Recently I presented a workshop in Montreal, Quebec. In the evening I traveled to Manhattan where I presented again. Although two different countries and cultures in two days, I noticed a common trap that I call “the endless loop trap” – meaning we never get caught up but, we never give up either. If you are someone, who falls into this trap, thanks for admitting it. On the other hand, and you may already know this, you are compromising your patience and sanity because you are in a no-win situation! You will never become caught up!!!
Why does the endless loop trap surface?
Many of my clients have long to do lists that require their attention. However, they are not necessarily suited to performing all of these tasks personally, especially if it diverts their attention from where their energy and resources will generate the greatest return.
I was reminded of this when I read a recent New York Times article about the need to examine the returns on your time investments. Rather than saying one activity is wrong while another is right, the author assigns a value of return for what they are doing.
This value calculation raises the question; are you making the most of YOUR time?
If not, read on as the following tips will turn you into a time master as opposed to a time waster.
- Use Your Time Wisely
Using your time wisely means focusing on what you do best.
Unfortunately, and if you are not careful, you may find yourself taking on tasks that are better suited to someone else’s talents and abilities. When asked to do something that clearly falls outside of your core capabilities, you do not want to come across as being uncooperative or unaccommodating – especially if you are dealing with a request from your boss. However, admitting that someone else may be better suited for a particular job will not only save time for all involved, it also demonstrates a high degree of confidence, transparency, and recognition for others.
To avoid “The Endless Loop Trap;”
- Listen to the task request in its entirety as opposed to immediately dismissing it as being out of your scope.
- Offer to take a piece of the work where you know you can make a difference and enjoy as well.
- Indicate that while you are always eager to be a contributor, you believe that there might be someone better qualified to take on the task. If someone immediately comes to mind, offer their name. If not, indicate that you would be more than willing to help to find someone who has the needed expertise.
- Remember that taking on a task for which you are ill suited will ultimately do more damage to your brand if you are not able to complete it successfully.
- Finally, if you find yourself being asked to do things which fall outside of your expertise, it is time to take a serious look at how you have branded yourself to others. You may need to do a brand refresh that highlights your “true” strengths and abilities.
- Take Back Your Time
Do you know that someone can steal your time?
The question is who?
It is not uncommon to get sidetracked throughout the day whether it be the result of an unexpected request or an unwelcome pop-in by a coworker looking to “shoot the breeze.”
While you need to have a certain amount of flexibility to respond to legitimate demands on your time, life’s inevitable distractions will steal your minutes and hours, and in the process make it harder for you to get done what needs to get done.
Tips for identifying time theft, and how to deal with it;
- Have you set your priorities for the day, week month, etc.? If you do not know your priorities, then how can you manage your time to achieve them?
- Is the proposed activity helping or hindering your efforts to achieve your objectives? If they are helping; full steam ahead. If they are hindering; move on quickly.
- In countless articles and surveys, interacting with co-workers has been identified as being the biggest time thief. In fact, a com survey reported that 43 percent of those polled said that colleague interaction took the most time away from their work. If you find a co-worker stealing your time especially with non-work related talk, politely suggest that you get together during the coffee break to chat then as you have a deadline to meet.
- Balance Your Time
You have heard the phrase that there is a time for every season, and of course, there is.
While there is a time for work, there is also a time for play.
As one HBR article reported; “people who regularly put in 80-hour work weeks can often end up less productive than staff members who head home at 5 pm every day.”
When you successfully balance your time you will be able to refresh and reenergize your mind and spirit.
With proper “work-life” balance, you will find your point of harmony between your career aspirations and lifestyle pursuits.
Tips for finding balance in your busy life:
- Schedule downtime into your calendar.
- Remember, you have to both physically and mentally leave the office. Leaving the office means either keeping your cell phone on silent or turning it off so that you can enjoy your downtime.
- Check guilt and worry at the office door on your way out. Whatever challenges you left at the office will still be there when you return. What will be different is your perspective and your ability to deal with them.
Time IS On Your Side!
By applying my three time management tips on a consistent basis, you will soon discover that you will not only accomplish your goals but enjoy the new freedom you have carved out for yourself!