A friend once told me, Oscar, you only have approximately 800 weekends left to live. The first thing that came to my mind was how I was going to spend these next 800 weekends. I knew that I wanted to spend this time on doing the most important things in my life. In order to distinguish what I was going to let in, I used the following five tips:
Say no to the extracurricular – If you’re involved in your community by way of boards, clubs, or any other extracurricular activity, I applaud you. I believe that each of us should look to serve in this fashion or in some other form. The challenge isn’t what can I say “yes” to it’s how can I say “no”. Learning to say no is critical to controlling your time. We all know that poor soul who spends time during the week doing things that they really don’t want to do but because they lack the courage to say no, they are stuck doing them. If you do have to say yes to an extracurricular activity make sure that it has some relevance to what you are passionate about. Seek these types of opportunities but don’t overload your plate. Just because your passionate doesn’t mean it doesn’t take up valuable time.
Say no at work – No, I’m not asking you to not be a team player but please do have time boundaries at work. If you know your role well you should have the courage to make sure that you spend most of your time meeting the objectives of that role. What I’m talking about are the infinite interruptions you have at work. Why couldn’t you say “no” for now but plan for it later? I mean the late requests that come in after months of working on a project? Why couldn’t you say “no” to these? If you don’t control your boundaries then you become a dumping ground for peoples lack of preparation which end up turning into your emergencies.
Negotiate time given – Sometimes, you really do have to answer to an interruption. My advice is that you negotiate a few things. The first, when the task has to get done. For example, you could say, “I can help with the task but not till Tuesday”. The second thing I would negotiate is the length of our meeting. For example, you could say, “I have ten minutes now or we can schedule it for later”. Or, “I should be able to do it on Tuesday or I have 5 minutes now”. Notice I didn’t say avoid or don’t help your teammate, I’m just asking that you protect your time. Finally, ask the person who has interrupted you to do some of the work. For example, you could say, “if you put that info into a spreadsheet I can take a look later today”. This keeps them involved in solving their own problems and relieves you of doing work you shouldn’t be doing in the first place.
Improve your systems – Developing structures around your life can seem restricting but it’s how some of the most effective leaders make the most of their time, both at work and home. Systems obviously save you time and more importantly, stress. Identify areas in your life that need systems by asking yourself “what repeating challenges do I have?” Those repeating hassles and time wasters are signs that you may need to develop a system that solves the problem at the root cause.
Let go of perfectionism – I believe in perfectionism. I also believe that you can’t get 100% on every exam life throws at you. Perfectionism plagues some of the most intelligent leaders by letting it take an absorbent amount of time to complete tasks. Sometimes those task are menial. There are certainly times when things need to be close to perfect. For example, you’re giving a presentation to the board of directors or at a conference. You’ll want the presentation to look perfect! But if you’re meeting with your team, maybe you soften up on the bells and whistles. Make it functional instead of perfect. It will save you lots of time and stress!
Your first line of defense to controlling your time is letting less in. It requires that you stay alert and mindful of timewasters. It takes understanding the difference between the important and the urgent. Become good at these 5 tips to controlling your time. If you can become better at all of them you’ll have earned an hour per week of spare time for each. Good luck!
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