Not a day goes by that a client doesn’t tell me that they’re working harder, longer, and faster, but without the results to prove it. Additionally, they lament over their lack of a personal life or quality time at home. But, before they hit the panic button or give their manager an ultimatum to hire more employees, I always encourage them to first look at their personal effectiveness and efficiency.
The most productive people, and those with the best work-life balance, know how to manage their time wisely. If you feel like you need to “get off the treadmill or else,” first give yourself a time management check-up and see if you’re guilty of these 8 unproductive habits.
No vision, goals, or priorities
If productivity and effective time management are about producing desired or intended results, then first and foremost it is imperative to have a well-defined vision, specific and measurable goals, and to know your top priorities. You may be able to work efficiently to accomplish a project, but you won’t get any bonus points for completing a project your manager doesn’t deem as valuable to the organization while more important tasks remain unfinished.
No plan, schedule, or blocks of time
Plan for tomorrow before you leave today. You will sleep better tonight and have an even more productive day tomorrow. Categorize your time by A’s: Highest Priority and Urgent; B’s: High Priority, but Not Urgent; C’s: Low Priority and Urgent; D’s: Low Priority, and Not Urgent. And last, E’s: Personal Time. Work on your A’s and B’s first. Set hard timeframes by scheduling the minutes or hours needed for each task on your calendar. While prioritizing, ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time?”
No margin (for thinking, creating, or innovating)
Establishing unscheduled blocks of time in your schedule takes stress out of your life when unexpected challenges arise or meetings run longer than expected. If you have a meeting scheduled from 8:00-9:00 a.m., leave margin and schedule your next meeting at 9:30 a.m. It’s also important to carve out time to innovate or solve problems by scheduling time specifically for planning and creating. Close your door and limit distractions.
Identify what you are working on right now that someone else could handle, and even find variety, inspiration, and growth in. Some leaders fall into the trap of thinking they are the only one who can complete a task or they can do it better than anyone else. Consequently, they spend too much time working on projects that are beneath their pay grade and rob them of time spent on higher level priorities or time for personal interests.
No sleep or exercise
Get the right amount of sleep for your body. Too much or too little sleep makes you sluggish and destroys your productivity. Determine your energy cycle. What times of the day or night are you at maximum output? Schedule your most taxing tasks during peak energy periods. Get some exercise, too. Working out will keep your brain sharp and support optimal productivity.
Too many (ineffective) meetings
Select the best participants for the meeting so that you involve people with the greatest expertise, those who will be most affected by the topic, and individuals with the authority to make decisions. Gain agreement on the start and end time for each meeting, and stick to it. Develop an agenda and send it out prior to the meeting to ensure everyone knows in advance what they will be responsible for at the meeting. Identify a time keeper to keep everyone on track. If you don’t need to attend the entire meeting, agree to attend at a specific time that pertains to your role.
Too much socializing or personal business
Disconnect. Turn off your email and phone, and separate yourself from all forms of social media for a period of time to allow you to focus. As effective as email can be for increasing communication efficiency, it’s also high on the list of the biggest time wasters, incessantly interrupting our focus. Set specific time(s) each day to respond to email, and avoid reading it each time your computer notifies you that you have a new message. Limit in-person social conversations as well. Surf the net and conduct personal business at home or on your lunch break.
Too many fears, so much procrastination
By definition, procrastination is the intentional and habitual postponement of a task in order to do a task of less importance. We often choose to do what comes easiest or is most familiar to us. Identify what is getting in your way – what are you avoiding – what are you afraid of? Conquer your fears by analyzing what is the worst possible thing that could happen. Then ask yourself, “Can I live with the worst possible scenario?” Most times, we can live with the worst possible outcome. Take action immediately; this is the only real solution to winning the battle with procrastination.
What is the prognosis of your time management check-up? Download our Time Log and track the use of your time in 15-minute increments for one to two weeks. You will gain tremendous insight about where you spend your time, what you should delegate, and what you can do differently to increase your productivity. This free Time Log can be downloaded by clicking here: Daily Time Log Worksheet.
Take action today to more effectively and efficiently use the 168 hours you have been given this week!