Do you ever find that when you look back over your day, you haven’t done any of the things you had planned, yet you have been busy all day – and then you don’t know where the time has gone.
We’ve had nowhere to go for months now so we could have used all this extra time to fulfil our goals and take care of all those bits and pieces that we’ve wanted to do for ages – the things that we’ve always said we need more time for.
Do you ever wonder why some people appear to get all their stuff done, without running out of time? We all have the same amount of hours in a day so how can some people do it and some can’t?
It’s because none of this is about not having enough time – it’s about the difference between saying what you want to do and what you actually spend your time doing.
Before you read any further, this is not an article about why you need to get up earlier to put in more hours or why you need to work late into the night to get your to-do list done.
It’s certainly not about comparing yourself to what other people are up to.
This article is about understanding how to work in a smarter way and more importantly how to use your time in a way that helps you live the life that you really want and to do the things that you really want to do.
So, why do we spend so much of our precious time doing things that just delay what we had planned?
It’s often too easy to get distracted, particularly if we are working on a computer. One of my most memorable distracted moments involved taking part in an online quiz entitled “If you were a cheese, what sort of cheese would you be?”
I know, don’t judge me. In case you are interested, I was a Brie, apparently a joy at any dinner party…
I digress, let’s see if any of these traits are familiar to you. If you recognise yourself, you may realise where your time goes and a few tweaks could make a huge difference.
This person will dedicate tons of time to mulling everything over – each conversation, each task, each decision and basically everything that happens to them.
They will find that they never have enough time, their goals and dreams rarely happen because they are so caught up in the preparation and the planning and so things just don’t get done.
If you recognise this pattern, you could try scheduling in some ‘worry’ time – perhaps 20 minutes a day when you are allowed to overthink.
Being mindful and staying in the present can help with these thoughts and can help you understand how your time is being used.
This group is made up of those that find it hard to say No to every request for help, every possible opportunity and every event.
People pleasers are in this category, often lacking the confidence to have their own personal boundaries.
It can also cover the people that have a fear of being ‘negative’ if they say No and a belief that in order to make the most of their life, their diary needs to be full 24/7.
Creating and protecting some space for yourself with personal boundaries will help. It’s also important that you do not say yes to everything that comes your way as in time you could become resentful when you realise that you are helping with other people’s hopes and dreams and not your own.
Bottom line is that we all procrastinate at some time or other and in different degrees. There are many reasons why we might procrastinate, some more simple than others.
People often say 'I wasn’t motivated enough to do that', but the truth is that motivation follows action, it is not the other way round.
Once you begin something and get in the flow, coupled with seeing results, you will find your motivation.
Most of the time procrastination is usual, human behaviour but it can get to a place where it is something more, where it affects our lives in a negative way and that’s what needs to be paid attention to.
We can put things off to protect ourselves from fear and uncertainty, from failure and success in equal measures and of course if the self-doubt and judgement kicks in, then we can start to imagine all kinds of things that aren’t going to be helpful.
Procrastination is very rarely about laziness, so exploring what it is really about for you is essential.
There is nothing wrong with having high standards but when you set the bar so high, you run the risk of losing spontaneity and joy because you are so focused on getting things done ‘properly.’
You can become stuck by paying as much attention to the very small, inconsequential things as you would to the bigger stuff.
This is draining and limits what you can achieve and there is no let-up from the self-critic voice spurring you on to do better.
Perfectionists often have a sense of frustration that things just aren’t good enough, a feeling of real dissatisfaction and they run a risk of burn-out from the amount of pressure that they put on themselves.
If you can allow yourself to realise when things are good enough and that ‘perfect’ does not exist, then you will have added loads more time to your day.
Do you recognise yourself, do you have any of these traits? Perhaps you have now worked out where your time goes?
If you want to change your approach, here are four tips to help you get started:
Know your why
At the root of every decision you make or every task you undertake, there has to be a good reason why you are doing it, because that’s what makes it worth doing.
That’s what is going to make you feel happy and satisfied when it’s completed.
When we have endless tasks on our list, unless we have regularly reviewed what is still relevant to us or what is still a priority for us, we can end up working on things that are of little consequence to us anymore.
So, be sure to know why you are doing something and if you are happy with your why, then carry on.
And if there is a bit of a question mark over your why, then it’s probably time to review it.
Do your hardest thing first
It’s often tempting to postpone the more difficult tasks but I can say from personal experience that if I do that then no matter what else I try to tackle, all I can think about is the ‘big’ thing I am putting off.
I’ve written about this before, it’s known as the ‘eat the frog’ strategy – eat the frog or it will eat you up and you will procrastinate all day.
So start off with the hardest thing on your list first and also pay attention to the next point as this is going to be relevant to you.
You have to be realistic about what is on your to-do list and how much is genuinely possible.
If you list everything but the kitchen sink and at the end of the day you have finished very little, it’s not going to feel very satisfying.
However, if you made a list for the day of say around 3-4 manageable things that are priorities and that you could do and are likely to finish, then you are going to feel brilliant when they are done.
Each day keep going back to the next 3-4 things and before you know it you will have made a huge dent in your list.
Somedays you might do 10 small things or just one major project – don’t be too hung up on the number but do be realistic.
Know your style of working
Each one of us works in different ways and you have to work in the style that you prefer and that is natural to you, otherwise you are already at a disadvantage.
Not everybody likes to complete a task in one go – some people start something and then come back to it at a later stage, perhaps nearer a deadline when they come back with fresh eyes, ready to complete it.
If you like a long lead time so that you don’t feel panicked and you like amending things with enough time, then no problem at all but you need to be getting yourself to the planning stage early enough for this style.
If you are somebody that thrives on tackling deadlines by the seat of your pants, then that’s great. However, if you are in a team and your collaborators want to start planning earlier, then you need to talk about this to ensure that everybody’s styles and strengths get a chance to shine.
Take some time to explore what your style is so that you are working as smart as you can.
So we've got four types of traits to look at and four tips to help you gain some more time in your day. As ever, there are lots of other tips and traits and things to add, but I don't have the space to cover them all here.
If you would like some help and support with this, perhaps to explore what would work best for you, then please get in touch – I would love to hear from you.