Taking Back Control of Your Time

leadership Mar 12, 2019

Time – it’s the one things we never seem to have enough of. From meeting project deadlines, to fitting in our weekly meetings, to getting out of the office at a decent hour… time never seems to be on our side in this busy day and age. To compensate for missed deadlines and growing workloads- we often work longer hours, weekends, and holidays. Demanding work schedules are leading to more stressed and increasingly unhealthy lifestyles. In today’s world of high expectations and increasing production demands, how do we take back control of our time and create a reasonable work-life balance?

Since we are unable to magically make more hours in the day, we must find a way to make better use of the time we have provided. While there is research to suggest that our jobs are more demanding than those of our predecessors (thanks to the increase in real-time results and a faster moving world), our distractions have also become more numerous. Therefore- one of the most effective ways to reclaim some of your time is to increase your productivity. Though we may feel we are constantly on the go, a true assessment of our work time productivity may suggest otherwise. Without meaning to, we take ‘unintentional’ breaks that create a kink in our workflow.

As an exercise, think back to a recent day at your office (or, take stock of your activities today). Be honest with yourself, and count how many times you stopped a task to read an email, check a text message, chat with a coworker or check social media. Participating in these activities aren’t necessarily bad, but they can break your concentration and add up over a period of time. For instance, you may feel a particular task may have taken you a long time to complete, but ask yourself- did you work on that task the entire time? Or, did you take a break to answer an email, to send a Tweet, or to chat with your teammate about some recent updates? These distractions may seem inconsequential at the time- but can add up. In fact, these small breaks in focus can be the leading source of wasted time that keeps you in your office all weekend.

So, what can we look for (or look to avoid) in our daily routine to help increase our productivity and cut down on this lost, precious time?

  1. Social media breaks. The average person spends 135 minutes a day on social media platforms. While we all love to catch up with old friends and keep up with the latest news, social media can be the kiss of death for productivity. Even more business-focused sites, such as LinkedIn, should be saved for later if you want to keep your productivity in high gear.
  2. Coffee breaks. Taking short breaks is a needed and necessary way to stay on your A-game. In fact, using your 15 minutes to go on a short walk and to get your blood flowing can actually INCREASE productivity. But taking too many or too frequent breaks can be a huge time suck. Especially if your break time is following a social media break. Before you know it, you can lose 30-60 minutes of productive time being distracted.
  3. Emails. Yes, answering emails is often an important part of our jobs. But answering them as soon as they come in can pull you away from important work and make you lose focus. Make email answering a focused, scheduled activity. For instance, answer emails for the first 60 min of the day, and then spend the next 2-3 hours on focused work time. Most emails don’t have to be answered the second they come in, and they can be a leading culprit in shifting people’s attention.
  4. Overtime. Surprisingly, studies show that overtime can actually make you LESS productive. Working a reasonable schedule can assure that you are rested, focused, and attentive when it is time to work. A good night’s sleep and some recreational time aren’t bonuses, they are essential for a more balanced and productive worker.
  5. Complaining. Occasionally, when we feel particularly overworked or are displeased with our current project, we can spend more time complaining about the work than actually doing it. We all need to vent from time to time, but make sure that your displeasure isn’t making the work environment unpleasant for your office mates OR taking away from the time you need to get your work done. Sometimes keeping our feelings to ourselves and bucking down to get the task done is the best course of action.

If you are anxious to reclaim your evenings and weekends, it could be as easy as following these suggestions. While some jobs really do require more time than we have available, often we can see a dramatic change when we cut out distractions and boost our productivity. If you need more advice on reclaim your time and make the most of your 40 hours, check out PDUs2Go’s Management at the Speed of Time. This 60 PDU course features top efficiency experts and award winning authors, and can be your key to a more productive and efficient work environment.

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