Time is the most valuable resource we have. We cannot “make” time, we can only save some. We can push things around, do things faster, reschedule, re-jig and multi-task. But ultimately there is nothing we can do about time. It will continue to pass, and we will not have enough of it.
You Can Control Some Elements of Productivity
One of the things we can control, however, is just how much time we waste. I see it all the time – time is wasted left, right and center.
Before I get into it I would like to make it clear that I am not advocating for an elimination of recreation. Recreation is an important aspect of our lives – it helps us re-charge, rejuvenate, and socialise. Down-time during recreation can also be extremely productive, while our sub-conscious works through issues that our hours of diligent attention have failed to. Recreation is also often time with families, and for everyone that should be a high priority.
But I am talking about the way we approach our practice, our productivity, and our lives generally.
Here are the ways I suggest trying to minimise my time spent on meaningless wastage.
Yep – TV Gets a Mention
Don’t flick channels on the TV. OK – I still do this sometimes, but I hate it. TV is a killer, because there is always something you want to watch (or at least are happy to have on in the background). Pick your favourite shows and watch them during rest time.
But time wasted in front of the TV is time you will never, ever get back.
At best it’s a waste, at worst it is doing you harm while you let other people do all your creativity for you. I watch less and less TV now, as I find almost every show annoying (I must be getting old and grumpy). However I do have a couple that I try to tune in to (I like Grand Designs and Doctor Who, if you must know).
What about your Bus or Train or Car Trip between Home and Work?
Use your commute. There are limits to what can be done on a busy train or bus, or while driving a car, but it isn’t impossible.
For my part I generally listen to a relevant podcast which I can then use to motivate me and give me some ideas for this site. Sitting and staring blankly or raging at the peak hour traffic isn’t exactly productive – if you want to do some deep thinking that’s obviously fine, just take a note pad with you or dictate into your phone so that all your thinking doesn’t become a distant memory as soon as you step out the doors.
Over-Planning is a Waste of Time
Stop talking about doing things, and do things.
There comes a point where planning has ended, and yet the talking seems to just go on and on and on.
I’m not only talking about meetings here (although they are a great example of this particular frustrating experience) – it’s everything. “I am thinking about starting a website” “yeah I really should change that washer” “I should go and get the car serviced” – add up the amount of time spent talking/thinking/Googling about something and realise the truth – you could have done it already. I’m not saying don’t plan – you should.
But planning becomes procrastinating in the blink of an eye – make sure you catch it before it goes too far.
Do More with Less
Use leverage. Leverage is how you can accomplish more with less.
Do you have an assistant who can help? Can you hire somebody, outsource something, ask a friend?
These are ways of doing more things in less time. It’s not always possible, but don’t do something yourself just for the sake of it or for some kind of dumb pride.
Take a Break
Take 5. Sometimes a good five minute break with a coffee or tea, a bit of deliberate silence and calm, can let you re-focus and be more productive in the next round.
You don’t need to fear silence or rest (some people do, preferring, it seems, to be inefficiently busy all the time) – use it to best advantage though.
Do What’s Needed – Then Bail
Get in, and get out. Specifically this applies to social media, which is these days possibly the biggest time waster ever. Set up what you want to do, log on, do it, then log off. Don’t get caught in an endless twitter stream or Google+ feed – comment on the articles you want, “like” some stuff, say hi to people, then get out.
What about you – how do you get the most out of your day? Got any hints you can share?