When multitasking, you can lose up to 40% Productivity -
Professor Earl Miller, Neuroscientist: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
We all feel time poor at one time or another. Feeling overwhelmed as our tasks increase, sometimes it can be hard to decide what to do first! Everything is important. Everyone is urgent and is competing for our time. At the end of the day, we can feel exhausted and as though we have been running around in circles not accomplishing much.
I get it. This used to be me and my clients. We can find ourselves back there from time to time. Yet, now we have the tools to regain control and clarity.
Don’t worry, I got you!
In this blog, I will share some tools and tips to help get you back on track.
To start, you need to get it out of your head.
Think of your to-do lists, ideas, and everything in between that keeps running around your head.
Your mind keeps going back and forth to the same thing because it tries to find solutions and it doesn’t want to forget anything.
Here are three ways in which you can do that:
1. A Spider Diagram
A spider diagram is a visual diagram that helps you organise tasks and ideas. On a piece of paper layout your ideas while connecting or linking the related items through lines.
Being a visual person this is one of my favourite ways to brain dump. Using my colouring pens keeps my creativity and attention in one place. This also helps me to identify any missing pieces/tasks or obstacles and make a plan.
Now that you have it out of your head, you will find you will have more mind power for other things.
There are lots of studies about the relationship between writing and memory. The main finding is that writing things down rather than typing helps with the retention of information.
2. Strategic To-do List
Now we have it out of our head, let’s make a strategic to-do list! You will need a piece of paper and some post-it notes.
This method is known as the Eisenhower Matrix. It is an effective way to prioritise and manage tasks and your time.
When you write your to-do list, you have to sort it out into four priority levels:
High Important & High Priority
High Important & Low Priority
Low Important & High Priority
Low Important & Low Priority
Let’s do this - Draw a quadrant on a piece of paper.
In the bottom left corner write low.
On the bottom right corner, write high.
On the top left corner, write high.
On the left vertical write urgent and the bottom horizontal write important.
Now write one task on one post-it note and place rate it and place it in the corresponding square.
Is this task high or low urgency? Is this task of high or low importance?
Now place it in the relative square. Continue doing this with each task.
Everything in my low-low box, I delegate.
My attention goes to my high highs. I usually get the top three things from that quadrant and prioritise them for the day. Once complete, I move on to the next tasks.
The next box I turn my attention to is my High Important - these tasks tend to keep my business going forward - the engine of moving forward.
The high urgent I see as squeaky wheels. It is a bit of a balancing game between High Important & Low Priority, and Low Important & High Priority. Use your judgement. As you continue to do this process, you will find that you will get less and less squeaky wheels.
High urgent I also look at delegating out too - what can you delegate?
Trust me. When you get these out from your head, you will feel lighter! So start scheduling high-highs, start delegating the low-lows and do a balancing game on high-lows.
3. Secret Sauce
Try to make as many routines as you can - meeting days, site days, client day. Try to be as consistent as possible, yes I can hear you, ‘that’s not always possible, every week is adhoc’.
I get it. I used to think like that too. But, I am now going to invite you into challenging that thought!
Is it all Adhoc because you do not have control over your time and have not set boundaries?
High performers, control their time and have boundaries.
Give it a go for two weeks, see what you discover?
It has been a game-changer for me. I want that for you!
Now I have a couple of bonus which you can incorporate into the learning above.
Bonus 1: Boundary time
Did you know that you can create boundaries and train people to adhere to them (without them knowing!)?
You know when you are in the middle of working, someone pops in or interrupts your flow? I want you to try something new. The key is consistency here. It will be hard at first, especially if you are a pleaser type personality, but I would love you to give this a go and see what results from it you achieve.
Ask them - "Is this an urgent right now problem or can it wait until ___________?"
Depending on your availability, you can say, until this afternoon or tomorrow.
If they say, ‘it is not urgent, yes it can wait until later.’
You then follow it up with, "Can you send me a meeting invite, that way I will beagle to give you 100% of my attention… Is that okay?"
When you are consistent with this question as your opener, they will start asking the question before approaching you and will send you an invite to discuss it.
Now you can keep focused, reduce interruptions and get them to assess the issue at hand and even come to an alternative solution themselves! - By developing you, you are developing them.
Bonus 2: Getting it done!
Book each task in your diary.
Make sure you are putting in 5-minute breaks every 1.5hours or so to get a glass of water and stretch your legs. This is like the break in between a set of reps at the gym. It allows your mind to recover a bit before you start using it again.
Your brain is a muscle. Think of your performance at the gym, doing 2 sets of 10 or 3 sets of 15 reps. You break between each set to allow your muscles to recover, enabling you to complete your sets strong and increase stamina.
What would happen if you were to go to the gym and try to do 30 straight reps. How would your performance compare between doing it like this vs the smaller sets with reps?
Now, put this perspective onto your brain. Our brain is a muscle. If we work without giving it time to recover or breathe, we will become mentally exhausted by the end of the day. We have to build our mental stamina too so we can perform at our highest.
Find the sweet spot that will work for you. For example, I work about an hour and 15 minutes before having a mini-break, to keep at my high performance. It is a matter of breathing, centring, and coming back again.
When your head is clear, your focus and performance will improve. Effective time management does not happen overnight. It requires a lot of repetition to master it. Use my suggested tips for a week and let me know if it works for you. You may be surprised how much more time you seem to have.
I do not expect you to implement all of these tools all at once. Look at doing one, one week and then adding another as you move through your weeks. The key is consistency.
You’ve got this! The proof will be in your action.
Which one are you going to do first?
If you would like to know more about how you can improve your time management and performance, contact me directly to have a confidential conversation on 1300 114 818 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.