If you are honest, you’d probably “sell your soul” just to add another hour to every day. This finite, perishable inventory called TIME has become an obsession and a noose around our twenty-first century necks. One of life’s most precious resources, time is now a vicious enemy we’re driven to conquer. It’s sad. And the worst part? We’ve waged a battle we can’t possibly win.
What, then, is the solution? I think it’s time to make friends with TIME. I think we must stop fighting it and start honoring it. This means we need to be good stewards of the hours granted to us instead of grabbing greedily for more. How to do it? Get conscious. Get clear. Get organized. It’s a no-fail formula if you’re willing to follow it.
Practice the following tips consistently, and I guarantee you’ll discover time you didn’t know you had:
Identify your top 3 priorities at the beginning of your day. While fifty tasks may appear on your “to do” list, believe me when I tell you that they are not all priorities. Figure out the top three by answering questions like these: Through which activities, conversations, or projects can I create the biggest impact? What has to get done that only I can do? How can I, personally, contribute most significantly to workplace success? This exercise lets you to cut to the chase and hit the ground running.
Visualize your day upon waking. Do a mental walk-through before you get out of bed. Know where you’re going to start and where you want to wind up. Identify the various steps involved. Determine a reasonable, logical order of events. Imagine yourself moving smoothly from one thing to the next. Mind pictures help to eliminate wheel spinning and position you for moving forward.
Calm yourself before diving in. Set aside ten minutes to sit alone after you arrive at work. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Read an inspiring message. Recall a happy memory. Say a prayer. Believe that you are capable of handling all that comes your way. Ultimately, you are more time efficient when you are grounded.
Collect what you need up front. Before beginning to tackle anything — a project, a phone call, a meeting, a report —gather the necessary data, physical resources, and people. Shocking amounts of time burn up when you hunt materials and track down people you could have collected at the outset. Plan what you need in advance, and have it available at your fingertips. Stop interrupting yourself.
Categorize your tasks and block time for them. Commit to reading and responding to emails at scheduled intervals. Earmark an hour a day to write a major document. Allocate thirty minutes to contact prospective customers first thing every morning Avoid jack-in-a box syndrome: writing a few sentences in a report, hopping to emails, placing a phone call, then returning to the report only to repeat the same process all over again. Transitions are costly.
Reserve your work surface for pressing priorities. Cluttered desks steal time. Maybe you’re losing an hour a day frantically searching for information you swear is buried somewhere in the piles. Forfeiting five hours a week this way is crazy. Develop a filing system that serves you. Store only the materials relevant to your most important priorities on your work surface.
Delegate tasks to others. Despite what your ego whispers, other people can – and often want to – lighten your load. It’s likely your plate is heaped with things employees or colleagues could do for you. Learn to delegate to free up your time for the work you really ought to be doing. This is especially critical if you are a manager.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Scientists conclude that multi-tasking in general is ineffective and wastes time. You may think you can talk on the phone, plan an event, and type messages simultaneously, but your risk of making mistakes increases. Going back and correcting those errors draws minutes and hours from your time bank. Why not finish one of these tasks first before tackling another?
Clean up troubled relationships. It’s both exhausting and time consuming to deal with sabotage, struggle, resistance, resentment, and retaliation. The more difficult relationships you must finesse in your sphere, the less time you have to do your real job. Reach out to resolve conflicts, dissolve grudges, and build trust. Healthy relationships actually save time in the long run.
Schedule complex projects and tricky conversations during your best time of day. When you are functioning at your highest level physically, mentally, and emotionally, you obtain desired results faster than when you try to grapple with major challenges during slump times. If early or late mornings are ideal for you, capitalize on them. Be strategic as you organize your day.
The key is to value your time enough so that you eagerly apply a proactive approach to filling it. The answer to the time dilemma lies not in wishing for more of it but in plugging up the leaks.
This article originally appeared in Pennlive.