I have concluded that being mindful and tracking how you spend your time is critically important. There are so many interruptions in a day that we don’t even know where they come from. In recommend that you try some of the following suggestions to create extra time you did not believe you would get.
Keep a calendar for two weeks.
You’re really going to hate this suggestion. It’s also the best one I have. Keep a time log for two weeks. In the log you’re going to write what you’re doing every fifteen minutes. Yes, I know, this is a real pain. It’s also the only way you’re going to find out where the time goes.
Adopt a time management system.
If you don’t have a way of managing projects and activities you just go from one activity to another with no focus. I use a time management system for self-defense. Without it I get nothing done. I’ll spend most of my day thinking about what I should do instead of getting around to doing it.
I know that there are some really good systems out there. Frankly, I use a hybrid of several systems that work for the kind of work and the situation in which I function. The key is that you have to be willing to be faithful to the system, and feel comfortable using it. Without these attributes, you will gradually stray from it, and find yourself back where you started.
Use time blocking.
Make appointments with yourself. When you make an appointment with yourself you’re blocking time for doing important projects and tasks. If you don’t actually look at your calendar and see how you’re going to fit in your projects, it’s likely you won’t get everything done that’s important. Using a calendar forces you to think about not only what’s urgent but what’s important as well. It’s something I highly recommend.
Empty your inbox.
I often see email in boxes that contain hundreds of emails. All of those emails represent mental noise that is asking for your attention. Before computers or email, the process of dealing with paper was deal with it now, file it for later or throw it away. Do the same for your inbox. At the end of the day there should be nothing left…. that’s right I meant nothing. You can do it.
Have project folders.
I recommend developing a system of project folders on your computer. Without making things too complicated, you may need sub-folders under the main folder. So if the issue is financial or logistical you can organize file the emails accordingly. Most of your projects may not require the same amount and frequency of attention. Be careful that you don’t have too many active projects at one time and delegate some if necessary.
Plan your week.
This is a big payoff if you use project folders. They allow you to plan your week in a more effective manner. Projects have to keep moving forward. If you review what’s important in your life once a week, you can see the type of progress you’re making. You can work on things that are urgent and then look at those that are important. For me, that’s the secret of being effective. I work on what I have to first and then work on things that will add the most value second.
If you are spending all of your time on what you have to, there’s something wrong. Most of the time the urgent activities only take a few hours. You have the rest of the week to work on the important stuff.
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