We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet we don’t manage this precious resource the same way. Before the pandemic happened, we all had the excuse of being “busy” with work, not fitting everything in the schedule because of many other commitments. Would you say things have changed since we suddenly had a lot more time for ourselves during lockdown? Chances are you still caught yourself saying: “I didn’t have time to do this!”. Is not having enough time really the issue? Or could it be something else stealing your time away?
Identify what are your hidden time drains
Now, your go-to excuse has been exposed as a lie… Even if it’s socially acceptable to say you didn’t have time, you know it’s not true. It’s not that easy to identify what’s sabotaging yourself as you’re probably not aware of it. Below are a few examples of possible reasons:
This is probably the most common thief of time… Sometimes it’s necessary to procrastinate, if you feel you don’t have what you need to complete a specific task (lack of information, energy, input, etc). But if it’s avoidance, it’s often a response to uncertainty and fear. Whether it’s a fear of failure or a fear of success, it protects you from disappointment. People who procrastinate the most are anxious people who have a vivid imagination of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Is that you? If so, try and welcome your thoughts and emotions next time you feel like procrastinating. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’ll feel more motivated after you’ve started.
Having too much on your plate is for sure going to affect your wellbeing over time. People who overcommit are often people pleasers who don’t know how to say no. They enjoy helping others and don’t want to miss out on opportunities and life events, they simply like being “busy”. But if you recognise yourself here, make sure the bulk of your time is spent on your own priorities. You don’t want to feel busy and stuck at the same time, otherwise it will create anxiety because you’ll feel that life is passing by too quickly. Make sure you schedule time for yourself too, protect that space and resist the urge to fill it up with something else.
Another big time thief would be overthinking. Do you spend an insane amount of time ruminating things from the past? Recent events, conversations where you wish you said things differently, decisions you didn’t take, etc. Overthinkers struggle to switch off at the end of the day, their mind is always busy. Are you one of them? I know I am… I sometimes get stuck in preparation mode. It doesn’t show because I appear calm but it wouldn’t reflect what it’s like in my head. If you’re like me, bring your focus to the present next time you catch yourself in an overthinking spiral.
Perfectionism is the enemy of good, you could get stuck on the same task for too long if you’re not careful. It’s fine to have high standards but what if it actually works against you? Perfectionists want to do things properly, they give 100% whether it’s a small task or a big one. Do you set the bar too high? If yes, then maybe you need to be careful about not postponing any enjoyment in life too much. Don’t wait until “you have time” to fully appreciate time for yourself, or you would run the risk of burnout. Learn how to accept “good enough” instead of “perfect”, so you can find more time in your day for more fun stuff.
Timekeeping tips to make space for what really matters to you
It’s all about self-awareness. Do you make enough time for what truly matters to you? Unlike money, which you can save for a rainy day, you can only either use time or lose it. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. Below are my few tips to help on the matter:
1. Divide your time into units
Break down your day into smaller segments. Make a list of non-negotiables first: sleep time, commute time (if applicable), cooking time, etc. Then reflect on the previous day, fill the rest of the time with everything you’ve actually done vs what you planned to do. Did you underestimate how long you needed to complete a task? Did you spend a long time doing unnecessary things? This process will help you identify where you’re wasting time and give you tools to better manage your time.
2. Don’t make yourself excuses
A lot of things can disrupt your day: a notification flashing on your phone, an email reminder you need to reorder some food for your pets, your social media feed, etc. And that’s how time is easily stolen away from you. Don’t make yourself excuses and take back ownership of your time by removing any distractions when you need to be focused on a specific task.
3. Start with what’s difficult
It’s always tempting to start with what’s quick and easy. But if at the end of the day, you didn’t manage to complete the difficult tasks, it will stay in your mind and even overwhelm you with guilt, anxiety, stress… By “difficult tasks”, I mean anything you absolutely have to do, but really can’t be bothered to do (it could be anything, really). If you can’t tackle it in one go, aim to at least make some progress on it. It will make you feel good about yourself!
4. Identify when you’re the most productive
Are you an early bird or a night owl? When do you feel like you have the most energy? Know yourself and identify when is the best time of the day for each type of activity. If you’re unsure, try and experiment to find out. For example, if you’re performing best with admin tasks in the morning, don’t plan to spend time on the phone with a friend instead. It’s ok to set some time zones as off limits in your diary!
5. Stick to only a couple of goals a day
As much as everyone loves ticking things off the list, it gives you more focus to have only one or two key objectives for the day. Identify what’s really important and everything else will get done as a bonus. You can keep a long to-do list if that helps, but accept the fact that most of it will not be completed today or tomorrow. That way you won’t get drowned in your own mess. It comes back to your priorities and what you know needs to be done first, not what you want to do first.
There are so many time thieves in our day-to-day lives, it’s crucial to be aware of them to manage our time more efficiently. This is applicable to everything in life of course, not only at work. Among big projects in my life right now, I have to organise a move to another flat in a few months (with all associated admin tasks you can imagine) and plan a wedding (with the added challenges, due to COVID). It keeps my excitement up for what’s coming next, but I know I’ll have to be organised!
Have you identified what are your main roadblocks?
Big Girl x
Great post! I’m always looking for time keeping tips, I definitely feel like procrastination is one of the main reasons that some things end up taking me longer to do. I like the idea of separating things into units, I often set myself too many tasks and get annoyed with myself for not getting them all done in the day! x
Yes, it’s important to break down big tasks into smaller ones and only select a few to tackle per day! Otherwise you run the risk of getting annoyed at yourself for not being a machine… 🙂
Amazing post! I personally have experienced that dividing my time into blocks of half hours and starting with the difficult, high priority tasks makes such a big difference. Thanks for sharing!
It’s great to see you’re already seeing the positive impact on your organisation!
I’m guilty of all of these! In particular, taking on too much and overthinking. I do try and tackle difficult tasks first but quite often get distracted. I need to work on ignoring the distractions a bit more…
The essential part is to identify what steals your time away and what you need to work on. It looks like you’ve done that part already so well done! 🙂
Great post! Really great information!!
Thanks, I hope it’s useful!
I’m definitely an over thinker. I agree with your tip on starting with the difficult. Great tips. Makes me wonder if technology is helping us or hurting us with all the disctractions and alerts.
You’re right, sometimes technology is not helping… I can’t focus if my phone shows unread notifications, it’s like I’m unable to ignore them! Puting all distractions away is definitely a must for productivity.
I love that you included the need to identify the times of day when you feel most productive! It’s honestly one of the biggest things I’ve realised recently, and I now maximise the amount of work I do to the mid-morning period when I’m feeling super creative and sharp.
It’s great to know yourself better and make the most of it, isn’t it? 🙂