It seems like a distant memory, but maybe it’s one you have as well: as a teen, I remember regularly proclaiming to my parents, “I am bored!” This was usually met with silence or the retort, “Well, then find something to do!” I can’t recall the last time an adult told me that they were bored. In fact, most clients I work with at Rewire have the opposite problem. As simple as it seems, we all struggle with time management. And this is not a small problem. When people do not have control of their time, it can lead to a toxic cycle of:
- Feeling stressed or upset
- Not getting important things done
- Not having enough time for your health, family and friends, and learning
In 1930, world-renowned economist John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay titled "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes made the prediction that by the time his children had grown up (basically, now), people would be working just 15 hours a week. He based this prediction on the idea that advances in science, technology, and industry would result in efficiency gains that would allow industrialized nations to drastically reduce the number of working hours for people.
Sadly, Keynes’s prediction is far from the reality of today.
I’ve been on both sides of this issue. I spent 30 years in the software business and helped hundreds of organizations and people leverage software technology to do things more efficiently. I was able to help take complex tasks that used to take hours or days down to a few minutes or seconds in some cases. But at the same time, I have seen how technology has encroached on us with a 24x7 hours, 365 days a year expectation of “connectedness” and nearly constant distractions. And just as I have yet to meet an adult complaining about being bored, I have yet to work with a client who doesn’t struggle with how to deal with these demands, distractions, and how they interfere with time-management.
According to an informal survey conducted by time-management consultant Donald Wetmore of the Productivity Institute, the average person gets one interruption every eight minutes and the average interruption lasts five minutes. 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as “little value” or “no value,” creating nearly 3 hours of wasted time per day. If you have 8 hours of work to get done on a daily basis, but 3 of your working hours go to “interruptions of little value,” then it’s no wonder so many struggle with time-management and feel overwhelmed on a daily basis!
Now, let’s actually do something about this. Since 2016 will soon be upon us, it is a great time to revisit your time-management practices.
In order to get more out of time, and have a more fulfilling 2016 for our work and lives, I surveyed several executives who are very skilled at time-management. I then ran their responses against recent and compelling research on the subject and have distilled this list into a current list of "10 Best Time-management Practices.” We’ll cover numbers one two today and over the next few months, I’ll cover the remainder of this list in more detail.
10 Best Time-management Practices:
- Have a solid morning routine
- Get out of the email jail (texting and messaging too)
- Block time
- Create a bullet-proof daily “to do” system
- Learn a prioritization matrix for that “To Do” system
- Have the courage to say “no” to meetings, assignments and interruptions
- Single-tasking instead of multi-tasking
- Don’t get derailed by your Lizard Brain
- Take frequent and systematic breaks
- Don’t be afraid to Delegate
Time-Management Practice #1. Have a solid morning routine
A morning routine is a sure-fire way getting your day off to a positive start. This is my number one, because starting the day right sets us up for success throughout the day. The evidence is compelling and if you look at the great leaders of today and yesterday, the most universal practice is a morning routine.
But I also know the power of a good morning routine from experience. This past September, on the heels of the Rewire Retreat on Coronado Island, I started a 40-day journey to change my morning routine. My routine now involves water, stretching, 10 minutes of mindful meditation, setting daily priorities (I will cover this in practices 3-5 on my next Wireboard installment) and being present with my family. (I’d also highly recommend my colleague Edie Raphael's recent articles as a guide for starting a practice of mindful meditation.)
Time-Management Practice #2: Get out of email jail (texting and messaging jail too)
This practice is the easiest one to grasp, but more difficult to practice. According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, on average, more than one-quarter of a worker's day is spent answering and reading emails. Email is the second-most time-consuming activity for workers, next to "role-specific tasks.” Setting expectations that you will respond instantly to email, texts and phone calls will most-assuredly stand between getting important things done.
There are many ways to free yourself from email jail. One solution to email jail is to block out several times a day to check your emails and stick to it. Another is to make use of email auto-responders. For instance, one easy way to reclaim your weekend is an auto-responder that says, “I’ll be out of the office starting at 5 pm Friday, and returning 8 am Monday.” I’ve even seen clients use an auto-responder that says something like, "Due to time-sensitive projects, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12:00pm ET and 4:00pm ET.” And finally, turn your phone off when you are working on a task, in a meeting, or meeting someone face-to-face.
What do you think? Do you have any best practices for email that you can share? Or, where do you see a lot of opportunity for growth in time-management? Would love to hear about it in the comments section.