If someone asks you how you are and you answer, “Busy” instead of “Fine” then you are too busy! This calls for immediate intervention. Inevitably, we all have busy times in our lives when we are working on a big project. However, if you are chronically busy, then it may be time to get a bit of perspective on life and take some time out. A long weekend away could make all the difference.
I have many cures for busy people in the bestselling book, Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips to Accomplish Your Personal and Professional Goals. Here are two simple and easy tips you can implement immediately to reclaim your time.
The first tip is to start showing up ten minutes early to every appointment whether business or personal. Now, if you are super busy, the first thing you’re thinking is that you can’t afford the time. However, you actually can’t afford not to take the time. Use these ten minutes to breathe deeply, sit and meditate. Do not use this time to mess about with your phone! By showing up ten minutes early to everything, you’ll suddenly feel an abundance of time. This dramatically reduces stress and takes you off the adrenaline of rushing around. You’ll come across as a calm, cool professional. Experiment with this tip for one week and let me know how you feel afterwards. I’ve yet to have a client say it didn’t transform their entire relationship to time.
The second tip is to spend a few minutes every morning thinking about your day. You’ll ask yourself three questions and jot down the answers:
- “What’s important about today?”
- “What must get done today?”
- “What’s important about the future?”
By asking these three questions, you’ll be using Stephen Covey’s four quadrant time management technique without realizing it.
You focus on what is important both now and in the future, while ignoring the unimportant and non-urgent things that distract you and ultimately waste your time. Use this as your to do list for the day and you’ll be able to get the important things done.
When you think about what is important, make sure to think about your entire life, not just your working life. The most important thing might be that today is your daughter’s 5th birthday and you need to get home early to get her cake. Or maybe you have an important phone call and need to spend some time preparing what you want to say. When you ask yourself the second question, “What must get done today?” don’t give yourself a laundry list of everything you’d like to get done today. Instead, only write the things that absolutely must get done today. Maybe you have an important meeting that you must attend or a client that you must call. You’ll start to see that relatively few things must get done today. This can be liberating.
If you have a lot of “musts,” then you haven’t been in the practice of asking the third question, “What is important about the future?” This question forces you to plan ahead so you aren’t blind-sided at the last minute. Consider both the near-term future – that sales pitch to make next month – and also the long-term future – that next career change you want to make.
Entire books have been written about time management. It can be overwhelming. But, if you focus on these three questions, your life will not only become easier, but also you’ll save the time of reading all those books. You can’t manage time; you can manage your activities. Still too busy after trying these two tips? Then it’s time to delegate more!