Tick! Tock! Beat the Clock

  Now that the holidays are over, workloads seem to be increasing exponentially.  I am hearing the phrase “I am swamped” from all my friends regardless of the industry they are in.  After  a relaxing few weeks in slow mode, they are now all stressed out and if even one little thing happens that they did not expect (i.e. a child locks themselves out of the house), they are feeling very overwhelmed which is not healthy. 

Is there any way to prevent this?  For some, no.  For others, it is a matter of using their time more effectively.  Unfortunately, very few people are good at “time blocking” which is a method of allocating dedicated time to a project and “blocking” out all other distractions.  Realistically it is very difficult to do in some work settings due to email, phone calls, colleagues interrupting, etc., however, there is still the chance that time is being wasted that did not have to happen. 

To start, carry a notebook with you for two days and jot down what you are doing and the times i.e. went to supermarket from 9 – 10:15.  Be very specific and take into consideration travel time. After that, review when you experience “time wasters” and when you are most productive.  In addition, determine when your energy level is lower which may result in not wanting to work on a particular assignment at a specified time (for me, I like to write in the morning and make phone calls in the afternoon).  

Next step is to reconfigure your day if you see discrepancies.  As an example, if you lead meetings and you are most energetic in the morning then schedule them then if possible.  Limit yourself to x times per day when you read emails and return calls and let others know that.  A friend of mine, America’s Linkedin Lady, suggests limiting doing social media tasks for 17 minutes a day only.  

If you are a visual person, create an Excel spreadsheet for each day with the times vertically and tasks horizontally.  Add color for particular tasks such as blue for sleep, red for meetings, and green for soccer games.  Then add a color for downtime/leisure and see how much of the day you have for that.  The idea is that over time, the colors will shift so that you are doing more what you want to do even if it is work related which brings a sense of accomplishment. 

A reward system also needs to be implemented.  Rewards can be very small including going for a walk or much bigger like an expensive night out.  Regardless of what reward you choose, it has to be one that you see value in so want to earn it, and has a timeframe assigned to it.   

Lastly try to not worry because this is one of the biggest time wasters, energy drainers, and productivity decreasers.  When you worry you are projecting into the future and not focusing on the present and the task at hand.  Instead you are making your body and mind unhealthy and you are not accomplishing anything. If you are a worrier by nature, write down your concerns and then let it go.  Look at the paper later on and see if it was worth worry about. 

So get started on being more productive and enjoying life more…