Are You Getting The Right Things Done?
Budgets are often talked about in monetary terms to ensure finite resources are focused for best return and managed with discipline. Why not apply the same principle to your scarcest resource - time.
It is easy to fall into the trap of being always on the go. Time slips through your fingers like water as you juggle multiple tasks. Often there's a sense that there's no time left over for relaxation and self-care. Or you cram what you can when you can all the while feeling anxious about the other tasks that require your attention. You reach the end of the day wondering what you've achieved and found it hard to sleep as your mind is buzzing. The result is exhausting. The 'to do' list gets longer. You have pulled in so many directions that it is hard to focus. It can feel as if life is unfolding at a whim instead of being an active participant in shaping your future and deciding what's best for you.
There is another way.Try budgeting time in the same manner as you budget for other precious resources. Get started by choosing a work task that you'd like to complete and a personal activity that you'd like to enjoy. It is not about being miserly with your time or losing the fun of spontaneity. Creating a time budget for critical work and longed-for personal space puts you back in control. Be prepared for slip-ups along the way and exercise self-compassion by accepting that no one is perfect. By applying the principle of time budgeting to the vital few rather than the trivial many, you will be more likely to succeed.
Here's how to get started:
1. Audit how you spend your time. Often our calendar says one thing, but our day to day activities tell a different story. How do you spend your time? Think back over the past week. Where are the time leaks? Here are some common ones with a few ideas for making improvements:
Meetings- Do you need to be at all those meetings? Could someone else go in your place and report back? Is a meeting required at all? If so, do you need an hour or more? Remember that the hour setting in your meeting planner is by default and not compulsory. Often meetings can become an excuse for inactivity - as if talking is the same as acting. More can get done when there is a clear agenda, and participants are asked to come prepared to contribute. What about holding a shorter standing meeting? How about having your meeting while walking outside - you'll get the benefit of exercise too.
Social media/email- Do you continually check social media? Are you conditioned to look at your smartphone every few minutes? Is opening email the first task of the day? The last one is an instant focus killer. Soon you are in reactive mode and the first hour or so of your day is sucked dry by dealing with routine email. Why not budget the first hour of your working day to progress a vital task? Then deal with the email. Feel a sense of satisfaction that you've made strides forward on something meaningful. It is a great way to start the day.
Distractions and interruptions- Interruptions can be self-made by allowing ourselves to become distracted by bright shiny new things. Our focus can also be disrupted by not being prepared or having difficulty in accessing the relevant information necessary to complete a task. Sometimes we lack boundaries. The result is that our time leaks away as others choose to spend it for us.
The key is to identify the most common interruptions and do something about them. It can be as simple as letting co-workers know that you are spending time on a particular task. Or add a message to your email or voicemail stating you will respond by a specific time. People respond better to positive words, i.e. 'I will respond to your email by XXX' rather than 'Sorry I'm busy right now and can't respond as quickly as usual'. Request a detailed message so that when you respond, you can do so thoroughly, which will save you and them time.
2. Decide how to allocate your time. Start by visualising yourself as you want to be. A useful self-management technique is to see yourself as already a well-organised and highly productive person. What would be different about the way you behave? Create a picture of yourself as calm, confident, highly effective and about to complete an important task. Imagine what a highly productive person would do. Would that person's desk be clean and tidy? Would that person appear unhurried yet capable? Create a clear mental picture of yourself as a person who is in control of their time and life.
Now try 'acting as if' you are that person. Think of yourself as organised in everything you do. How would you approach your day? What would be different about the way you act? What systems and processes would you put in place to help you? Using visualisation is a powerful way to help you form good habits. It is especially useful if you commit to act by naming the task, then allocate time to do it on a specific date in a particular place. If you can imagine it, you can work to become it.
3. Apply your time-budget. Now choose a work task that you may have been putting off. Allocate a budget of time over a week to work on it. Schedule the time in your calendar and - now the hardest part - stick to it. Similarly, what personal activity have you avoided (e.g. arranging that medical or dental check-up)? Now book it in and budget time to deal with it. How about creating a time budget for relaxation, exercise and fun? Book that theatre trip, buddy up with a friend to do that park run, allocate time to read that best-seller that's been gathering dust. Mark it in your calendar. Tell others you are committed to doing it as this will reinforce the decision as to how you will spend the time in your mind.
Remember, the better you budget your time, the better you will feel. With more energy, you will get the things done that are important to you - at work and at home. After all, if you don't take your time seriously, why should anyone else?
About Beverly Landais
Beverly is a professional certified coach (PCC). Beverly comes to coaching from a senior business background, including board level. Her purpose is simple. She works with people to help them be at their resourceful best. She can help you do the things that promote wellbeing, bring personal as well as professional satisfaction and make you happy.
M: 07792 223756