Talane’s Top 10 Tips to Get More Time
1.Turn Off Your Television
High “flow” activities are optimal experiences— the times when we are happiest, with our minds actively engaged, that make life worth living. Not surprisingly, watching television is one of the lowest flow activities. What does that mean? TV drains your energy. It is addictive in much the same way that food, caffeine, gambling, alcohol, or any other overused substance or activity is addictive. Not only is it a socially acceptable addiction, like caffeine, it is socially encouraged. The typical American watches over six hours of TV a day. That adds up to forty-two hours week—enough for a full-time job! And you thought you didn’t have enough time. Just give your TV to a friend for a week and see how much time you’ll have.
One client used to watch a morning news program while getting ready for work. As an experiment, I suggested that he stop for one week. He was amazed. He felt more peaceful and organized. Another client replaced TV by listing all the fun activities or courses she had always wanted to do but never seemed to have time for. She jumped in and found that she didn’t miss TV at all and her social life started to percolate. If you live alone, television can give you the illusion you are with other people.
Try limiting your TV viewing to consciously selected programs and turn the set off when they are over. Decide how many hours a week you will watch and stick to it. Beware! Television is more costly than you realize and actually reduces your ability to attract what you want in life.
Average time saved: 26 hours a week (add up your own weekly totals to see your personal time savings, but track religiously for one week first)!
2. Take a Break from all Social Media (average time saved is 26+ hours a week)
Take a break from your social media for one week and see how much extra time you now have. Alternatively, track the time you currently spend on social media for one week. Studies show that social media is now taking over TV as the biggest time waster, but I suspect people are doing them simultaneously. When you’ve have gotten off your addiction, check your social media 1 to 2 times a day and you’ll find you’ll be more productive thanks to eliminating this constant interruption in your train of thought. Same rule applies to emails. Check email twice a day max unless your job is to be constantly checking emails (like a receptionist).
3. Set a Timer
If work expands to fill the available time, the solution is to reduce the amount of time you have to get the work done. When pressed, most people can get the job done in half the time they are currently using. Have you ever noticed that the day before you are leaving for a trip you always manage to clean out an entire in-box that has been jammed for weeks? There is nothing like an incentive to get a body moving. How could you get your work done in half the time? It may take some creative thinking, but it is well worth the effort.
If you have a pile of paperwork on your desk, set an alarm or a kitchen time for one hour and see if you can beat the clock. Tons of files to clean up? Set a morning aside and get a buddy who wants to work on a project of his or her own. Every hour call each other up for a two-minute progress report. One of my clients kept saying she was going to clean up all the piles of papers in her office, but it just wasn’t getting done. We set up a Saturday morning, I worked on my in-box and she worked on hers. She called me every hour to report her progress and I gave her a pep talk to keep her going. In three hours she cleared her desk and two file drawers and she felt terrific!
This turns a dreary task into a fun game. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish. The ultimate goal is to have as much time as possible for yourself and for the fun things in life. People who are having a great time easily attract success; opportunities come to them. So get your work done in half the time.
You can get other time management articles here.
4. Batch Your Tasks
You’ll be much more efficient if you batch like tasks with like tasks instead of spreading them throughout the day. This is why checking emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon saves time. Batch your phone calls as well. Let calls go to voice mail and then return them all in a batch.
5. Arrive 10 Minutes Early
Counterintuitive, yes, but one of the fastest and simplest way to create the experience of having more time in your life is to show up ten minutes early to every business and personal appointment. It sounds like a waste of time, after all, you could make one more phone call in those 10 minutes. However, in this case, by doing less you gain more—more time, peace, and awareness. By arriving early you have time to compose your thoughts, take in the environment, and relax. As an experiment, try showing up ten minutes early for one week.
One client, a very successful businessman who was always running late, reluctantly agreed to try it for a week. To make sure he would arrive early, I asked him to write down in his calendar the time he needed to leave instead of the time he needed to be there. It wasn’t easy, but he succeeded in arriving ten minutes early for an appointment with a prospective client. He had a chance to sit, take in the surroundings, and compose his thoughts. So who has the advantage already? That short time gave him a sense of peacefulness and enabled him to relax and focus on the client. The lunch was a success.
Another way to help you show up early is by under-promising. Instead of saying “I’ll be there in twenty minutes”, say thirty minutes. That way if you get stuck in traffic your client won’t be waiting around for you. A reserve of time gives you an opportunity to slow down, to think about who you are going to be talking to and what you are going to say. It is the sign of a true professional.
6. Do One Thing at a Time
Rushing around doing ten things at once is not efficient. Give yourself permission to do one thing at a time. In reality, that’s all you can do so accept it and focus on doing one thing consciously and well. I hear you protesting that you have to do multiple tasks at once. Look at a typical busy day. You’re working on a report and the phone rings. You’re talking on the phone and looking at the report when someone comes up to interrupt you. Now you are doing three things at once. No wonder you feel exhausted at the end of the day.
Now imagine the same situation in slow motion. You are working on the report, the phone rings, you STOP working and pick up the phone, you START a conversation. Now someone comes in with a question. Either you STOP the phone conversation and START a new conversation, or you STOP the interruption, complete the phone call and START the new conversation. You STOP that, then START the report again. Your life is a series of starts, changes, and stops. Do one thing at a time consciously and deliberately instead of pretending that you are doing three things at once. It is wonderfully liberating.
When I consciously did one thing at a time at the office, I felt in control instead of harried and put upon. It is obviously stressful to try to do more than one thing at a time, and there is nothing attractive about stressed-out people. You will miss great opportunities if you are too busy to see them. This week make a point of only doing one thing at a time.
7. Track Your Time
If you have the feeling that time is going by too quickly and you just don’t know where it is all going, it is time to take a closer look. Take one week and track your time in 15- minute increments. Just record as accurately as possible what you really do in a regular week. You will have a precise record of where your time is going, and you will be able to make some intelligent decisions based in reality. Most people are appalled to discover how much of their time is spent in seemingly important tasks that in the end are not fulfilling or could be easily delegated.
One client discovered he spent over 16 hours a week commuting. To maximize that time he played books on audio. Another big time waster was phone calls. He eliminated the chitchat and found that two-minute calls were more productive. He thought he was organized, but the log revealed he spent 3 hours a week looking for memos and other things on his desk. At home, the big time waster was watching 15 hours a week of TV!
Track your time and see what you are really doing. Ask yourself if this is how you want to be spending the most precious and irreplaceable commodity in your life. Then start automating, delegating, and deleting the time wasters and start using that time for working on one of your big, exciting goals.
8. Say “No” to What You Don’t Want
In another article, we talked about using the Joy Filter for decision making. (See related article here.) In other words, if it isn’t bringing you joy, then why is it in your life? You only have so much time on this planet and how you use that time is your choice. If you aren’t careful, you can easily fritter away your precious time on people and things that aren’t that important or meaningful to you.
One of my clients is a very warm, wonderful human being and he befriends everyone who comes into his life. He can’t help it because he simply loves people. The problem is that he spends so much time helping others he is left with no time for himself or his family. One of his personal coaching goals is to have more time with his family. I gave him the assignment of defining what “more time” actually looks like. He decided that he’d be happy with a “normal” working week of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the rest of his time he would be available for his family. Even if that means they are just together in a room, at least they are together. They don’t have to be doing anything in particular. Since he usually works 80-90 hours a week, this “normal” week will be quite a big change for him.
In order to get make this change, he is turning off his cell phone and returning calls in batches when it is convenient for him or returning the call by email, which is more efficient. This change alone is freeing up huge amounts of time as he was in the habit of dropping everything to talk to a caller who might want to discuss his marital problems or some other personal topic. Second, he has defined his Circle of Ten closest people in the world. These are the people he wants to make sure have his time and attention. All the others he will handle more expeditiously or in batches as above. This sounds callous, but when you are loved by so many people, you have to make some hard choices.
His assignment this week is to say “no” to the jobs and clients that don’t make it through the joy filter.
One of the dangers of the attraction principles is that they work. And, they work so quickly in most cases that it can be a bit scary. He is attracting new clients from out of the blue without any effort on his part. But does he want all these clients? Just because you attract them, does not mean you have to say yes to the opportunity. The more attractive you become, the stronger your filters need to be. And, ironically, you’ll discover that as you put stronger filters in place, you will then become even more attractive!
9. Do Complete Work
It may seem that the only way to save time is to get the job done as quickly as possible. While that may save time in the short run, doing complete work saves time in the long run and gives you the mental space and clarity to tackle the next project. Complete work is done so well and so thoroughly that it won’t come back to haunt you.
Suppose a customer calls in and complains that an erroneous fee was charged to his account. The customer service representative reverses the charge and a credit appears on the next statement. But there is also a new charge for that month’s statement. The representative took care of the fee, but did not get to the source of the problem. The client then writes a complaint letter to the president’s office, and ten other employees get involved. Make it a company policy to do complete work and watch your problems disappear. At home, suppose you decide to wash the car. You use long-lasting polish to protect the finish, polish the chrome, and vacuum the glove compartment. You do a complete job. If you really go all out on a project, it is personally fulfilling. You’ll be proud of your work.
You can do this in relationships too. What would your relationships be like if you said everything that needed to be said and made sure that nothing was left hanging? I have talked to many people who have never thanked their parents for bringing them into this world or told them that they love them. It is far better to express your love and forgiveness while your parents are still alive. You will free up plenty of mental space when you make a standard of doing complete work and tying up loose ends in all areas of your life.
10. On Being Present
I was just speaking with a marketing executive and mother of two who said she never feels like she lives in the present. When she is at work, she is thinking about her kids and home. When she is at home, she is thinking about work. I told her I could sort this out for her right away. The solution: stop doing that. The one thing we do have some control over is our thoughts. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it really is that simple. If you are at work and catch yourself thinking about the kids, stop, remind yourself that this is your work time and get back to work. Ditto for home. It is usually mother’s guilt that is the source and this guilt serves no purpose.
All working mothers and fathers have to make a choice about how much time they want to spend working, and how much time they want to spend with their children. There is no one right or best answer. I’ve seen Type A driven executive women who thought they would hire a full-time nanny and return to work do a 180 when they have children and decide to be full-time mothers. I’ve seen women who were keen to stay at home decide they were bored out of their minds and needed to get back into the workforce for their own sanity.
My own solution is to work three days a week while the kids are little. For the moment, that feels like the right balance. When I go to work, I really focus 100% on work and when I’m at home with the kids, I focus on the kids. I’ve also found really good child-care so that I can leave the children, knowing they are in excellent hands. If you don’t feel your child-care is adequate, then naturally, you will worry. If you feel generally guilty, then re-examine your choices. Are you not happy with the amount of time you spend at home or at work? What can you do about it? Would you feel better if you had better child-care? Once you’ve made your decision, then you can banish the guilt and be 100% present. While you might be able to function at work without being 100% present, you cannot do this at home. Your children will know immediately if you are present or not so there is no escaping this one! This applies equally to fathers, by the way.
If you’ve enjoyed these tips, they were adapted from Coach Yourself to Success where you will find 101 tips by Talane Miedaner (McGraw-Hill).