You and your time

Here are 10 ideas that will help you squeeze out more from your time

Man with an hour glass

1. Sleep well

Oof, you say, so much to be done, how on earth can I sleep!

So you end up worrying over the to-do list facing you the next day, the things half done today... Toss, turn, curse, grumble, drift off into a nightmare of incomplete chores, and finally when it is time to wake and get going, you are bleary eyed, with cotton on the brain. Every job takes longer, every decision is fuzzy. It’s no use... just time wasted. Make the most of the six or seven hours that you have to rest. Read yourself to sleep, or listen to soothing music. A few drops of lavender on the pillow calms the nerves. And who knows, sleeping on a problem might find you a solution! Happens more often than you think.

I remember having to write out a hastily done interview with a singer I happened to meet at the airport. He agreed to the interview, but I had neither done my research nor was there enough time to take all the notes I wanted. While writing it out, I realised I had left the names of two songs he had mentioned as his favourites. Try as I might, the songs would not come to mind. Tired, I gave up and went on with the rest of the day. Believe it or not, when I woke up the names of the songs as well as the tunes were top of mind.

2. Do not multitask more than needed

OK, multitasking is the modern day mantra. I know people who can sing, talk on the phone, watch TV, help junior do lessons and cut hair all at the same time, and have never cut off anyone’s ear yet. But there is no guarantee it won’t happen. Ditto for other multitasking combos. It helps to do two or more things at one time, if they don’t use the same skill sets or same sensory tools. Guiding the kid through her multiplication tables while you cook, or working at the office project on the laptop while you get your hair curled is fine. Do too much and the stress builds up. And that means twice the time to do things anyway.

3. Meetings! Avoid them

Know those types who flit from one meeting to another, then curse at the end of the day that their day is just beginning? Sure you do. Just don’t become one of them. The trick for getting out of long meetings is to go with a written agenda, get it through and move out. Try and teach others the same trick, and start with the boss who loves his own voice.

Even when I call for meetings, I would have a small list ready, to remind me what I needed to get through. It would prevent my being diverted by other points that were possibly more engaging, but not vital to the meeting, and also ensure all issues got cleared.

4. Prioritise

List makingThe e-mail, the Facebook, the phone, the data sheet, the shopping list, the odd jobs... pick-ups and drops, project reports, memos to juniors, that appraisal list... of course your day is full. And if you get caught up sending happy forwards on your e-mail, that is that.

Even if you are the serious type, ensure you make a list from top priority down and follow it. Yet, if one item does not move and you find yourself stuck on it for too long, place it aside and move on down the list.

I know a colleague who used to get stuck with captions for photographs. She would sit trying to get clever phrases for half the day, and when it finally got done, there would be no time to write the main story. It took her time to realise that she should work the other way round. She did, and both jobs would finally get done.

5. Do not procrastinate

We all do, of course. But indulge in this very tempting trap only sparingly—once a month or so. Otherwise, you will find yourself creating enough loose ends to tie yourself into knots. And no time to untie them.

I have learnt not to procrastinate at work, but I do in other matters. I have been planning to clear my clothes cupboard for months now, and thanks to putting it off, cannot find anything. Please don’t wonder why I wear six clothes in rotation despite being a compulsive buyer. The day you see me in something different you know that... yes, the cupboard has been reset.

6. Do what comes easiest first

It was a trick you learnt in school, remember? To tackle the easiest questions first. That way you knew that you could score those sure-fire marks anyway, even if you failed to get the tough ones right. Getting the easy jobs done first means getting that much of the work load out of the way. And you avoid the risk of getting bogged down with the tough jobs and missing time for the easy ones.

7. Make time for me-time

Man facing seaVery important. In all the being important to others... to your job, to your superiors and juniors… you forget the most important person you should be familiar with: yourself. Take time off to breathe easy, to examine your health, your mental state, and your happiness quotient. Give yourself a treat. It makes it easier to jump into the chore list and come out smiling.

Me-time is actually the next best thing to meditation. The mind is on hold, and the relaxed mode where you are engrossed in doing your own thing and being yourself is rejuvenating. And the best thing is you can make me-time happen anytime. Mine is when I drive. I sing along with the radio, and even a snarl does not bother me then.

8. Delegate

It’s not handing away power; it’s keeping it safe enough to help you move up. Delegation with responsibility helps build team mates at work, helps build confidence in the young at home, helps share chores in both places. It also gives you time to concentrate on the stuff only you can do.

Whether it is doing the research to build the presentation on at work, or peeling the potatoes or tidying a cupboard at home, recruit juniors. Saves time and shares the load.

Warning: Keep an eye on those given tasks anyway. Even if you are not personally steering the ship, you must know where it is being taken.

9. Upgrade your skills

Learn to stay abreast of technology; many help save time. For example: sync your many gadgets, so you can work on a presentation at office and carry it with you on your iPad or phone; use the GPS to avoid wasting time navigating clogged roads while getting from one part of the city to another. Technology helps save time but be careful; don’t become a slave, be its master and let it serve you.

Ask me. Learning to sync my documents from iPad to phone to desktop has taken me all of a Sunday. Tiring. But now that it is done, I think I have it where I want it. On hand, anytime!

10. Don’t watch the clock

That is a sure-fire way of building up stress. See how the tick-tick of a watch in a movie builds up tension? Well, clock watching is the real life version of just that. Psychologically, looking at the time when you are at a deadline job makes the pressure mount and clogs the wheels that help you do your job well. Result: delay and more tension. If you are sweating over a deadline, take it the same way you would take climbing a hill: one step at a time. Looking up or down does not get you higher, looking at the job on hand does.

And smile, wipe off that frown, take deep breaths. You are doing what you do because you want to. Once you relax those shoulders, you will find things get easier, smoother, and move faster, leaving you on top of the day.

This was first published in the September 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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