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The average life expectancy for a person in the U.S. is 79 years of age. Broken down by gender, it’s 76 years for a man and 81 years for a woman. The first 18 years of life are spent growing and becoming an adult, and the last 11 years or so are usually spent in retirement. For those who must earn a living – which is most people — that leaves roughly 50 years to gain skills, nurture a career or business, be productive and achieve goals.
Fifty years seems like a long time. But let’s break that down. That is 600 months… 2,600 weeks. It is 18,250 days. Now that really seems like a lot of time! But 5,200 of those days are weekends (Saturday and Sunday). And if you also take away 6 holidays (and some people have more holidays than that a year) plus two weeks of vacation annually, that leaves just 12,250 work days. That means we only have about 33 productive years…. just 1,716 weeks.
Time is precious. It is the only finite resource. It is the one resource no person can stop or manipulate. It can’t be replenished, replaced or restored. It cannot be purchased or ordered. There is no getting it back or saving it. For that reason, time squandered is the worst kind of waste. So just how well do most people manage time?
Given all the demands on any working person’s time, it is imperative that time be used efficiently and wisely. Some people are highly focused and productive every single day. But that is pretty rare. Many people are highly productive some days and wasteful and inefficient other days. But for the majority of folks, weeks come and go without focus or purpose. Their days are filled with countless tasks, meetings and busy work that lacks focus, purpose, efficiency or effectiveness. If that’s you, eliminate these huge time wasters.
1. Stop checking emails, text messages, social media and voice mail repeatedly.
Interrupting work flow to check emails is a major waste of time. Given how much junk mail and spam there is, the actual process of reviewing emails is wasteful. But, more importantly, it disrupts the thought process and flow of work. Popping in and out of the inbox creates a “start-stop-start” pattern of work activity. Just think about how much time it takes to refocus after each stop. A dozen email checks daily can cost one completed project each week. So, unless an important task-related email is needed, it is better to check emails a few specific times a day. First thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, and late-afternoon.
The same is true for voicemail, text messages and social media messages. Stop having notifications pop on your screen. Turn off the sound. And turn off the Bluetooth to eliminate pings aimed at mobile devices.
2. Start Planning. Stop Improvising and Acting Spontaneously.
Taking a road trip without GPS, cell phone navigation or a map is a great way to waste a lot of time. Starting a project without a plan is also a way to end up squandering time. In fact, days and weeks that are unplanned are likely to waste as much time as taking a road trip without a map. Skipping planning as a way to save time is foolish. The time spent to create a list, set goals, and identify deliverables and deadlines is time well spent.
By planning ahead and having a roadmap for each day, week, or project, the odds increase exponentially of being successful and getting done what matters most. That is what precise prioritization is.
3. Avoid Interruptions
Does it happen that at the beginning of a project or task, a co-worker interrupts the work flow with a comment, question or just small talk? Some people are more likely to be interrupted and distracted from their work than others. Some people invite distraction like a magnet. It is a form of procrastination to avoid work.
One way to stop such interruptions is to close the door, either physically or with some kind of barrier. For those who work in open spaces or cubicles, large noise-cancelling headphones work well. Some can move to a conference room or library where interruptions are at a minimum. It helps to be consistent in the time spent and time of day “behind closed doors” or unavailable. In that time, work on important tasks where undivided attention is a priority, such as creative writing, data analysis, calculating figures, etc. Post a “no interruptions” notice or share that information with coworkers so that they know to stay away. Specify options for how to communicate urgent matters during this time. Silence cell phone ringers. Send calls to voice mail. Close email inboxes to avoid the temptation of checking emails or seeing new emails as they are received. By prioritizing time with important tasks, this also says “I’m busy with important work. Don’t bother me.”
4. End Silent Procrastination
Some forms of procrastination are obvious. Playing solitaire on a smart phone. Looking at social media posts. Gazing out of a window. Then other forms of procrastination are less obvious. For example, doing repetitive tasks without coordinating the work. This is busywork. Another example is working on non-essential tasks. This type of procrastination can be a “silent killer” in that it often goes undetected as a time waster. Time spent on less important activities is a step backward, especially where time-sensitive priority tasks and goals are involved.
To stop such time-wasting activities, give priorities some bite. Focus on why it is important to stick to goals, making it easier to stay disciplined. Also, schedule tasks in fixed time segments, or boxes, with specific start and finish times. This is referred to as Time Boxing. By defining what should be done and when, it reduces the intimidation of having large projects and open spaces of time. Also, create task reminders using a day planner, Outlook, or by simply setting an egg timer and working until it rings.
Time management really boils down to strategic planning and discipline. Each day, it is important to allocate time for what matters most and then stick to that plan ferociously. It is about Precise Prioritization… cutting away time wasters with a scalpel not a hacksaw.
- Schedule time for meals and exercise. It provides energy to get more done.
- Set time for specific work tasks. Nothing like a deadline to spur productivity.
- Make time for mentoring and learning.
- Create time for big-picture Vision Thinking. Clear the mind and dream.
- Plan for the unplanned. Allot time for unexpected emergencies.
- Add down time to the itinerary. Family and fun time help recharge the internal battery.
Is what you are working on now the highest and best use of your time? Is time being squandered? Isn’t it time to improve your time management? As Sunday Adelaja asked in the title of his book: How To Become Great Through Time Conversion, “Are you wasting time, spending time or investing time?“ This is the question to consider.
Quote of the Week
“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” Samuel Smiles
© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.