I think about time a lot. A colleague recently told me that they think I have an internal clock that is always ticking, and relentlessly pressures me to respond. In many ways this is both a blessing and a curse. Whether this is good or bad, is a topic for another time. The reality however, is that I spend a lot of time thinking about how to save, use and leverage my time for maximum impact.
Time is the only resource we can not get more of, regardless of how hard we try. Time is a limited currency, that we spend each moment of every day. We all want to maximize our time, because deep down inside, we know that it is our most precious commodity.
If spent wisely, time can lead to a tremendously rewarding life. When we figure out how to effectively use our time, there is always space for everything we need to do. Strategic planning of our time will lead to productivity, quality relationships, great times of recreation and the right amount of rest.
How we spend time at work ion particular can have a profound impact on how we use the time allocated for the other aspects of life. Poorly leveraged time at work, leaves us feeling busy, flustered and always with a sense of incompletion at the end of each day. When we end our days in a rushed and hurried state, we carry baggage and unhealthy emotion into the other areas of life, and wonder why we seem restless and lacking the joy and peace that a balanced life should bring.
Here are a few ways I have found to save time at work and make space to complete what I need to get done. When I do this, I am able to head home with a clear head, ready to invest in the other areas of my life.
- Anchor Every Day – Arrive early and plan the day. Use this time to ensure you direct the use of your time, and that it is not the other way around.
- Prioritize Critical Tasks – Identity the most important tasks and meetings of the day and ensure they get prioritized in your calendar.
- Stand Up When Interrupted – We can’t stop the inevitable interruption when a colleague drops by and asks, “do you have a second?” Most of the time this can be a short question, but it can lead to a long conversation. If you stand up and let them know you only have a moment, they will not sit down and settle in for longer than necessary. If the conversation needs more than a moment, schedule an appropriate time for it.
- Check Email Only Twice a Day – Let co-workers know you will check email only at the beginning and end of the day, and put the tasks in your calendar. Make sure you turn off email notification. This will help you keep focused on the prioritized tasks.
- Say No – This is a tough one. But if we can’t say no, we will say yes to everything. Our ability to say no to things that are not a priority, is critical to our ability to control how we spend time.
- Be the Note Taker – In any meeting there is a person who takes the notes. If we choose to be that person, we ensure we know and can recall what is said and decided. This saves future meeting and disputes over what was said.
- Take Breaks – Every couple hours, we need to stand and walk around. We are more efficient when we get back to work and will save time in the long run.
- Archive Emails – Don’t delete emails. Move all emails you are done with, to an archive folder for future reference. You never know when you might need an old email.
- Choose to Sabbath – Ancient Jewish religious tradition held that one day a week was to be completely dedicated to rest. To this day, many Jewish adherents to this religious law, do not do anything remotely resembling work, one day every week. Meals are even prepared ahead of time to ensure this devotion to rest. The Bible teaches this principal, and while most modern churches do not hold to it with the strictness for the Jewish traditions, the principle of choosing to devote a portion of time each week to rest is not merely for spiritual benefit. This guidance provided by God through his word, is intended to help us reset or lives, reflect and rest. This practice will help us be more effective the other 6 days of the week.
- Strategic Vacationing – Plan to take extended times off of work following difficult and challenging seasons. This will help us recover and recharge so that we are effective in all areas of life.
- Make a “Stop Doing List” – We are always asked to do more. Every time we add a task, responsibility or objective, we should remove something that will no longer be a priority.
- Track Time – There is no better way to see where we may be spending time unwisely then to write down where our time goes. This seems to be best done in 15 minute increments.
There are many other ways to be efficient with our time… I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. These are just a few that I have found to be transformative in my own pursuit of the effective allocation of the time I have been given.
Let me challenge us to identify one or two or these ideas and try them out. I guarantee you will find yourself with a bit of extra space in your time.