I'm sure you've heard that we all have the same 24 hours in each of our days?
But some people get more done...as if they've made special arrangements with a time wizard.
I get it, I get it, I get it. I’m still baffled by truly successful people (some are mentioned below), wondering how they balance multi-million dollar companies, kids, spouses, teaching seminars across the planet, eating right, exercising, sleeping, AND enjoying lengthy vacations!
Yes, I still struggle with time management at times. Especially because there's MORE I'd like to do in life. (I know it seems ridiculous to some of you who know me well, but believe me, I could be more efficient and get more done!)
My mentor and I worked on this very topic in our first few sessions in 2016. He gave me a list of experts in this topic, which led to months of research for me. My #5 Tip listed below became one of my favourite tricks, because a good portion of my days are spent doing research.
How do I seem to constantly do so much and still study new topics? How can I help YOU make that time available for yourself, so you can accomplish those big dreams you have, too? (Notice I said “make” time, because you’ll never “find it” – it’s not just going to be dropped off by UPS one day. I know—I asked our driver ha!)
- I'll share my mentor’s first piece of advice with you,
- Some tricks I researched from various thought leaders,
- Tools and apps I use or have tried,
- And some thought leaders you can research further, to see who resonates with you.
The best part about all the techniques below is that by using them, I get my 6-7 hours of required sleep most nights, and am able to constantly learn ways I can add more value for you.
The First Step:
The first piece of advice my mentor gave me was to analyze my time. You need to know what you do all day, and be truly honest about it. In hindsight, I see how it’s impossible to fix a problem you don’t even know exists. On the bright side, if you were a fan of mystery books or puzzles as I was as a kid (and OK, I still am), you'll love playing detective on this!
I was resistant at first because when you have no time, taking MORE time to jot down what you're doing all day is a complete pain in the ass. But I also knew what I was doing wasn’t working, and asking for a mentor and not following his advice seemed asinine. Maybe as I initially did, you’re asking how I found the time to jot down my daily activities when I didn't have any time to work on goals in the first place.
Elementary, my dear Watson. I didn’t find the time, I MADE it. It became a Priority. You’ll achieve what you focus on - it's that simple.
It didn’t take long to figure out I wasted A LOT of time endlessly running around. (See Tip #5 below for the solution on that.)
The Second Step:
Utilize your time properly, once you’ve analyzed where you waste time. There's power in this knowledge, and please be gentle with yourself if you waiver here and there. Just imagine the confidence you’ll have when you realize the autonomy and control within your new day! Imagine having more quality time with your friends and family, and still being able to create the life you want!
Without further ado, here are my 5 favourite Tips on managing my 24-hour day:
- 1. Detox from technology such as TV and social media.
Stop the madness and energy drain, please. If you’re in the GenY/millennial crowd, this may be the most difficult Tip for you. You’ve grown up knowing nothing BUT technology and social media. I understand the theoretical good side of social media. Unfortunately, I mostly see the amount of time and energy wasted on it.
If you have a small business, social media may be hurting you, when you are led to believe it’s there to help you. Quite often, the algorithms are simply built against you, for too many reasons to explain here. Regardless of how much you think you do or don't use it, I'm pretty sure it's sucking at least an hour out of your day. Research suggests most people spend 4-5 hours PER DAY, watching TV. If you spend less than that on TV, I would guess the difference is spent on social media.
I know, I know—you don't use it that much. 20 minutes here and there, just a quick post and you’re off, etc.. (These are my own words, so I know all about it!) But there are “social media cues,” as I call them – a story or a pic ya found on FB, IG, pinterest, and share with friends later in the day. In my daily interactions, I watch people glued to their phones. (A little unknown fact about me...I LOVE watching people and studying them without judgement. In high school, I used to go to the airport with friends at midnight, just to watch how people interacted with one another.)
Then there’s the Technology Vortex of texts, emails, social media (we all know what the IG or FB screens look like on someone's phone and we all KNOW when someone's on one of these platforms!). It’s a constant borage of distractions coming at us all. Day. Long.
Do you know that waking and immediately checking your emails and social media can easily waste 30 minutes, while also altering your brain and mood for the day? I do…I can tell you I wasted almost an hour, being hooked in articles and links in emails.
How many times are you thinking ALL DAY about what you saw, read, or heard on some technology-based platform? So how can you focus on your next level of improvement, when you’re interpreting/misinterpreting what you read on social media?
Solution: disconnect more from social media by either taking a break from it for a couple of weeks as a few of my friends have recently done, or schedule social media as a reward for accomplishing the day’s goals.
- 2. Minimize phone triggers such as texts, calls, emails, and notifications of all kinds.
This may be the only time I actually disagree with Brendon Burchard, when he suggests setting alarms on your phone for various self-improvement techniques. (He may very well offer a solution in his teachings, but I haven’t run across it yet.)
It is my belief and experience that most people need to get away from their phone more, and not find other reasons to be attached to them. If you have an alarm that says "get up and stretch!" every 50 minutes as he suggests (we all could probably stretch more), you may see a text or email notification instead. You respond to that rather than doing your stretching, and you’re now stuck in the Technology Vortex.
All the phone triggers steal your brain power, alter your mood, and simply waste your valuable time. Be honest with yourself - how many times are you checking your email/iPad, etc. per day? (I’ll raise my hand here, because I do it when I’m bored!)
An interesting tidbit of info for you: research indicates we can only make a certain number of decisions per day. Each time you click a web link or a pic, read an article, check the next Pinterest board, or watch the next video, you’re making a decision to continue. You now have less capacity for making decisions that really matter to you and your goals. Do you notice how tired your brain feels at the end of the day?
Solution: turn off all notifications in your phone settings, other than your calendar (or whatever reminder system you're using). Other notifications are nothing more than a trap into someone else's agenda.
- 3. Find a Time Management System that works for you.
Apps such as Mindmapping, Wunderlist, or Asana, or thought leaders like Chalene Johnson or John Lee Dumas can all help you organize things in a list. Using a daily planner is a great way to keep track of big goals and appointments—it’s a great visual tool and writing is proven to be more effective than typing in an app, when it comes to goals. Besides, how can you accept (or reject) the next task or meeting thrown at you, if you don’t know what you already have on your plate?
When it comes to breaking down and WORKING those tasks, I prefer Wunderlist as my go-to program. Here’s why…
- You can easily share lists or tasks with groups and assign parts of projects to them,
- Set up reoccurring tasks like yard work or bill paying,
- Assign due dates for projects,
- Allow (or not allow) notifications to remind you of your tasks,
- Assign subtasks (e.g. I have a catering job, so what steps need to be taken?)
- All completed tasks are saved for you. This feature is great for end-of-the-year-reviews, or unchecking an item you mistakenly marked as complete.
I’ve used paper for lists because I prefer paper books, lists for menus and shopping, etc.. But I find when it comes to big goals, reoccurring tasks, or keeping an eye on your progress, technology works best. Are you keeping all those little pieces of paper, so you can review them at year end and track your accomplishments?
And no…I don’t have stock in Wunderlist, nor am I paid spokesperson ha ha. The app just works really well and is more user friendly than others I’ve tried.
Solution: get yourself a method of keeping track of what you need to do every day. It’s crucial to your success and time management!
- 4.Follow the ABCDE protocol.
I can't remember where I learned this great trick for prioritizing tasks – Mel Abraham, Steven Covey, Brian Tracy, or a medley of them all. But first, you have GOT to have a task list (which is why I mentioned that Tip before this one)!
When you see your tasks for the day each morning, prioritize them by A, B, C, D, E...yes, you ideally review your goals and the day’s plans first thing in the am. This is where that 30 minutes of waking and ignoring emails and social media REALLY come in handy!
- “A” priority is something that needs to be done immediately, no ands if buts. This is one of those tasks that will have detrimental effects if not completed today. You know, you don’t call in your insulin refill request, or you fail to call a potential client in a 24-hour window, etc. – I think of this priority as something that will cost me health or money.
This is admittedly tricky at first, because we have a lot of people who HAVE TO HAVE IT now. (“It” being YOUR time and response.) We've created a society built on instant gratification, so we feel if we don't respond or get the customer serviced right away, we're turning people away and they’ll be gone forever. I'm here to tell you that's OK. If someone can't wait for an appropriate amount of time for a response, you don't need them. Learn to balance what needs your immediate attention and what doesn't. If you want to succeed, you have to learn to say no (or start with “no, not right now”), and be proactive vs reactive. Your life needs to be your agenda, and not the agenda someone else has created for you.
- “B” tasks are urgent, but could be done tomorrow, if need be. They still have some negative consequences for not being completed, but you won’t go into a coma from a glucose overload!
- “C” tasks are things you’d like to do, but they can wait until later in the day. Maybe these are more of rewards for you, if you accomplish all your other tasks. Don’t skip to these first, just to get something checked off your list, though. You don’t build momentum as you may hope…you just procrastinate getting to the stuff that really matters! As the saying goes, “Procrastinate Procrastinating!”
- “D” tasks should be Delegated to someone else (or deleted, in my eyes). I believe this one really depends on how big your organization and task is, and whether or not you need an “E” on the list. Hell, if a task keeps getting put off and rescheduled, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to just delete it? Just remember that often, we can find someone to help us with a task we really don’t need to do—folding laundry or starting water boiling are two quick tasks I think I’m OK delegating to someone else!
- “E” tasks should be eliminated, so you can focus on what really matters. Often, this is where the power of “no” comes in handy!
Solution: whether you use this method or your own, the best way to tackle tasks is to prioritize them, and start with the hardest tasks first. Save the easy guys for the end!
- 5. Schedule blocks of time for similar tasks.
This seemingly simple tool is more powerful than you can imagine at first glance. But guess what!?! It’s not possible without the previous steps!
Grouping similar tasks will
- Help you gain momentum,
- Put you in the proper mindset for the tasks at hand,
- Gets everything done faster,
- And makes you more focused and less scattered.
If you have a list (see #3), have prioritized it (#4), you can now block out sections of time to do similar tasks. If I have to call in an order, call a client, call a library to book an event, pick up an order I called in, ship an order from the post office, email a client and write a blog, I group similar tasks together. I then place them in the day when I’m most likely to succeed. Would I run errands during rush hour? Probably not. Would I call a library when they’re closed? Pretty silly. And yes, this is a typical day for me, and I imagine your days aren’t much easier!
If I call in a grocery order, go to the post office, call a client from home, THEN go pick up the grocery order, I’ve ended up wasting at least 20-30 minutes in driving to and from my house.
Stay focused during your blocks of time, too. I know this is a potential struggle for you, and there are a couple of things that will help. Regular meditation helps your brain focus. Getting up every 50 minutes also helps, as does constant hydration. As a reminder from Tip #2, don’t have your phone near you when you’re writing. Don’t check social media while you’re running errands, driving or parked. It’s just an un safe habit and you may forget where you’re going, or miss your turn/exit! Don’t laugh-it’s happened to me many times.
And do me a favour? Block time out to gain a skillset. If you have a goal of any kind, there will be things you need to study. Weight loss? You’ll have to learn to cook healthy and efficiently. New exercise routine? You’ll have to learn new moves. How much time are you blocking out for that learning curve? If you follow the steps above, I promise you’ll have time to learn more…I take at least 2-3 webinars per month, and was never able to do this before implementing these habits.
Solution: many of us can use our commute time more productively, whether it’s a train ride or car drive. How many hours a week do you spend travelling? During all those hours, are you listening to the news or music that will affect you negatively (the same effect I mentioned about the effects the Technology Vortex in #1)? Or are you listening to podcasts, YouTube or Netflix (you don't have to watch!), audiobooks, or music that helps calm you? This painful commute is unavoidable in most cases and while not every moment is occupied with learning (the brain sometimes needs a break), it sure makes the damn drive more bearable!
Since a third of you were interested in having more time, I’m hoping these tricks help you as they’ve helped me. Will this all take a bit of time to set up and learn to implement correctly? Of course…every good skillset takes time. Will it all go smoothly? Of course NOT! People won’t be available, you’ll play phone tag, you’ll have TRUE emergencies and last-minute dealings.
Your number one skillset with anything in life is being adaptable and flexible. You’ll begin to see where you’re being overly-flexible quicker than you think. You’ll know when it wasn’t really an emergency, but you needed a distraction (and sometimes, that’s OK too). You’ll naturally adjust accordingly.
This is a constant work-in-progress for most of us. Enjoy the process! And always feel free to reach out with questions or to let me know how it’s working for you.