for some time and this is what I have deduced.
This isn’t a time management problem, it’s a fear problem. Most of us know and use various time management techniques from dedicated lists to delegation, but in truth how much time do we truly spend on 100% uninterrupted focused work?
The latter point is huge. Interruptions, false starts and procrastination cloud our perception of how much time we actually spend productively and we tend to compound this with unrealistic ideas as to how long a task or project could take.
Such a stressful way to start our working day. And of course, we all know how destructive stress can be. As soon as the brain secretes more of the stress hormone cortisol than is useful, we are wired to narrow down our focus to concentrate on the perceived threat for survival. The side effect of this is that we can no longer think broadly about our work and crucially we can no longer think creatively to do the job well.
With this in mind I remembered a book I used to read to my children at bedtime. It was a beautiful book with a different story in each chapter. But each chapter began the same way. The stories always began with the child approaching a “worry tree” where they would be encouraged to pin all their worries on the trunk of the tree. Once the task was complete they would open a door and enter the tree. Once inside a whole host of magical journeys lay in front of them to choose such as floating on clouds or rocking gently in boats. Naturally the child would drift into a worry free sleep.
We all loved this book, so why can’t we do this as adults? I don’t suggest you enter a tree and go off on a magical journey at the start of your working day, but the worry tree is a splendid idea. Dumping concerns on sticky pieces of paper can help clear your head to get on with the tasks needing to be done. You can always go back to the concerns once you have achieved a few goals.
In line with this way of thinking, is how to manage your diary. Many associates of mine insist on putting their vacations into the diary before anything else. Along with time to spend with family and friends, block out some time for exercise and anything else that is going to help your physical, mental and emotional well being.
Once the leisure pursuits are in place, it’s amazing how you can see realistically what time is left to get some work done. It seems to galvanize people into focusing and just getting on with it, firm in the knowledge that play time is just around the corner. A perfect set up for the brain to produce a cocktail of feel good neurotransmitters to make us even more efficient.
In this context, shrinking fear by parking worries and prioritizing pleasant pursuits, is a far more productive way of working efficiently. Time management may not be so elusive after all.
Need to be more productive? Break these habits!
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