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How to Create, Keep, and Grow More Time

How to Create, Keep, and Grow More Time

Time, why do you punish me? Like a wave crashing into the shore, you wash away my dreams.

Hootie and the Blowfish

I remember listening to this song for the first time, circa 1995, and thinking to myself, “What garbage.”  Wasted time, at least for me as an undergrad, didn’t really mean that much at the time.  I don’t really know the exact moment that time became precious, but it seemed to happen overnight.  In one instant, that which was plenty all of a sudden became scarce.  Work, family, friends, and that little selfish individual inside were all conveniently requesting a share.  In a second, I was left with just an empty pie tray and no pie. Hootie’s words came ringing in my ear, “An hour only lasts for one second, one second”…damn them!!!  I decided that I will respect time and make it a friend.  After much thought and meditation, I began exploring all things productivity.

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Here are a few simple things that I implemented immediately, some of which I still do:

I carried post-it notes wherever I went to capture any ideas, tasks, appointments, and reminders.  For about 5-10 minutes every day, I would organize those notes into a journal to keep track of what I needed to do that day or the following day. Once the journal started becoming a hassle to maintain, I upgraded to a software tool. Eventually, I found GTD. For those who don’t know what GTD is, it is a bestselling book by David Allen called “Getting Things Done,” and it can help you organize and manage your life.  It’s one of the best books on productivity that I’ve ever read.

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This was a great start, but eventually I came up with three things that MUST be done—in addition to the above suggestions—to really become productive day in and day out.   I call them the three Hows. The three Hows are very basic: How do I create more time, How do I keep more time, and How do I grow more time?

How to create more time

This is, of course, not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a good start to reclaiming some time back.  These were some of my biggest time-wasters:

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  1. Television – just stop it.  Besides the occasional news, a movie every once in a while, some documentaries, and Shark Week, I found it to be a huge time-waster.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some quality programs out there, it’s just that you’re not watching those programs. You’re watching a rerun of Wipeout.  Let me spoil it for you: they all wipe out.
  2. Internet/web – It’s really become the new television, and as such, an equivalent waste of time.  Ask yourself this, “Do I really need to see another cat video?”
  3. Email – This was a more difficult one for me since responding to emails made me believe that I was being more productive. However, responding to emails all day was actually making me less productive by taking my focus off things that I really needed to get done.  I now limit my time and frequency of responding to emails.

How to keep more time

  1. Outsourcing – Pay someone else to do something that will take you more time to do. Your time is precious, so if you can afford to pay someone to do the gardening or house-cleaning, do it. Using virtual assistants to accomplish certain tasks like research can also be an invaluable tool to save time.
  2. Time management system – It’s a must.  Get yourself some type of time management system that will help organize tasks.  There are a lot out there to choose from with many different features that range in price, so try a few and decide which one will match your needs. A good task management system will save you hours every week.

How to grow more time

I have no idea. Obviously, nothing you do will add a second more time to your day or your life, so I would be remiss here if I provided any advice on that.  What I really mean is how do I ensure the quality of the time that I have just worked hard to create and keep?  I have found that being surrounded with great people who are smarter and more productive than me always helps.

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Also, there is something that is intrinsically mystical about being around those you love and respect, and those that love and respect you.  It’s indescribable. Those moments seem to transcend time and just stand still, in all excitement and in full clarity.  Those moments never seem to be affected by time.

Teach yourself to be aware of time and remember that time is not your enemy – so don’t fight against it, but use it wisely.

 

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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