When COVID forced us all to work from home, many people discovered an unexpected benefit. We had more time in the day. The commute to the office transformed instantly from several hours of wrestling with traffic and transport to a 2-minute walk to the desk. For some, they didn’t even bother with the desk and stayed in bed with the laptop. It felt like time had suddenly been gifted to us. People responded to the gift in different ways; some worked longer, others connected with family and children, many used the time to exercise or rest.
The number of hours in the day hadn’t changed; we had simply changed our thinking about how to use them. When we ask partnership executives about their challenges, the number one issue they raise is time. There isn’t enough time; I’m busy, stretched, stressed. But the mindset of busyness needs to change. There are four habits that will help you reclaim more time in your day.
“People don’t decide their futures. They decide their habits and the habits decide their futures” F. Matthias Alexander
At the end of the day, take a blank piece of paper and divide the next day into 30-minute blocks. Assign tasks to each block. Then you remove the uncertainty of when to start working on something and give yourself little milestones of satisfaction when each block is completed. If we start the day with a list of tasks in mind, but no time allocation, we’ll probably start later than we planned, find reasons to procrastinate and end the day feeling unsatisfied and stressed. Research shows that the average user spends 2.5 hours on social media every day. That sounds a lot like procrastination and distraction to me. When you block out time in your day, you’ll find that there’s more time than you think. And you can still have your reward of cute kitten videos at lunchtime.
Eat the frog first
In every day there is usually one task that is harder, more complex or more challenging and you’re dreading it. It’s always best to eat the frog first. Get the hardest task done first and you’re less likely to put if off until it becomes urgent or off track. If you’ve got two frogs, eat the largest one first! The hardest challenge is the one most likely to induce procrastination but addressing it first will give you an adrenalin shot of satisfaction that will propel you through the day.
Maximise the first two hours
How do you spend the first two hours of your day? I bet you fire up the computer, respond to emails and immediate requests and let them dictate your day. Before you know it, you’re galloping towards lunchtime, and you haven’t made any progress on your To Do list. Productivity expert Donna McGeorge tells us that the first two hours of the day are the ones where your brain is fresh, rested and ready for action. The first two hours are the best time to work on proactive, high impact issues like problem solving, creating pitches or reaching out to new prospects. Don’t waste the most valuable brain time of the day in being reactive to emails or other people’s priorities. Save that for the afternoon when your brain is foggy and you’re reaching for the KitKat.
Schedule time to recharge
If you buy a coffee and the barista fills it to 100%, what happens? Do you feel like you’ve got value for money? Or do you struggle to get it back to your desk, doing a slow moving, caffeine version of Tai Chi to avoid spilling red hot liquid over yourself? If your coffee cup is filled to 85%, you can move more freely, maybe even multitask on the way. You need to take the same approach to your mind and body. No-one can work constantly at 100% and it’s not healthy. Our best and most creative ideas are found in the quiet times, when we rest, reflect or simply go for a walk. When you block out your day, don’t forget to build in time to recharge and refuel. You’ll be more productive for the day and your body and brain won’t be running on empty by dinner time.
Creating new habits will help you rewrite your future. Stop stressing about busyness and take control of your day. You have enough time- you just need to give yourself the gift of using it more effectively.