Tag Archives: time management

Has Technology Tipped the Scales on Your Work-Life Balance?

Information on demand. Constant connectivity. Global coverage. Are these a boon to our working lives? Or can there be too much of a good thing?

We live in a world of unprecedented connectivity. No matter where we are in the world, we have a host of information at our fingertips. Which is great when it comes to accessing vital data on the go, but could be having a detrimental impact on our personal lives.

The benefits of being constantly connected are easy to see. But it’s leading to a situation where people struggle to switch off when they’re not in the office. Checking emails on the way to work, or before going to sleep. Doing that “last bit of work” on the train home. Catching up on work over the weekend, or even the night before returning to work following a holiday.

Work phones and laptops, internet-based document storage and the increase in working from home leaves that bit of temptation to do a little bit more. After all, if you clear some of those emails tonight, you can start afresh tomorrow. Right?

Wrong! If this sounds familiar to you (and yes, there are plenty people in this position) then you should think hard about what you’re doing. No-one minds working beyond contract hours or staying a bit later when there’s urgent work to finish. But why, when there aren’t pressing deadlines, do we voluntarily give up our free time, weekends, or even our holidays to do extra work?

At best you get a reputation for not being able to switch off. At worst, it can impact on your personal life, and could even create an expectation that you’ll be on hand to respond to any query, no matter when it’s been sent.

Right to Disconnect?

Some countries are helping workers rebalance their scales. At the end of 2016, a new law was introduced in France, which meant that organisations had to give employees a “right to disconnect”. Companies had to work with employees to establish a basis for out-of-hours or home working, or make clear what expectations there were of workers.

In other European countries, companies are allowing employees to delete any emails that are sent to them while they are on holiday. Given the choice of a clean slate on your return to the office, it might also help remove temptation to access your inbox in your own time.

The Millennial generation is the first to really confront this issue (though this doesn’t mean other generations aren’t failing foul of it too). However, it’s hard to diagnose an issue until you know what it looks like. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek sheds light on some of the key points in this video.

(The key part is at 3:15, but if you have time, then it’s worth watching the whole video.)

So how do you change these habits and start to regain control of your work-life balance? Here are some top tips:

  1. The Phone. Down.

It might not always be possible, but it’s time to create some space between you and your phone. It doesn’t need to be all the time, but having no-go areas in your home, or certain times when your phone is off is a good place to start.

If you have a dedicated work mobile, then leave it somewhere that you’ll just pick it up as you leave the house.

Why not start by not having your phone next to your bed overnight? This will help to remove the temptation to check emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It might help you sleep better and start your day off on the right foot.

  1. Time Off is Your Time

You’ve earned the right to some downtime at the weekend. You’re entitled to your annual leave, and to enjoy it as time away from the office. And you’re entitled to be left in peace outside of working hours. Don’t voluntarily give this time up checking your email or finishing work.

It’s not always going to be cut and dried. But try to set yourself a time to stop working each evening, particularly on a Friday. This is particularly important if you work from home. Try to create a separation between work and home.

After all, does it really matter if that email is sent now, or document completed, when no-one else is going to see it until Monday anyway? Your brain will thank you for it (and your family/friends/loved ones probably will too!).

  1. Stop and Smell the Roses

Life doesn’t have to be lived in front of a computer screen or glued to a phone. Get outside and enjoy spending some time away from your desk. Challenge your friends and family to leave their phones behind (or in a bag at least) when you’re out.

Keep phones, tablets, computers, and technology away from the dinner table. Who knows, we might even rediscover the lost art of conversation!

Some of this is tongue in cheek. Most of it needs to be taken with a healthy dose of realism and knowledge that we can’t just drop technology. But we can make it work for us, instead of making it seem like a completely indispensable aspect of our lives.

So take control of your technology, and tip your work-life balance scales back in your favour!

Time Management: Sorry, You’re Just Not A Priority For Me

A colleague once told me there’s “a special place in hell” for people who don’t return emails. Yes, it’s frustrating, particularly when projects are held up. It’s easy to see these people as blockers, but it may well be they are actually managing their time much more effectively than you……

Modern wisdom would have us believe that our time management has a direct impact on our personal and professional success.

People who know their priorities and have the discipline to work their way down their to-do list from top to bottom definitely seem to win the day. But for us mere mortals, it often seems impossible to juggle all of our commitments at once.

How to get your priorities as a priority on others’ to-do list is a blog for another day. Today I want to ask how well you are managing your time? Do you know which aspects of your life should be an absolute priority? And offer five tips on how to make your time work for you.

The time bomb that always ticks

In her Walt Street Journal article, “Are you as busy as you think?” Laura Vanderkam reminds us that although we all think we’re very busy, we spend long stretches of time lost on the Internet or puttering around the house, unsure exactly what we are doing.

As Vanderkam says, “We all have the same 168 hours per week, but since time passes whether we acknowledge it or not, we seldom think through exactly how we’re spending our hours.”

Are you a priority?

We all make time for what we feel is important in our lives – but have you critically thought through what is REALLY important in your life? That’s our priorities become clear and we can more deftly make decisions about the use of our time.

Being blessed with three businesses, two children, an amazing bunch of friends and a husband who constantly travels the world, one of the skills I pride myself on has been my ability to manage time. I may rarely “be on time” (a glaring and embarrassing fault)….but I do manage to “make the most of my time”.

How? Because I plan just about everything (including doing nothing!) down to the day and almost a year in advance. I don’t always get it right, but feel confident enough to share with you four pieces of advice.

1. Make time to plan your time

It sounds like double dutch, but we need to make time to plan our time. There are so many people who don’t actually invest the time to think through how they want to spend their time. Once you now your priorities, it becomes easier to allocate how much time you want to devote to work, rest and play. My husband and I literally have face to face formal meetings and teleconferences during work hours to co-ordinate and plan our time well in advance.

2. Map your plan on a page

Now this is very nerdy…but over the years we’ve perfected an A3 colour coded six-month calendar. Our friends and colleagues laugh at us, but it’s the best method we know to get a high level overview of how we are going to spend our time whether it’s business commitments, travel, school holidays or social plans. Most importantly, this allows us to identify when things are just “too crazy” and where we have to say no and change what we had originally planned to make sure we don’t push our family to breaking point.

3. Record it all into one place

Your diary is your friend, not your foe, when it comes to freeing up time. Once again it sounds basic but having all of your commitments in one place, ideally electronically, saves a lot of discussion, confusion and potential marital disagreements! For some people it works to have every single commitment in Microsoft Outlook, with all the details for each event included. It is a one-stop shop – school holidays, children’s sporting commitments, parties, as well as all the business stuff all in one spot. This can help to identify potential clashes immediately and makes it clear to everyone who is doing what, when.

4. Plan to do nothing

The only real luxury in life is time. You can’t get time back.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to make sure you include “doing nothing” in your schedule.

Many years ago a friend gave me some priceless advice on how to decline an invitation: “Tell them you have plans. If your plan is to do nothing, then that’s your plan. You’re busy, you can’t go.”

Having “plans” to do nothing doesn’t mean catching up with friends, hitting the gym, doing a cooking class or going shopping. It means literally doing nothing. No commitments, no appointments, the freedom, if you choose, to absolutely do nothing.

5. Allow for some flexibility

I speculated at the beginning of this article that the elusive person who doesn’t return your emails may actually be managing their time more effectively than you. It’s possible that they’ve made a plan, they’re going to stick to it and they’re not going to let your request, however urgent, de-rail their day. Flexibility is of course vital – there are some issues (and people) that you simply can’t afford to ignore – but better time-management will grant you a level of flexibility that you otherwise would never have.

One thing I learnt early on in my time management journey, was that by scheduling everything, even my social life, down to the last minute, I was still left with the feeling that I had no free time. It’s important to have a lot of days in the year where you have the luxury of waking up and saying “what will I do today?”. There’s real freedom in that, which takes the stress away. Career and life resilience is about building in, and enforcing, some circuit breakers to help you cope when life becomes overloaded with the inevitable unexpected, unanticipated events.

2016 Rewind – Only 24 Hours in a Day – Manage Your Time Wisely

Our second rewind article for 2016 might be one you can put to use early in January. We all could manage our day better, and here are some top tips for you.

time day management

Time. The one thing we could all do with more of, but relentlessly slips past. Are you spending your day wisely?

Tick, tock, tick, tock. The seconds tick past, even while you’re reading this article on using your day efficiently. Have you allowed for some personal development in your day? Or are there more important things you need to be doing?

There are 24 hours in a day, but it never seems to be enough for busy people. To achieve what we want to in a day, we have to become better at managing our time. It is possible to find more time in a day, or even in an hour, if you put in place some simple strategies.

Here are 7 tips for getting more done in your working day.

  1. Work to your full potential

Do you notice how you accomplish more in a few days before you’re due to head off on annual leave than what you do in the weeks prior?

This is because you’re driven to complete the tasks in time. You’re fully engaged and focused on the tasks at hand. Putting the same energy into your work every day will achieve a major boost to your productivity.

To do this, forget time-wasting activities like checking your emails and social media accounts constantly throughout the day. Turn off your phone, where possible. Scheduling large chunks of the day to the major tasks you have to complete and eliminating distractions will enable you to fully concentrate on the job at hand.

You’re more likely to finish the work in far less time than it usually takes.

  1. Complete your most important task first

Sounds simple but we can easily fall into the trap of putting off the most crucial task of the entire day. As more emails, phone messages and issues crop up, it becomes even more difficult to tackle that important task.

Instead, make it your top priority. Put it first and complete it. That way, you’ll accomplish an important task each and every day. You’ll never have an unproductive day again.

  1. Plan your work day

Keep a diary or to-do list, either on paper or in digital form such as an app, which allows you to map out your work day.

Prioritise your tasks for the day and schedule the time it will take you to complete them. Schedule in a time slot to get on top of your emails and messages and stick to it. Disconnect from emails and phone calls at all other times.

This way, you won’t be letting emails and phone calls cut into the time you’ve allocated for the work that you want to complete. Keep your to-do list up-to-date – cross off your tasks as you complete them and add new tasks as they arise. You’ll be able to see progress in your productivity and remain organised.

  1. Delegate

Delegating tasks is not a sign of weakness. The reality is that one person cannot achieve everything. Consider where you can use your employees’ capabilities and skills to your advantage. Delegate more and you’ll be able to focus your attention on other important goals.

  1. Leave time for yourself

You’ll be far more effective in your work if you also schedule in time for yourself on a regular basis – whether it’s going out for coffee or lunch or ensuring that you get to an exercise class or another personal commitment.

Block out that personal time as if it were a business appointment. The productivity of your business depends on it.

  1. Have an accountability buddy

Someone you check in with who is able to ask the hard questions on whether you’re meeting your own targets can be hugely useful. This could be an executive coach or someone you work with, for example.

  1. Use a time tracking tool

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re swamped with work. Consider using a time tracking tool, which can ensure you know exactly how long you spend on a task.

Check out Toggl, for example. But don’t fall victim to irony in this respect and spend too much time marking how long you’re spending on things. It’s a guide, not a military operation.

Only 24 Hours in a Day – Manage Your Time Wisely

Time. The one thing we could all do with more of, but relentlessly slips past. Are you spending your day wisely?

time-managementTick, tock, tick, tock. The seconds tick past, even while you’re reading this article on using your day efficiently. Have you allowed for some personal development in your day? Or are there more important things you need to be doing?

There are 24 hours in a day, but it never seems to be enough for busy people. To achieve what we want to in a day, we have to become better at managing our time. It is possible to find more time in a day, or even in an hour, if you put in place some simple strategies.

Here are 7 tips for getting more done in your working day.

  1. Work to your full potential

Do you notice how you accomplish more in a few days before you’re due to head off on annual leave than what you do in the weeks prior?

This is because you’re driven to complete the tasks in time. You’re fully engaged and focused on the tasks at hand. Putting the same energy into your work every day will achieve a major boost to your productivity.

To do this, forget time-wasting activities like checking your emails and social media accounts constantly throughout the day. Turn off your phone, where possible. Scheduling large chunks of the day to the major tasks you have to complete and eliminating distractions will enable you to fully concentrate on the job at hand.

You’re more likely to finish the work in far less time than it usually takes.

  1. Complete your most important task first

Sounds simple but we can easily fall into the trap of putting off the most crucial task of the entire day. As more emails, phone messages and issues crop up, it becomes even more difficult to tackle that important task.

Instead, make it your top priority. Put it first and complete it. That way, you’ll accomplish an important task each and every day. You’ll never have an unproductive day again.

  1. Plan your work

Keep a diary or to-do list, either on paper or in digital form such as an app, which allows you to map out your work day.

Prioritise your tasks for the day and schedule the time it will take you to complete them. Schedule in a time slot to get on top of your emails and messages and stick to it. Disconnect from emails and phone calls at all other times.

This way, you won’t be letting emails and phone calls cut into the time you’ve allocated for the work that you want to complete. Keep your to-do list up-to-date – cross off your tasks as you complete them and add new tasks as they arise. You’ll be able to see progress in your productivity and remain organised.

  1. Delegate

Delegating tasks is not a sign of weakness. The reality is that one person cannot achieve everything. Consider where you can use your employees’ capabilities and skills to your advantage. Delegate more and you’ll be able to focus your attention on other important goals.

  1. Leave time for yourself

You’ll be far more effective in your work if you also schedule in time for yourself on a regular basis – whether it’s going out for coffee or lunch or ensuring that you get to an exercise class or another personal commitment.

Block out that personal time as if it were a business appointment. The productivity of your business depends on it.

  1. Have an accountability buddy

Someone you check in with who is able to ask the hard questions on whether you’re meeting your own targets can be hugely useful. This could be an executive coach or someone you work with, for example.

  1. Use a time tracking tool

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re swamped with work. Consider using a time tracking tool, which can ensure you know exactly how long you spend on a task.

Check out Toggl, for example. But don’t fall victim to irony in this respect and spend too much time marking how long you’re spending on things. It’s a guide, not a military operation.