Like most people, when the clock goes back, I take immense pleasure in that extra hour in bed. This year, the idea of ‘an extra hour’ got me thinking. Having honed my time management and organisational skills over the years, I’ve realised that the discipline of time-boxing an hour a day is a critical component of not just my effectiveness, but also my sense of well-being.
Have you ever wondered why you never have the time to work on that novel, establish an exercise routine, or seriously explore new career options, but somehow you always have the time to complete daily chores? In other words, what’s the antidote for putting things on the long finger? The cure is how we use small chunks of time.
You will always make the time for certain people and certain events in your life. Instead of thinking of them as things you’ll do ‘if you get a chance,’ or ‘if you’re not too tired,’ you will simply get them done. At the heart of effectiveness and well-being is ensuring that what matters most to us is not be at the mercy of what matters least.
During my Time Management workshops I ask attendees to write down what they consider to be the characteristics of productive and unproductive days. The answers are always the same. At the end of productive days we feel we have achieved something, we have completed what we wanted to get through. Unproductive days are characterised by interruptions, unscheduled emergencies and distractions. These are the two extremes. It is very difficult to be productive over the whole day, but it is usually possible to be proactive and productive, or as I say ‘to win,’ at least part of the day.
Let me give you an example. I’ve just embarked on writing my sixth book. I’ve scheduled one hour’s writing per day into my diary, (generally first thing in the morning.) I will write for this hour before I check emails or action any other item on my ‘to do’ list. If I don’t take this proactive approach then other work will take over and another day will go by without a single word being written. Even if the rest of the day runs away from me, I have made progress towards something that is important to me right now. I’ve promoted a priority to the top of my agenda and acted on it.
Other people will have different priorities. For example, my partner Brian has his yoga practice on the top of his list of priorities, so that’s his focus first thing in the morning. That’s his ‘win’ for the day.The antidote to putting things on the long finger is how you use small chunks of time. Click To Tweet
In today’s hectic world it is difficult to put large chunks of time aside to get bigger tasks completed, the only option is to chip away, just like the artist creating a sculpture. So if you were to focus on what’s truly important to you in your life right now, for an hour a day, what would you bring to the top of your agenda? What would be your ‘win’ for the day? What are you committed to over the last few weeks of 2017 and what daily action can you take to get closer to it?
When we say we have no time, what we really mean is that we have no priorities. Clarity as regards your priorities allows you to take all the things you could be doing with your time and energy and narrow them down to the one or two really important items.
Creating any new habit, including heightening your focus for an hour a day, is like putting a rocket into space. All the effort goes into battling against Earth’s gravity, the habit of the status quo. But after that initial conscious effort, momentum is generated.
Success is rarely about life-changing actions, but more about the small steps that add up to the whole. Of course there will be days when life just gets in the way, circumstances that really do make it impossible to follow through on your priorities. But these are usually the exception. Most of us over-estimate what we can do in a short period of time but dramatically under-estimate what we can achieve over a longer time horizon. Small actions taken daily, will over time, create amazing results.