As I find myself getting increasingly involved with speaking gigs, projects, non exec roles and consulting projects, I’m having to be increasingly careful with my time.
It reminded me of an article I wrote several years ago which I just revisited and have updated and amended on how to ruthlessly protect your time. Here it is...
I recall seeing a film years ago as a teenager - it was about a baseball coach and how he was coaching his team and he came out with a line which has always stuck with me:
“There is one thing that makes us all the same - we all have 24 hours in a day.”
How true, of course the difference between everyone though is what do you do with those 24 hours - how do you value your time and how do you protect your time?
For me personally, I view time as my most valuable commodity and continually find ways to try to protect it so I can use it in the most productive way possible - that is trying to achieve my specific goals and objectives. We all know how easy it is for time to be swallowed up and you get to the end of a week and say where did the time go? What do I have to show for it?
So, what I wanted to share with you is five ways for you to sidestep the time vampires (by the way that's anything that swallows up your time where you aren't actively or consciously managing your time).
Some of these may only save you 5 minutes a day, but over the course of 250 working days in a year thats 1,250 minutes. Based on an 8 hour working day, that’s 2.6 days a year.
If you can do this with all five things, that's 13 days a year that you've now saved. Imagine what you could do for the next year if someone just handed you an extra 13 days that you didn't have before.
So, here are the five things which could each save you 5 minutes a day:
1 - Travel off peak
When you travel at peak times, you are always slower - you have to fight your way through crowds of people, you are far less likely to get a seat if you travel by bus/ train. If you drive, it's likely that driving off peak will save you considerably more than 5 minutes a day. I personally get a train so that I arrive in the office at just after 7am - there are no queues, no waiting, I always get a seat and best of all I get to use the time productively as well which takes me to my next point.
2 - Use travel time productively.
Some of you will know that I stopped reading newspapers some time ago and felt massive benefits from this. Worst of all was reading one newspaper in the morning and a different newspaper in the evening. I don't miss reading these and I in fact use my 30 minutes on the train in very productive ways. Such as listening to audio books on my kindle, reading a book or even better doing some of my best thinking and making notes. I make a list the night before of a number of things I have to do and often find myself writing the emails and content on the train. When I arrive I’m ahead of the game and have dealt with possibly some of my harder to do things because I'm not being distracted and have good clarity of thought.
3 - Know when you're at your best
Are you a morning person, an afternoon person or an evening person? By that I mean when are you at your most productive - the time when things feel easy and you absolutely fly through your to do list. Work out when it is and line up and plan to do your challenging tasks requiring thought at that time. You'll be much more productive. Save the more mundane tasks such as clearing emails or simpler tasks for times when your energy is lower and you are less productive.
4- Make and use lists
It's impossible to carry everything in your head and still function at peak performance. Our brains just don't work that way. Create lists so you know what you need to achieve over the coming day, week, month and year. Although this is an up-front time investment, it pays dividends as you don't have to arrive at work every day, sit down and spend time working out what you are going to do that day - it's already planned and you can just get on with the priorities that you've already decided are important.
5 - Switch off social media
Big one in my world. Just the biggest time suck. My biggest achilles heel. You go into Facebook and emerge half an hour later thinking you’ve been productive. The reality is that time has just gone. It's one that I find I have to manage very carefully and in fact have recently gone on a mass unsubscribe from lots of feeds and news sites. Literally I think I must have just saved an hour a day from that single thing.
I wish you luck sidestepping the time vampires. Imagine what you'd do with an extra 13 days a year...