Image of a lost and found box with a hat, some other stuff, and the word time.

Five Tips to Give You More Time to Reach the Next Level

I can’t find time…how about More Hours in the Day?

“When this project is over”, “when the kids are out of school”, or how about “after I get settled from…”?  These are examples of the many “reasons” I hear that prevent people from doing something important to them.  More often than not, we don’t start at those “opportune” times and our goals continue to slide.  Anyone that has spent enough time around me has heard me say “we don’t find time…we make time”.  We’ll never find more hours in the day, but we can create them with new habits and improved self-awareness.  The good news is it does not have to be a struggle!  Learn and use these basic time management tips and you’ll be able “find time” the time to accelerate your career or learn something new that will add value to your life.  This is your opportunity to recover from your busy life and get organized again!

1. Turn Off Notifications

The Problem with Notifications

Most of what we experience throughout our day is engineered to grab our attention and hold onto it.  What are we being pulled away from and for how long?  Aside from the obvious time loss of being pulled away, there’s a high cost to context switching.  According to a study from Inc., it takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after interruption.  If we’re focused on the slides our boss needs to review before the big presentation, then do we really need to see the latest email?  Is it best for our career to be constantly distracted by notifications or to stay focused and on task?  Can you really be organized if your attention is constantly being pulled away?  Read more on this topic in my post about cognitive junk food.

Can you really be organized if your attention is constantly being pulled away?

Image of iPhone screen showing red notification circles on a lot of apps

Those little red dots on my apps must go away!

Turn them off!

When I ask my clients what will happen if they ignore the email I usually hear silence followed by “I don’t know”.  The reason they don’t know is because they’ve never really tried to find out.  After a bit more discussion and logical thought, most people realize they’ll receive a phone call if it’s truly an emergency.  From this realization it’s just a matter of learning a new way of operating.  For this situation we can take advantage of “do not disturb” features on smart phones that will allow some calls through and block the rest.  This allows us to disable email and instant messaging notifications.  By disabling these kinds of notifications we can stay on task longer with no distraction.  What other notifications can you disable?  This time management tip will help you “find time” that you did not realize was lost.

2. Schedule Your Work

The value of scheduling your work

Most of us have very busy calendars packed full of meetings.  A typical corporate culture assumes you were doing nothing if your calendar showed to be open.  It’s hard to argue against attending that meeting when you look and show the time to be free.  How would you feel if it showed a conflict with “Create outline for the biggest presentation of my life”?  Two things happen here and the first is you’re feeling conflicted, because you know how important the presentation is.  Here’s the second critical benefit to being organized in this way.   Everyone scheduling meetings will now see these kind of conflicts and look for another time!

Image of a confused boy scratching his head.

I could have conquered the world by now!

Protect Your Time

Management and executives tend to to be in more meetings than most, but that does not mean they don’t have other stuff to do.  Do yourself and your career a favor and “MAKE THE TIME” to do it, before someone else takes it.  My experience inside and outside of large companies is that many people are not great at planning ahead and those around them suffer from their last minute meetings.  If others are not going to be organized, then you really should be.  Protect your ability to execute against your priorities and goals by scheduling the time to do the work.  Using this simple time management practice, you’ll “find time” to focus more on your career and ability to learn.

3. Log Your Time

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

When I ask my clients where their time goes, I usually hear the normal stuff like meetings, phone calls,  kids, etc..  If I ask more specifically “how much” time goes to each of these areas, the answers are not so clear and confident.  It’s hard to drive from Texas to California without knowing how much fuel you have, how fast you’re going, or if you’re going the right direction.  We’ll slow down when we know that we’re speeding.  If we’re running out of fuel, then we’ll stop for gas.  We change our course when we realize we’re going the wrong direction.  The critical point here is that we will make good decisions when we have the information to guide us.  What could you be doing with your career if you knew your time was not aligned to your goals?

The critical point here is that we will make good decisions when we have the information to guide us.

Shine a Light on Where Your Time is Going

If you find difficulty in explaining how much time you spend in the various areas of life, then start logging it.  This information adds value to everyone that’s willing to take the action.  Rarely have I worked with someone that did not see a trend they could change to free up needed time.  Using a calendar as part of your time management practice will do most of the work for you.  If you’re already organized and have this information, then use tip 2 to make sure you’re getting all of it.  It does not take much time to log your hours and you only need to do it long enough to learn from the trends and take action.  There are hours in your day just waiting to be “found” with this tip.  Commit to log your time today and “find time” you’re desperately looking for!

4. Make Lists and Review them Regularly

Image of a task list with some things checked off.

Facebook is not on the list?!

Use Your Lists Like a Compass

This tip improves the probability that we’re working on the right tasks and less distracted by the potential tasks we could work on in the moment.  We can always spend our time doing something and in the office we will find something to do that feels productive. The question is if it’s going to make the most impact?  Using a list to guide where we’re investing time is invaluable.  Do this to stay organized and free up time by helping you not spend it in areas that do not add the most value.

Look at Your Lists Daily

It’s not good enough to have a list.  You have to review it regularly, or it will not serve you.  The same problem exists with your speedometer.  If it only showed your speed once an hour, then you would stop looking at it.  The information we use to make decisions needs to be ready when we’re ready. This means it has to be granular enough and available when the time comes or we will ignore it.

Schedule Your Daily Review

If you’ve not figured it out yet, you need to schedule this on your calendar with tip number 2 “Schedule Your Work”.  If you learn to make time to review your lists you’ll “find time” that you did not realize was there.  This is more of an organization activity for me, but it helps avoid wasting time as well as some of the best time management practices. My career trajectory changed and never looked back when I made this part of how I operate and I’ve watched it work for many others as well.

5. Say No!

Don’t be a Pleaser

Can you come to this meeting?  Help me work on these slides?  Will you make this call for me?  Can you help me learn…?  Any of these sound familiar?  In coaching I often find many managers and executives don’t know when or how to say no.  The question to ask yourself is what’s at risk if you say yes?  The power of no can free up vast amounts of time.  We all enjoy helping others, pleasing our friends, being available to our boss, etc..  I’m not telling you to say no to everyone, but start getting into the habit of questioning whether it’s the best use of your time.  How will your calendar be impacted if you say yes?  Is there room or do you need to make it?  What can be pushed and what cannot?

Image of words that say "I say no".

Can we reschedule?

Take a Stand

Delegate to your directs if you’re a manager.  If you’re an individual contributor, then negotiate other times or look for alternatives.  Regardless of your role, consider just saying “no”.  This practice becomes very powerful as you become more organized from using the other tips.   An old manager of mine once told his peers and boss that nobody told him no more than myself.  I always explain the risks if I say yes, so he and I were able to have an informed conversation weighing the pros and cons together.  You’ll “find time” little by little as you learn to effectively use this tip.  Including this benefit, Entrepreneur Magazine has a good list of five benefits from this practice alone.  This is a critical time management practice and one that any manager of people needs to adopt now!  Do your career a favor and practice using “No” starting this week.

Some thoughts to Leave You With

  • Time is the most valuable thing we have
  • Time management is one of the most valuable things you can do
  • You’ll never “find” the time, so be more effective with what you have
  • Commit to practicing at least one of these until it becomes a habit
  • Read my series on self-awareness to learn more about how to create new habits
  • The ROI on time management makes up for the lack of excitement