“Mel, you seem to get so much done, how on earth do you do it?”
I have to constantly reassess and recalibrate to ensure I carve out time for what I need to do
This time of year is packed; the combination of the awards, Black History Month and all the organisations I work with rushing to finish things up by year end means I’m hanging on by wits end to make it through and get it all done.
So, every year in November I find myself trying to figure out:
“How did I get here, how will I get through and how on earth can I prevent this from happening again?”
The tiredness and busyness is real, and generally, even though I try hard to have a fairly simple life, by this time in the year, my inbox is out of control, I have pending requests from months back, and my life admin goes out the window.
Am I using my time wisely and efficiently?
To answer this I stop and do a time audit.
What is a time audit you say?
Hiding myself away, I take some time to look at my life from the top down, reminding myself of my own personal goals, and then I look at my life from the bottom up and check, what on earth is keeping me so busy?
Essentially its a ‘bottom up’ examination of where you spend your time and your money.
If I find myself not having the time to do what I need to do, then I look at what is taking up my time, my energy and my life.
How do you spend your time?
To get things started…Track your time
Over the space of a week, or at least a couple of days, track where your time goes.
It’s almost the equivalent of a food diary or a budget tracker, but using units of time instead.
24 hours may look like this:
- 12-6am sleep (lights off, eyes closed)
- 6-7am brush teeth, wash face, meditation, hot drink, journal, let the dog out, get to the park
- 7-8am work out (running/weights) and walk the dog in the park
- 8-9am Get ready, breakfast
- 9-930am answer email
- 9:30-11am my most important work of the day (the work I can’t sleep without completing)
- 11:15am tea break, phone calls
- 12- 1pm Email check/Break
- 1-2pm, lunch quick dog walk
- 2pm, tube travel
- 3pm meeting
- 4pm walk travel
- 4:30 meeting
- 5:30 tube travel
- 6:30 walk dog, home admin, prep dinner
- 7-8pm work closedown
- 8pm dinner and leisure
- 9:30 yoga
- 10:15 walk the dog
- 10:30 read, prep for bed
This is not an optimal day, just a day I randomly picked that shows a lot stuff that we all need to watch out for. Make sure you track every single moment, not just sleeping, eating and working, but don’t forget to include getting ready for work, commuting, cooking, stopping off to get groceries, coffee meetings, taking that one phone call…all these items could take a good ¼-1/2 of your daily hours, so you need to keep track of it all.
Start as you mean to go on
What do you start your day with? My most productive time is the morning, so the goals that I want to accomplish, need to come first.
This is also where you want to start with the stuff you want to make a habit, exercise, budgeting, meditation, journaling…. because as the day goes on, trust me, you will find a way to deprioritise them.
I also know that if I start the day with working out, its sets the tone for my eating for the rest of the day. So, it’s a non-negotiable, also my dog needs a good walk, if I leave him for meetings, he is much better behaved with exerciseJ
What do you start your day with? Cause it sets the tone….
Two big ways to get some time back
Let’s talk about email…
I am in the midst of trying a new system to deal with the deluge, trying to get to zero when I have more than 1000 emails in my boxes and here is where I have gotten to with some degree of success…
Unsubscribe from newsletters, if you want to tell me something, it’s got be pointed and personal. I used a great free tool (Free tip alert) unrollme.com to either unsubscribe or roll up into a digest all of the newsletters that I receive.
Be forewarned, people will be up in their feelings about this one, I couldn’t believe the pushback I received from some people when I unsubscribed!!! But my question to them is, don’t you want to have an email list full of people who want to buy your services and hear from you, why do you need me as your filler?
Dedicated email response times, note that I said response….so your emails are a mix of people wanting things from you, and you wanting things from people, in responding to peoples’ requests, you have to put them in the right place, or else you will spend the whole day responding to others needs and not prioritising your own needs.
Zero Inbox- I’m still working towards this folks, on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, but yo, this is not for the faint hearted
Start with the outgoing emails you have to send first, that are part of your goals and projects and do not just start with the responses to other people’s stuff.
Another free tool alert, boomerang if you use Gmail or Mailbutler if you use a mac, these are mail management tools that help you put first things first. So, you can delay dealing with the email, to a time that works better for you.
Optimise your meeting time
Questions to ask yourself about your meetings….
Do you have to have it?
What do you need from it?
How long does it have to be?
Do you have to have it face to face?
You’ll find as you answer these questions, you can rationalise the time spent on meetings you have and make time to actually get stuff done
*A special note about travel to meetings…
So you see that I have at least 2.5 hours dedicated to travel, now I’m all about focus, but sometimes you have to multitask…
If you are short on time, try your best to conduct meetings over the phone, or another teleconference tool. But use this wisely, it’s always good to meet people face to face at least once, and do offer video conference so that people can see you, but generally, if it’s a pointed meeting, then try for remote meetings.
It’s amazing the push back I receive on this one, people want to meet face to face all the time. Coffee chats are great, but you have to manage them tightly, or you will just end up with a caffeine addiction and no time to actually get some work done, so include the commuting/travel time as well,
If you have to have a meeting, make sure you write down your actions from the meeting and get them done asap, if not during the meeting. They can add up and will take longer to do if you leave them too long.
Travel Time- the dead zone of time management
So, what can you do while you commute? Depending on your vehicle, lots!
Cycle (or walk or run) – There is nothing like cycling to and from work so that you can feel a little bit proud of yourself, knowing that you have already completed your exercise for the day.
If you can’t use your body energy and someone else is driving you, there are still loads of options
Handle email- and I do mean handle, respond/delete/file, don’t open it if you’re not going to deal with it right there and then, mark it unread if you have to go back to it later.
Listen to audio books/podcast/read
Meditate-There are lot of meditation apps that offer commuting breaks
Complete phone calls
Take a nap- cause hey, sometimes you need it
Dream- let your mind go free, consciously. I get some of my most creative ideas while doing something else.
Schedule your work…
Sitting at a desk or going to a meeting has fooled us into thinking we are working. So this is where a whole lot of discipline is required…
When do you actually work?
…I’m talking about producing something, for me that is writing, creating client deliverables, words on a page, lecturing, speaking, writing. Working is not social media, responding to email (unless you work at a contact centre) and cleaning up papers. I’m talking about work products, so that you have something tangible you can show for it. If you work for an organisation, this is where you can compare your work output with your performance goals. If you work for yourself, this is where you have taken measurable steps to the goals you have for your own business and for your career. Focus on output.
Let me know how you get on
Just looking at these three areas can dramatically impact your day and improve your effectiveness exponentially it may be take a while to make these practices stick, but trust me, its worth it.
Over the next few weeks, I will share other ways that I have improved my time management so that by the time New Years rolls around, you will have the foundations to make, and keep, some big 2018 resolutions.
And for those who really want to make to finish the year strong, I am holding a free online workshop for a small group where we cover the steps to finish the year strong and set some big goals for 2018. Register today.