You probably don’t have any trouble finding ways to spend your time. But are you using your time to its fullest? Probably not. Most people (including yours truly) struggle with wasting time to some extent. That’s a shame. Not only does this make it more difficult to move up in your career, it’s easier to fritter away the wonderful life you have.
But don’t despair. This is actually good news because it presents an opportunity. Once you start using your time more effectively you’ll make a lot more money, spend a lot more time doing things you really want to do, or maybe both. Let’s explore the top 7 ways to make better use of your time and how to capitalize on that new-found resource.
1. Do I have to do this?
It doesn’t matter if you are a small business owner or a career person. Before you do anything, ask yourself if it’s something you absolutely need to do. Take a moment to consider this carefully because there are actually two parts to this question.
First, consider if it is something that needs to get done at all. If it does need to be handled, decide if you are the best person to take care of it.
If you are a small business owner it’s a no-brainer to delegate tasks whenever possible. If you can pay someone $10 an hour to do something that frees up your time to earn $50 an hour, it’s a great deal.
But you can delegate even if you aren’t the big boss man or lady. And if you do this well, it might be your ticket to the corner office and get that promotion you’ve been looking for.
Let’s assume that as part of your job, you are responsible to get a mailer sent out to clients. You know that it will take 10 hours to get the job done. Since you get paid $25 an hour it is going to cost the business $250 to complete the work.
But what if you identify another person or company that can get the job done for a total of only $50? Bring that to your employer’s attention – she’ll jump at the chance to save that money. And she’ll remember you when it’s promotion time.
When you do this, you demonstrate responsibility, leadership and intelligence. Those are the kinds of traits business owners covet and pay handsomely for.
2. One Touch Email
Email that stays in your inbox eats up time because it commands your attention over and over again – even for a split second. It also distracts you and makes it harder to get back to the issues of the day.
I’m certainly not perfect at keeping an empty inbox all the time, but my “one touch” pledge helps a lot. What is the “one touch” system? It means I open an email one time. When I do, I act on it, delete it or file it if I need to use it for reference later on. This one tip frees up quite a lot of time each day and helps me stay focused on the things that really matter.
3. List of 3
Every evening, I make a list of 3 items that I absolutely must complete (or at least get in process with) before leaving the office the next day. These are the 3 most important tasks I can identify. I limit it to three tasks so the list is manageable. The last thing I want is to set myself up for failure.
I refer back to the list throughout the day and it helps me stay super productive at work. My list helps make sure I stay on target. As a result, I don’t get pulled into doing things that pop up that compete for my time. I get into the office and pull up the list. Then I start working on the thing I least want to do. This gives me a great sense of accomplishment and it also insures that I work on the hardest task when I have the most energy to accomplish it. Yippee Ki Yay!
I write about having an accountability artner (AP) all the time for a very good reason – because it works. In fact, my AP is my secret weapon. He keeps me on track.
At the start of the month, I commit to getting certain things done and share my list with him. At the end of the month, he holds me accountable for completing what I’ve committed to do. There is something really powerful about making a promise to someone else that really keeps our heels to the fire and makes us accomplish things like nobody’s business.
5. Just Say No
You probably don’t like to disappoint others. But if you want to be effective and use your time well, you’re going to have to stop spending your time as others want you to. That means you’re going to have to start saying “no” when distractions (even worthy ones) lead you off the path. My ‘list of three” reminds me to say “no” to distractions if I want to live up to the promise I made to myself to get the work done.
6. Multitasking – OUT
Multitasking stinks and wastes tons of time. You’ll do a far better job and get it done faster if you put all your energy into the task at hand – one task at a time. Forget the multitasking friend.
One of my children was preparing for a school test a few years ago and thought of herself as a multitasking maven. While she was “studying”, she was simultaneously texting, watching TV, watching YouTube videos and Facebooking her friends! Needless to say, the test results weren’t great. Thankfully she learned her lesson and is much better at doing one thing at a time. How about you?
7. Space Fillers
No matter how well you plan your day there will always be down time. That’s why it’s always smart to bring some important reading material or your laptop with you whenever you go to a meeting. Just in case there is a delay or bad communication you won’t sit there like a bump on a log waiting. You’ll be using your precious time getting items off of your “list of 3”. Bada Bing!
If you most of your time doing valuable tasks you’re bound to be successful. It gives you a huge edge on most other people who get sucked into wasting time without even realizing it.
None of these 7 ideas are new – you’ve heard them all before. But I’m guessing you aren’t implementing all of them. You may not be using any of these ideas. I guess that’ s because you aren’t perfect yet. That’s OK – neither am I. I constantly need to remind myself of what works and recommit to sticking to the program. That’s why I’m asking you to pick at least one item from this list and really work it. If so, which one? What other tricks do you use to make sure you are spending your time wisely? What works best?