Guest blog by Alice Dartnell, founder of Alice Dartnell Limited
You’ve probably heard motivational speaker Jim Rohn’s quote, “either run the day or the day runs you” but I am guessing you’re like everyone else in that you have those days where you just feel a bit disorganised or you wish you had more time.
Sound familiar? Well do any of these ring true for you?
- You often forget the items you need for a task or activity or, despite good intentions, you often don’t feel like you can be bothered when the time comes
- You find you frequently waste precious, valuable time thinking, “I could have done X right now too” or waste time to-ing and fro-ing between different things
- You constantly have to apologise because you forget to do things or “run out of time” or you just feel guilty for not doing everything you said you were going to
Well, you’re not alone but rather than being like everyone else, you can start taking control of your day with some simple habits to help manage your time and day better.
Now you might be wondering why I said ‘habits’ and not apps, techniques or time management tools, but that is because it is not just about using fancy technology or time management systems.
Instead, I know that simply forming some good daily habits has a more positive effect than technology, willpower or good intentions!
Positive habits are automatic actions that you unconsciously program into your brain. It is important to build these in your life so your body can start running on autopilot to save you having to think about them. The less you have to think about it the more likely you are going to do it! And the more you do it, the better you get. This is true for adopting good time management habits!
Here are three ridiculously simple habits to start incorporating today!
Habit #1: Set up what you need to do before you need to do it
The problem: You have good intentions. You’re going to get up and do a quick workout at home before you get the kids out of bed. You’re going to have porridge for breakfast rather than your usual rushed latte and croissant grabbed on your way to work at the over-priced deli around the corner of the office. And you’re going to get started on that new book you have been itching to read on your way home on your commute. Well done you. Except you wake up tired and can’t be bothered to faff around getting the weights and trainers out first thing in the morning, the porridge is at the back of the cupboard and you don’t want to mess with the cupboard order to get it (as if you really have one though) and you forget your book as it is still sitting on the coffee table proudly showing people you do have the intention of reading it (you just keep leaving it behind).
Make the habit work: Because forming good habits is about making it easy and something you do without thinking, you need to set up what you need before you actually need it. My morning routine includes a quick ten-minute yoga stretch, followed by a ten-minute meditation. As much as I love this and as much as it is good for me, my “I can’t be bothered” takes over my willpower when I have to waste time and energy in the morning setting it up. Now I get my yoga mat and laptop with the yoga tutorial laid out just before I go to bed. Rolling out of bed and not having to think “where did I leave my laptop” makes it so much easier to see out my good intentions!
So, get out your exercise necessities before you go to bed, get the porridge box and bowls out first thing before you are even ready for breakfast, and pack your bag, including your commute read, the night before.
How does it help? Firstly, because you’re more organised it will save you time, but also the because the less you have to think, the more likely you are to do it!
Habit #2: Clump tasks into one chore
The problem: You have so much on the go, so many admin tasks to crack, and plates to keep spinning, you find you’re to-ing and fro-ing between tasks, or you often have that “I could have done X whilst I was doing Y” moments. For example, you’ve popped to the shops on your lunch break because you remembered it’s your mum’s birthday this weekend (well done)… next to the shops, you see a dry cleaners that would have been the perfect place to get your shirts done (except you left those at home) and your bank of choice is conveniently located next to the shop (but you’ve left the cheques that need to be cashed at home too). Cue having to waste another lunch break tomorrow doing the chores that could have been ticked off.
Make the habit work: By going through your day, activity by activity, the day before, you’ll see what admin tasks you can clump together, and what tasks can be done at the same time when you go somewhere. This works in the office and for your personal life. For example, you’re on the 5th floor, and you have to go up to the 10th floor to pass on your signed expenses. On the way, you purposefully make a visit to Jill in Marketing to pass on the designs, and pop to the stationery cupboard because your desk neighbour is fed up of you nicking their stapler (seriously, these office faux pas can cost you). Spend just ten minutes of your precious time the day before planning out your following day because it will save you more than that in time wasted. Look at what tasks you can clump into one chore, what visits you can tie together, and map out your day in a logical sequence.
How does it help? Your time is precious, so don’t waste it going back and forth. This habit works because you can start to see ahead and plan properly, ultimately being more productive and getting more ticked off that to do list! To make the habit more ingrained, plan your next day at the set time every day or moment, for example, after you have packed your things to leave the office but before you leave, or on your commute home every day.
Habit #3: Allocate time to complete tasks
The problem: You always feel like there is just not enough time in the day – you constantly get to the end of the day with your “must get done” today tasks still on there!!! Seriously, who on earth just put 24 short hours in one day! It feels relentless. The problem is, there often isn’t enough time in the day to do everything you have written on your list, because you are putting too much on there. You are underestimating how much time it takes to do things and not accounting for other factors. Let me talk you through a real example of mine that made me realise the importance of this a few years ago.
One day I decided I would put a rough time allocation against each task – work and personal – of how long I felt it would take to complete. For example, emails one hour, calling the gas company to sort out an issue 30 minutes, the meeting with sales one hour, the online grocery shop 15 minutes, put together content for a workshop 2 hours, etc. When I totalled it up, it came to 16 hours! Add in sleep, commute time, the movement time from task to task, showering (that’s optional) etc… well it is no wonder I wasn’t going to get everything on my “must do today” list done. I had set myself up to fail!
Make the habit work:
It is simply a case of reviewing your to do list (and if you don’t have one written out, shame on you, write one) and allocating a sensible time slot. I use the key word “sensible” here because often we think we’ve some magical super power and we can do more in less time. I actually did this the other day thinking I could put content together for a workshop in one hour! What planet was I on when I thought that! It took me seven in the end!
Start right now by simply putting time allocations on to your tasks. This is not to be a laborious task, so work in incrementals of 15 minutes, 30 minutes or whole hours, rounding up and down.
How does it help?
It helps you see whether you are being realistic about what you can achieve today. Can you really achieve five hours of tasks in your day if you have four hour-long meetings at work, and a catch up with your team, plus you want a lunch break?
Another sneaky way it also helps is because we often have a tendency to spend too much time on tasks that don’t warrant any extra time. If you have allocated an hour to put that presentation together, then stop at an hour. Spending another valuable hour making it pretty, embedding quotes and adjusting the slide transition might not be worth it, because remember that extra hour is costing you – it is costing you the price of taking it away from something else!
These habits are simple, so start today. Try just one for now, and once you have mastered that, work to another. In no time, you’ll be more organised, planning ahead and owning your day.
Alice Dartnell is the founder of Alice Dartnell Limited. Her mission is to empower busy professionals to transform their lives and achieve more by improving their time management, work-life balance and confidence. Work with Alice on 121 coaching or through one of her courses.
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