We are all time poor and some more than others. If we were to be self-critical, we will have to acknowledge that we play a big part in how we manage the time that we have. We know that there is only 24 hours in a day, no more and no less. There are various tips and methods that people have used to manage time more effectively and productively. The other side of looking at time is to take a look at the part that each of us play in sabotaging time that we have.
The top 5 ways that we sabotage when it comes to time and time management are:
- Spending time on the least important or impactful activities. These might be the activities that you enjoy doing to activities that we do to avoid starting or completing an important task. Whether it is based on enjoyment or avoidance, there is a need especially in the workplace to complete the impactful and important first. Spend the appropriate time and energy on those and then if you have time for other activities do them. For example, I worked in a company where I could literally spend the whole 8 hours reading and responding or replying to emails. On average I would have 150 – 200 emails. Would spending all my time on emails be impactful? No, would be the clear answer. I would need to prioritise the importance and impact of the emails and respond accordingly. In 90% of the time, only 10% of the emails are worth your time and energy.
- Doing activities that makes you feel important vs. that makes an impact. It is very easy for any of us to want to do activities that would give us a sense of importance. It is however not necessarily impactful or productive. For example, as a Marketing Director, one of the activities would be to give presentations and demonstrations of the company’s product/solution portfolio. It is an important and can be an impactful part of my responsibilities but as a director, it should not be the majority of my time. Being in front of a crowd, makes me feel important but as a Marketing Director, there is a need to spend more time with strategies and management of the team. What are those activities for you? Being self-aware is the first step to helping you to identify the areas that are sabotaging your time and impact.
- “There-but-not-there-attendee.” Have you been or sat in a meeting where you were physically there but mentally you weren’t. You attended just because you were asked to and could not find a way to get out of it. What a time waster that is. You can never get that 1 hour back. What can you do? It is important before you agree to attend any meeting that you are aware of what is the discussion and what your role is. Once you are clear and know your contribution, you will need to be physically and mentally present in order to contribute. If you are not clear or convinced, there is a choice to be made and that choice is to not sabotage your time.
- “Help-a-friend-but-the-task-keeps-growing”. We all want to help a friend. However, there are some task or some people, where inevitably the task keeps on growing or you don’t get the full picture and when you do, you are too far in to back out. I am sure that we all those one or two people who have that tendency. When do you help and when do you say no can be tricky as all of us don’t want to be not helpful. Getting a full picture of the help required will be useful along with making it clear where your help starts and stops. For example, I was asked to help to build a “simple” one-pager summary of a strategy and it’s results and was told that all the information is done and it was just a matter of organising the information. However, when I started on it, I realised that not all the information was there or available and it became a must bigger “help request” than just helping to format the slide. Clearly after learning from that experience, I now ask better questions before deciding on whether to help or not.
- Being part of a “pity-party”. Who does not enjoy a good gossip or complaining session? We all love to hear just how someone has been treated unfairly and poorly and the more people the pity-party attracts the stronger the negativity. There is only ONE advise to this – STAY AWAY from it. It takes up time and it serves no real benefit. In the beginning you might feel like you are being a friend to listen but if it continues, the choice is yours to make – to continue to waste time or to focus back on what is impactful for you to do with your time.
Time is precious. How we use will determine the outcome and impact we get from it. Don’t play a part in sabotaging yourself. Take stock of where you are spending time and determine to change the time and energy allocation. It will deliver a more productive and impactful outcome for you. It is better to go home feeling that you have been productive vs. busy. What are your time wasters?
“Don’t give up!” Giving up is for losers. We have all been brought up not to give up. Try and try until we get what we want. After all, we can’t achieve anything worthwhile if we give up. However, are there situations where to give up on something is the right course of action? I believe that there are many times and situations where we need to give up something in order to achieve something better.
Here is my list of 10 things to give up.
- Expectations of others. Living a life based on expectations of other people is a sure way to not living a fulfill life. You are here to play your unique purpose and role. One that only you can based on your strengths and weaknesses, personality and character. To enjoy a fulfill life requires that you live out your life based on your values, beliefs and dreams.
- Hurt and anger. Forgiveness is a critical trait in order to live a positive life. Nothing good ever comes from holding on to hurt or anger. Give it up. Let it go. Anger and bitterness have a great ability to take hold of your heart and affects your interactions, words and actions. Don’t let it.
- Judgement. Give up or release judgement of others and of yourself. I believe that all of us know that we are not perfect hence release the need to judge others. Give up judgement and embrace acceptance. See the good and positives in everyone and every situation.
- Need to be Right. Give up the need of being right frees you. Does it matter if you are wrong in a certain area? Does it matter if you make a mistake? Does it matter if you fail? Giving up the need to be right, frees you to take risk and learn.
- Perfection. Perfection is not required. Perfection is not achievable. It is a myth. Give up your notion that everyone and everything has to be perfect. Let’s face it, there is no perfection in this world. I am not perfect and certainly so are you. If we are not perfect, nothing we do or say will be perfect. Giving up perfection frees you to be creative and innovative. It frees to you explore and experiment.
- Negativity. Give up negativity and embrace positivity. Don’t waste the day being negative or spend time with negative people. Embrace the good in people. Look for the hope in the bad situation in order to move forward. Being negative will just pull you into the depths of despair and hopelessness. Choose to be positive. Yes, it is a choice that we can train our minds to think and perceive. Regardless of your natural disposition, a glass half empty or half full person, you can choose how you respond.
- Toxic behaviour. Toxic behaviour like gossiping, bad mouthing someone, blaming others, not taking responsibilities for your actions or words, complaining and the list goes on. I am sure that you know what I am referring to. The dark and ugly side that is in all of us. Give it up and be that person that supports, encourages, develops, mentors, coach and lead others. My grandfather thought me that if I have nothing good to say about someone, keep quiet. One of the best advice that I still remember and try to live by.
- It is NOT FAIR. Give up the notion of fair and grow up. Give up this myth that the world has to treat you fairly. There is no fair. If we go back to list No. 5, no one is perfect therefore the notion of fair does not exist. Life is not fair, so give up the thought that people have to be fair to you or the situation has to be fair for you. The benchmark of fair is part of your value system. What is fair to you might not be fair to someone else. The scale for fairness only exist in your belief system. Don’t expect everyone to evaluate fairness the same way that you do. Once you give up the notion of fairness, you will accept a given situation for what it is, just the situation and how you respond to it, determines your maturity.
- Wastefulness. Give up wastefulness and be grateful. We are surrounded by abundance and wastefulness. Just take food, how much food do we waste everyday? And yet there are millions of people who do not have anything to eat. To be less wasteful is to be grateful and mindful for what we do have and realise that having more does not make you happier or more fulfill. It is also being conscious that there are those who are in greater need and how we are able to turn our wasteful behaviour to help others in need.
- Comfort zone. Give up your comfort zone to learn and grow. Fear is the biggest reason why we love our comfort zone. Fear keeps us boxed in. Growth comes when we step out of that box, out of that comfort zone. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. You will never know what you can achieve if you don’t get out there and try.
Letting go and giving up are not bad. In fact, it is required in order for us to move forward. For us to learn, grow, achieve, create, innovate, to be grateful and to live a fulfilled life. Give up the things that are holding you back. What do you need to give up?
I love Friday. It signals in my brain that the weekend is here. It just means that one can relax and enjoy the simplicity of friends and family. It is also the time that makes me wonder. Time to wonder the what ifs, and what’s next questions. The question that has been floating is this – What would motivate me to do more or to stretch myself?
It is through challenges that we learn and grow and develop our character and skills. What happens when everything is going well? You are on a high when things are just falling into place, getting great feedback for what you are doing and more importantly you are happy and content.
However, you know that at the back of your mind, you have to continue to push yourself and be better. How do you do that? What motivates you to challenge yourself? It is so much easier to just stay in this perfect comfort zone that you have achieved.
I believe that there are 3 key drivers that enable successful people to continual challenge themselves:
- A sense of purpose. A sense that you are here for a reason and that you are the one to make it happen. That deep-rooted sense that is buried in your heart, lived out in you life and that hope that keeps you moving forward. It does not matter if that is huge or small, it is your sense of purpose. Not all of us will be like a Nelson Mandela or a Bill Gates. You have a role to play in your family, friends and community. Do you know what that is for you?
- Never stop to push the envelope of what you can achieve and accomplish. Never rest of the past accomplishments but always strive to do better. The reality is that change will happen and it is either you are in the driver seat or the one trying to catch up with the moving car. It is never easy to run after someone or something. It is harder to be the driver of change but the ride is so much more comfortable cause you are in control.
- Just stay curious, leave the fear behind. Curiosity to learn, to grow and to develop. Don’t let fear stop you from trying new things. Stay curious about the things that interest you. Read, learn and try them out. You never know what you don’t know until you know it.
What motivates you to keep on going? What drives you to strive harder? Take advantage of the fact that you are in a good place in your life to expand it further. You never know, it could be far greater than what it is now.
“I am so busy every day. At the end of the day, I don’t know if I accomplished anything?” Have you heard that before? Have you said it before? Have you looked at your calendar and wondered what are those back to back meetings for? At the end of a day, after sitting through 8-10 meetings, have you ever felt like you should be known as the meeting attendee and not by your job title? Have you realised that as your job responsibilities increases and grows, the number of meetings and length of meetings that you are attending also grows? Have you also wondered whether you have made an impact or not? Have you questioned your productivity and accomplishment in light of the busyness?
Personally, I have experienced my share of back to back meetings, a sense of great busyness and yet filled with a sense that I did not accomplish much or accomplished anything of great significance. Sure, I wanted to be part of decision making process or situations where my thoughts are valued and yet time and time again, I find myself asking “What would have happened if I did not attend?” Could I have used the time better?
A common phrase today that I hear from my clients is “I have no time. No time to do what I need to do. Time just races by.” The reality is that all of us has the same number of hours in a day as the next person. So the question is, why are some people seemingly more productive or are able to manage their time better? What is their secret?
As I explore further with my clients, there are usually some common themes that comes up to explain their busyness and it falls into these 3 categories:
- No or Lack of Focus and goals. There is a lack of focus or prioritization into what they would like to accomplish on a daily or weekly basis. When we start the day without an idea as to what you would like to accomplish even if it is just 1 thing, we are prone to just following the schedule of the day. It is also easy for other people to pull you into their agenda when you are not clear on what your outcomes are for the day. Having a clear outcome or goal from each meeting will help you come out of it with a sense that you have achieved.
- Difficulties in saying No. This is common sense and yet all of us fall victim to not being able to say No to some people out of obligation or if a manager asks us to. What could have been a great start to the day, turns into a random set of activities because the manager has given you a new task that he needs done. What can you do? How would you push back on your manager? You can try to negotiate but let’s face it, sometimes it’s just a matter of managing the random activities without feeling out of sorts. That in itself is an accomplishment.
- “No one else can do it.” syndrome. This is especially common for the high achievers, those of us who are very competent and good at what we do. We know we can do, others know we are do it and therefore the trap is to do it all. If we fall into that trap, there will never be enough hours in a day for you to complete 10 people’s work. The ability to “let go” and let others do their work is not just necessary but required. It is especially hard if you are the manager as ultimately you are accountable for the overall project. However, as a manager you will then need to play your role as a coach to guide them and as a manager to lead and manage.
Which category are you in? Busy or Productive? You can be busy and productive but you should avoid being busy and not productive. There are many books and reading materials on how to be productive or start the day right and so on, if you have not read them, do so and get some tips. Try some of them and see what works for you. In general, they would fall into these 3 categories:
- Start the day with clear goals. Identify what you would like to accomplish for the day. Write them out and refer to them throughout the day. Remind yourself what are the key things that needs to be completed. Focus on completing them before taking on more.
- Focus on the impactful and important activities. Putting the time and effort on the impactful and important activities will ensure that you get the best outcome. There will always be many tasks and activities to be completed but not all of them are equal in terms of impact and effort. Focus on spending the most time on the impactful ones which may not necessarily be the ones that you enjoy the most.
- Letting go to empower others to be successful. Empowering others to do their roles is critical for a manager. Micro managing your team never works for both you and your team. If you are part of a team, let the person who is responsible for a task to do it. Hold them accountable for what they are responsible for as you are responsible and accountable for yours. Just because you can or have done it before, does not mean that you continue to do it. You need to focus on what you are responsible for. Don’t take on more than you can handle even if you can.
The next time you catch yourself saying “I have no time or I am busy”, ask yourself “Am I busy or productive?” If the answer is I am busy and productive, great but if not, is there something that you like to change? The danger of not changing your approach will be, over time you will be tired, disillusioned, demotivated and resentful. Make the change, it will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to grow and learn.