This is a story about our everyday, one that unfolds all around us, and, truthfully speaking, a little too often — we come back home, after a long day’s work, only to be baffled by the thought of how time flew. And if we can’t figure out where our time went during this rather long and busy day, it’s easy to feel like you are not really being… well… resourceful.
Have you had this feeling, too?
‘Overwhelming’ is the word I will choose to describe our modern professional lives. There’s always something that needs to be done, and it needs to be done right away. The sheer volume of things that need to be accomplished is always parked at an incline, giving you barely enough time to fathom it all and prioritize. Our schedules go for a toss no matter how honestly we’ve worked in coming up with workable timelines. Our attention is always being pulled in one too many directions — with sudden moments of crisis or just plain distractions. And because saying ‘no’ to someone (or something) can feel like taking a bullet to the brain, you just go ahead and do it anyway. You work hard, and you work long and at the end of the month, there comes forth this sinking feeling that you haven’t really accomplished much — work-wise or money-wise.
Taking into account the sheer scale of our professional lives, the cost of poor time management, with respect to productivity, is significant.
A big part of the grand time management conundrum comes from the fact that it’s very tricky to track just how much time we’re spending on a task — any task. Just the email interactions take anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and if we answer 20 such emails in a day, that’s 100 minutes of overhead tasks that just took away a good chunk of your productive hours. Add to this spur of the moment meetings, a colleague’s birthday celebrations or a spinning headache — your well planned day just went straight to bedlam.
And then, on top of all this, if you start justifying every single activity of your day…well… that’s just another way to establish that you are only working the flow, subconsciously at that, and not working smart.
Invest your time consciously and intentionally.
The first step towards managing your time better is to understand that you need to start making conscious time choices. By choosing what’s really important and being intentional about the choice is first step towards better (and more thoughtful) time management. When you stop trying to get everything done at once — from answering every single e-mail to accepting every meeting invitation in your inbox- and start thinking about activities that really matter to you, you can get done with all that’s really important right away and have a rather regret-free life later.
Intentionally choosing to spend your work time can increase your effectiveness and work gratification.
That’s one of the easiest way to get a hang of where you’ve been spending your time and where you might need to adjust some.
If you haven’t realized this already, know that there’s always going to be someone requesting your time — they would want you to take on a new project right away or the office cultural committee would want you to plan the next week’s dinner party. You manager may want you to start working extra hours because there’s company’s going through a business slump or urgent travel plans may pop up that would require you to drop everything right away. If you let everything that comes knocking on your desk pull you away from your actual job, you are only letting others steal from you — your time that is.
A better way handle this is to first get a sense of how you are actually spending your time. iOS users can start right away with Hours — an intuitive, one-tap time tracking app (one that works on Apple Watch as well) to help you see what you’ve worked on and the time gaps you missed. Just time your activities and the app will log it for an easy view later. A really simple-to-use (and free) Chrome extension is Everhour — an entry-based time tracker where you create single line project entries using “@” and then use “#” to tag it. So when you need to track an array of different activities every single day, just add the project in the input bar and the app will start tracking the task right away. And because you won’t have to spend a whole lot of time creating individual entries for every activity you do, time tracking with these apps is as simple as it gets.
What these apps will help you achieve is a clear log of how you’ve spent your time throughout the day and where you may need to reallocate your time to really achieve your goals. Get a sense of all that you have worked on, all that you have managed to accomplish and how. Such clarity goes a long way in making you an efficient professional.
And then there are some habit tweaks you can practice to avoid being overwhelmed at your job. For starters, practice saying “no” to what’s not most important to you. And do not let your work make you de-prioritize your time with family and friends, or steal your me-time, because these smaller things make a big difference in your personal happiness.
If you find that you cannot keep up with the most productive version of yourself all the time, you probably have bad habits that are killing your effectiveness. Although considered natural, these habits decrease your mental performance and disrupt your productivity.