Ask any small business owner what they wish they had just a little more of every day, and the answer is probably time. In an age where we have more time-saving gadgets than at any other time in history, most of us feel we have less time than ever before. Of course, it isn’t true that we have less time; there are still 24 hours in every day, and each of those hours has 60 minutes. We have
just as many daylight hours as we did hundreds of years ago, only now we also have electricity to extend our productivity. All of us make choices each day about how we use the hours in a day, and if we’re living a balanced life, those choices will reflect our values and priorities. But many of us, at least sometimes, find ourselves wasting or frittering away precious minutes without even realising it. Those minutes, added together, could give us extra time to spend with our kids or family, to get badly needed exercise or to just utilise in ways to increase our mental health. If you find yourself constantly running short on time, here are some tips on how to create minutes in your crazy, hectic day.
- Make a “to do” list every day and review it often – there’s no way out of this one. Whether you’re a list-maker or not, you will be more productive if your daily tasks are clearly set out for you, and if you review and revise often according to how your day is going.
- Use your “spare” minutes wisely – all of us have them – those minutes you spend in the bank line up, waiting at your doctor’s office, sitting in traffic or driving to and from appointments, all add up. Whenever you leave your office, take things with you that you can do in ten minutes or less – an article you need to read, the staff evaluation you’ve been meaning to do, brainstorming to solve a business problem – and make use of minutes that otherwise trickle away.
- Turn driving time into learning time – most of us wish we had to spend less time in our cars, but you can turn that time into learning time. Always have motivational or educational CDs or MP3s in your car so that driving and waiting time becomes learning time. You can take an entire course in your vehicle as you drive to and from meetings, soccer games and music lessons!
- Learn to say no and delegate – you don’t have to do it all, and learning what you can and can’t do is vital to your productivity and your sanity. Delegate the things you don’t need to do yourself, and learn to use the word “no” more often.
- Use your natural work rhythms to your advantage – recognise when your peak productivity hours are. Are you a morning person or are you most productive after dinner? Plan your most difficult tasks during your natural peak hours and you’ll get more done in less time.
- Communicate your schedule to others – so much time is wasted when someone else in your life schedules an appointment or activity at the same time as another event already on your agenda. This requires time reorganising, re-prioritising and rescheduling when a family calendar at work or an office calendar at home could have eliminated that stress.
- Try to consistently get better sleep – depriving yourself of a good night’s rest to get something done is counterproductive. The time you think you saved the night before is actually robbing you the next day. Your fatigue from lack of sleep will make you less productive the next day.
- Don’t rush through tasks – trying to get things done too quickly often results in having to redo them, or spend more time fixing mistakes later. Taking a little extra time to do a task well initially will prove more efficient than the time you’ll spend redoing it the second time.
- Ask questions often – if you don’t know, don’t spend hours trying to find out yourself when someone else already has the answer. Pick up the phone, send an email, ask for help. This can save you hours of time.
- Don’t rely on your memory – write everything down. When someone asks you to pick up an extra package of paper while you’re at the stationery store put it on your list (remember #1?). It will save you having to make another trip if you forget. If you meet someone that you need to follow up with, jot it in your calendar or smartphone. Make notes at meetings of things you need to do in a day, and then schedule them into your day. With all the things you have to do, your memory may fail you more often than not. Having things written down will save you hours trying to remember, or worse, recouping after you’ve forgotten to do them.
- Don’t procrastinate – procrastination isn’t always logical. You know that you are going to have to do that thing you don’t want to do, and putting it off isn’t going to make it go away. Think about the unpleasant sense of panic and stress you feel when you realise you can’t put it off anymore and have very little time to do it. That may motivate you to get it done right away.
- Have a daily “quiet hour” – this doesn’t necessarily mean a literal hour, but a time that you schedule every day to reflect on what you want to accomplish, review your priorities, and generate a calm strategy for your day. Many people feel that first thing in the morning is a great time to do this, others take their quiet break in the middle of the day, or in the evening before bed. A refocusing time each day will lead to better management of your time.
You may not be able to literally create more hours in your day, but you can make your days more productive and less stressful by managing your time just a little better. Make your minutes matter.