Image courtesy of: Julia Kim Smith/Shamim Momin, Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria
‘Tempus fugit – time flies. Life is short. I can’t believe another year’s gone by…’
People say all sorts of things about time, usually about how little of it they have. Many of us genuinely lead busy lives and do find it hard to fit everything in – work, family, hobbies, exercise. But leading a happy and fulfilled life and achieving all our goals does require the skill of handling our time well. Time is a resource and must be managed.
Keep a record of what you are doing with your time.
Keeping a proper record of what you’re doing is a really important first step in managing your time and hence being more productive. When I tried this for myself, it turned out that there were vast swathes of my time that weren’t being used productively at all. Although I always regarded myself as having no time and being far too busy to do any more than I was already doing, in fact there was plenty of time spent on pretty meaningless things such as watching TV, surfing the Internet (not in a productive way), or just lying around.
What I found was that, in fact, I had plenty of time to spare. It’s all a matter of priorities – if you really want to do something, there is time. You just need to find it. Keeping a record of where your time is going will help you to do this. You could be amazed by just how much time you do have!
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
– Harvey MacKay
Use your time more creatively
Do you spend a lot of time traveling? What do you do with that one hour daily commute to work? How about when you’re sitting in an airport departure lounge, or when you’re waiting for a train, or sitting in Starbucks waiting for a friend?
Times like this can be used more constructively. I generally carry a bag around with me and the bag will contain a book or two, usually something with a self improvement theme.
Haven’t got time to do affirmations? I thought I had this problem until I realized that I had at least one shower every day and usually two, so instead of just daydreaming randomly through this time, I started to spend it saying my affirmations.
Don’t let routines rule your life. If you usually go the gym after work but you need to work late one day, you could go early in the morning or at lunchtime, or even late at night. Maybe you could go to a different gym that’s nearer your work. My own job is very busy and unpredictable, but I still manage to get the gym three times a week (almost) without fail.
Enjoy what you are doing
In other words, live in the moment. Don’t rush from one thing to another. Just take your time and do whatever you’re doing as well as you can before moving on to the next thing. Multitasking is a myth – you’re doing things in rapid succession, but you’re flicking your attention quickly from one thing to another and, in the process, doing everything less well. I have learned through experience that multitasking is a sure fire way to become exhausted and be less productive.
Give yourself a break
You need down time. You can’t be doing ‘productive’ activities all the time. So it’s really important that you take some time to get away from all that productivity. But make sure this is really good, quality time. Watching TV is not a good way to relax – it’s too stimulating and, depending on what you’re watching, it can make you feel terrible! Randomly browsing the Internet is also not a good idea, and nor is spending time on Facebook, MSN, ICQ or playing computer games.
Try to find something that’s genuinely relaxing – having lunch with a friend, listening to a relaxing CD or some affirmations. It’s also important to get enough sleep.
Getting proper down time for yourself will actually make you more productive. I read a really interesting story recently about someone who conducted a productivity study of workers carrying large, heavy materials. The managers were getting the laborers to work flat out all day with only the minimum number of breaks allowed. Obviously, they thought that rest time was wasted time. The consultant brought in for the study decided to carry out a trial – half of the workers would carry on as usual, and the other half would take longer and more frequent rests. The managers were skeptical, but the second group ended up shifting four times more material than the first group, despite spending more time resting.
The moral of the story is obvious – we need to rest or else we will tire out and become unproductive.
Time can be your friend rather than your enemy. But you have to make it so. As with everything in life, the key is in being proactive.
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