How often do you feel overwhelmed and snowed under with an endless list of things to do? I bet more often than you would like to admit. With the ever-increasing fast paced world we live in, we are expected to continuously take on more, deliver better results and do this, within the same amount of time, or less!
No wonder stress has now become a word in our every day vocabulary and this 24/7 lifestyle is directly undermining our health. How can we keep up with all the demands? Well first, we might need to take a different approach and look at how we might be contributing towards the situation from the outset.
Surveys continuously find shocking results regarding how productive we really are. In a survey done recently, it revealed that most people only use 60% or less of available work time, in other words, even though they were physically at work five days a week, they were only productively using three days.
How easy would it be to immediately list all the areas where you are not being productive? For most people, they have no idea and this is normal, we are all blind to the limiting habits we might have and the things we do which waste time.
If you can’t keep up, the best thing you can do is pause and take a moment to identify your time thieves. You need to take responsibility and control of the situation.
Here is a simple, but highly effective way to take control of your time thieves in 4 easy steps.
Step 1 – The activity
Grab a piece a paper and pen and draw 4 columns. You will use the first column to write down the activity that you feel steals a lot of time. What isn’t working for you at the moment in other words? You might feel that checking and replying to emails chew up a large chunk of your time, distractions or interruptions.
Write down everything that comes up in the first column. Once you have listed all the different areas, you are ready to move into step 2.
Step 2 – The Cause
I am not talking about looking for something to blame for your circumstances. Your finger can always be pointed back at yourself. If you blame others for interruptions, you might need to acknowledge that you play a part in allowing those to happen. If you feel you have too much work, where can you talk responsibility to delegate or be more assertive and talk to management about your workload?
Most of the time, we don’t want to see how we could be any part of the cause. However, the more ways in which we can take responsibility for the cause, the easier it is to fix it as it is more in our control.
Use the second column to write the causes next to all the activities that steal time. What is contributing to this situation? Let’s use the example of emails, you might note here that friends sending personal emails takes a lot of time and is very distracting. Perhaps you developed a habit of checking and re-checking your email every five minutes. Write down everything you can think of.
Step 3 – The Solution
In the third column you will write down the solution, what are you going to do differently? How can you overcome this? Using the same example as email, perhaps you can schedule time to check your email at certain intervals instead of every five minutes.
If you are worried about not responding to an email immediately, you can put an auto responder to quieten your mind. ‘Please note I only check my email at the following times, xxx, if you require immediate attention please call me.’ Perhaps you need to create folders and follow the zero inbox rule. There is always a solution; you just need to be open to finding one.
Step 4 – Evaluation
The last column can be used to take down any notes, comments and monitor your progress. Remember that this document isn’t meant to be cast in stone. It is a document that you use to support you in identifying time thieves, to gain awareness around the causes and then use it as guidance to improve them.
Sometimes it isn’t extra time that we need, but actually some skills to help us to manage our time better. We were not taught how to manage stress, workload and responsibilities in school, but it has become an essential skill to have in life, whether we like it or not. Failure to adopt and master these skills will cause you to feel like you just can’t cope.
Get creative and think about what you can do to make life just a bit easier for yourself.
Unless you decide to take control of your time thieves, they will take control of you, don’t doubt it! You always have a choice in life, what do you chose?