Do you ever wish there were more hours in the day or that you could clone yourself to get all your work done? Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it or dice it, there are still just 24 hours in each day. So, the key question is, "How can you make the most of the time you do have?"
First, evaluate how you are currently spending your time. A simple way to do this is by creating an activity log with four columns: time of day, activity, time spent, and priority. In the last column, rate the priority of each activity as a 1, 2, or 3:
1 - critical (high value, directly related to achieving a critical goal) 2 - moderate (medium value, indirectly related to achieving a critical goal and has urgency) 3 - low (low value, may include urgent and non urgent tasks)
Try to keep this log for a week with as much detail as possible. If that sounds like too much, shoot for at least three days, choosing days that are representative of a typical day for you.
Next, review your log to determine how much time you are spending on critical activities, how fragmented your time is throughout the day, where you are wasting time, and whether you are taking enough breaks to maintain your productivity. Once you have a sense of how you are spending your time, you can more effectively develop strategies to make better use of it.
Prioritize and Protect
Before each day begins (ideally at least one day ahead of time), identify up to three critical tasks that you need to get accomplished that day. Critical tasks are defined as tasks that move you towards achieving critical goals. Really challenge yourself to think about what’s critical versus urgent.
Next, think about whether you will need a dedicated block of time to complete these tasks based on how much creativity, thought and challenge is required. Then block the time on your calendar and protect it! Interruptions can be huge time wasters. A temporary shift in attention from one task to another can increase the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25 percent! So, staying focused on one thing can make a huge difference.
I think it’s safe to assume that you will face unplanned interruptions and distractions throughout the day, but you do have control over how you manage them. So, think about some strategies to deal with the most frequent ones. For example, when I really need to get something done, I close my instant messaging software and email and don’t answer my phone. Although that works well for me, it’s important to determine what strategies will work best for you.
Finally, bundle tasks that entail a repetitive process (i.e., ones with the same sequence of steps) such as answering emails, opening mail, or creating invoices. This will allow you to complete them more efficiently as you get into the rhythm of getting them done.
By taking the time to implement these three simple strategies, you will get better results—without cloning yourself or finding a way to make time stand still.