I have just read Laura Vanderkams new book ‘I Know How She Does It – how successful women make the most of their time’ and it has really inspired me to examine how I am using my time and whether there is a way for me to create more time or more effectively use the time available to me.
Laura Vanderkam talks about the 168 hour week. That’s how many hours we available to us each week. Now obviously it’s not possible to create more than 168 hours, but it is absolutely possible to play around with how we utilse them.
There are a number of things you can do to look at how you create more time in your week:
1. Question every meeting you are attending
Go though your diary and consider whether you need to be in each one of the meetings you are invited to. Can you send someone else, or actually is it not relevant for you to be there anyway and you can just receive the outputs? If you found one meeting each day this week you didn’t need to attend that would be up to 5 hours you got back this week to use for something else. It’s a really good habit to get into at the end of each week, to look forward to the following week and check if there are any meetings where you can contact the meeting organizer and explain you won’t be there and the alternative solution you propose (someone else attending on your behalf, will respond to the outputs, will give input via e-mail etc..)
2. Shorten all of your meetings
You tend to find a meeting takes as long as it is scheduled to last. You can review each meeting you set up and analyse whether you could shorten it. A new approach I am using is to organize 50 minute meetings rather than 60 minutes, so straight away that gives me 10 minutes back on every meeting I organise. I have also reviewed some to see if we could get everything we needed to do completed in 30 minutes instead of the original 60 minutes. The more preparation you do for a meeting, the more likely you will be able to complete it in a shorter time, so this can also help.
3. Review all of the e-mails you receive with the intention of reducing them
If you spend some time reviewing every e-mail you receive and identify whether you really needed to receive it, you can contact the senders and explain you no longer need to receive similar e-mails in the future. This can hugely reduce the volume of e-mail traffic you are dealing with.
I have sent a mail to all my team to say please do not copy me on any e-mails unless I need to take action. If they have things that are just for my information, I have requested that they save them for my 1:2:1’s and update me in that forum instead. Since I have done this, the volumes of e-mails I receive has significantly reduced.
You can also set expectations with each stakeholder about what you need to know and what you don’t and ask them to be considerate of not sending you too many e-mails.
4. Unsubscribe to junk e-mails
Every time you receive a junk e-mail, if you don’t want to continue receiving any more from the sender, immediately click on unsubscribe and this will reduce the amount of junk e-mails you receive. It might seem like it doesn’t take long to just delete them as they come in, but it is much best to manage it properly and keep on top of the clutter.
5. Take decisive action with your e-mails
The amount of time we can spend reviewing all the e-mails in our inbox is incredible. Every time you receive an e-mail, rather than reading it and not knowing what to do with it, so leaving it in your inbox for later, make a decision on what to do with it then and there, saving time spent dealing with it later. There are not so many options of what you can do with your e-mails either delete it, forward it, action it, file it, or put it in a folder that needs actioning later if it will take more time to deal with. If you take decisive action about what you want to do with each e-mail as you read it, it saves a lot of time you can spend reading and re-reading each one.
6. Rearrange your day around your energy
I have rejiggled my day around so that I do the things that require the most energy in the morning and the least at night. Mornings are my sacred time where I have loads of energy and can really tackle the tough things. I stopped making my lunch in the morning as I can easily do that the night before as it doesn’t take much brainpower. I save mornings for exercise and writing and tackling the difficult work tasks. Also to do my productivity blast first thing in the morning means I complete it much more quickly that leaving it to the evening.
7. Outsourcing activities not core to you
If you are spending time carrying out tasks that you don’t enjoy and they are eating up precious free time, you can consider whether you can outsource them. There is a cost involved with this which may mean it is not possible, but you should consider the benefit of having the time back against that cost. You can also think of creative options that don’t have such a big cost involved. Common jobs to outsource are cleaning, ironing, washing your car. Now you can also get your supermarket shopping delivered very easily.
8. Stop procrastinating
You might find that you waste a lot of time procrastinating. There are so many different formats to this. Putting things off that you don’t want to start. Thinking you don’t have time to complete something, so instead not doing anything. Getting to the end of a day and looking back questioning what you have achieved, getting addicted to checking social media, watching TV, playing a computer game etc.
One way to help with this procrastination is to make a plan of what you want to achieve. If you have a plan, especially if you have written it down, it is much more likely that you will do it.
Don’t wait for another time, take immediate action.
9. Stop watching TV
If you complain that you don’t have enough time to complete everything you want to in a day, but you are spending an hour or more watching TV every evening, then you might want to re-evaluate whether you can cut down on this, or even cut out TV watching all together. If there is a particular programme that you really enjoy and want to watch, it can often be better to watch it on demand as this allows you to just watch that one specific programme and not get sucked into watching an entire evening of TV you were not particularly interested in.
10. Complete a time log for a week to identify where there are further opportunities
Laura Vanderkam talks about carrying out a time log for a week. This can help you identify where your time is being spent and where you can focus getting some time back. You can read I Know How She Does It to get inspired by who other successful people spend their time and there is some great tips on how to be more productive with your time.
Do you have any hints and tips on how to establish more time? If you do, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.