I learned early in life that time is precious, and that as long as you’re on this planet, you have only twenty-four hours in a day. Ever notice how some people accomplish three times as much in a day as others? They maximize their time. Right now, think about the time you spend watching television, listening to gossip, and looking at other people’s social media pages. These activities can add up and waste time you could be spending making yourself a better person. The secret is to choose wisely what you do and with whom you spend your time. It’s about saying no, staying focused, and avoiding distraction.
Here are five simple ways to make every hour more effective
- Multitask with intention. We live in a fast-paced world where people take on more work than they can possibly accomplish. By multitasking, you can achieve a lot more. But let me be clear: it is very important not to multitask to the point where you lose focus. For example, if you’re on the phone with a client, you probably shouldn’t be typing an email. The gym, however, is a great place to get a lot of work done. Jump on the elliptical machine and spend the hour working the lower half of your body while sending e-mails. You’ll still get an incredible workout, and you’ll feel less stressed afterward, having accomplished both your fitness and work goals.
- Write your to-do list the night before. A surprising number of very successful people share this habit. Knowing what your workload will look like the following day will help you rest more easily. You’ll also be able to refer to it if you realize you’ve forgotten something overnight. Writing the to-do list means part of you will be thinking about the following day’s activities, helping you feel more prepared to meet unique challenges or new situations.
- Set aside personal time. When you’re done at work, be done with work. An unbalanced life isn’t healthy. Just as our bodies and minds need the rejuvenation of sleep, our “work muscles” need time to rest, recuperate, and ruminate on new information. Remember to commit as much time, effort, and love to your nonwork relationships as you put into your work relationships (including time with yourself).
- Turn off the TV. Invest in yourself. Instead of submitting to the urge to tune out in front of the tube, read something. Whether you’re reading something that will directly help you improve your performance, strategy, or outreach at work or you’re reading a book strictly for pleasure, you’ll be doing yourself a great service. Our minds need new information, and from varied sources, to continue growing.
- Listen to audio CDs while driving. There is so much to learn—and so little time to learn it all. Audio books are readily available, both on CD and for download (try www.audible.com for a wide, high-quality selection). That long commute could work in your favor. Start your day with a motivational CD to get you pumped up for work, or listen to an industry-specific talk to gain insight and new tools. And don’t forget the thousands of free mp3 audio podcasts that are out there.
Remember, time management works a little bit differently for everyone, but if you remember to take notes, streamline, and use your time wisely, you’ll see your time management—and outlook—improve.
Nicole Smartt, author of “From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead At Work” (www.nicolesmartt.com) is co-owner and vice president of Star Staffing in Petaluma, Calif. She also is the co-founder of the Petaluma Young Professionals Network and was the youngest recipient of the “Forty Under 40” award given by the North Bay Business Journal.