I’m talking fast today because you’re busy. You don’t have time for this.
But you clicked on this post about time management, and admitting you need help is the first step in recovery. So here we go, swiftly.
Nix these four bad habits and add hours to your day:
Stop Compulsively Checking Email
Each time you pause mid-activity to check your email, it takes about 10 minutes to re-focus on whatever you were doing. That doesn’t include the time you spend responding to the email or fretting about the tone the writer used or wondering why you were copied on that message in the first place or (good grief) clicking on the link to the cat video.
So if you check your email six times a day, you’ve just wasted an hour. And I bet you check it more often than that.
After you finish this article, don’t check email, okay? Start a project, and limit your inbox interruptions to just three times today. Only three. Sound impossible? You’ll be amazed at the sense of control this gives you. Try it for one week and let me know how it goes. You’re welcome, by the way.
Stop Flying by the Seat of Your Pants
If you’re driving to meet a new client, you jump in your car and kind of “feel your way around,” hoping to intuit the proper exit and the correct address, right? Yeah, no. You’re going to consult a map before you leave or use GPS on your phone.
Use the same logic when charting a course for your day. Don’t wing it. Don’t head off without a plan or any sense of direction. In five tight minutes you can jot down a to-do list, assess your priorities and make a note or two about any needs or challenges you might face today. If you think you don’t have time to get organized before getting started, you’re going to spend most of today wandering aimlessly in search of your destination.
Stop Inviting Interruptions
Fact: some people are more vulnerable to distractions than others. A co-worker passing in the hallway, a conversation in the next cubicle, a squirrel on the window sill. Do these things derail you? You might be inviting (and even welcoming) distractions. Try these strategies:
• Turn off your cell phone and your email alert tone (you’re only checking it three times a day now anyway, right?
• Set aside a block of time (two hours?) in which you will not accept interruptions from co-workers. Broadcast your new policy and put a post-it note to this effect on your door (or nose) if necessary.
• Identify important tasks where undivided attention is a priority.
• If mindless internet surfing tempts you, consider downloading an app that works with your browser to block access to social media or other sites during certain hours.
• Once you start seeing some success with this new regimen, add another 30 minutes to it, or add another two-hour block later in the day. Keep building up your concentration muscle until distractions no longer thwart you.
Stop Sneaky Procrastinating
Sometimes we’re actually being lazy even when we appear to be quite busy. We might be rocking nonessential tasks – even to a very high standard – but we’re wasting time if there’s something more important on our to-do list that needs to be done.
This is a bit of a “silent killer” because activity itself feels virtuous, even when at the expense of bigger goals. Stop the charade. Here’s how:
• After you make the task list described above, study it. What’s your highest value activity today? Do it first, and do it during one of your time blocks when you don’t accept interruptions from others.
• Try assigning a start time and an end time to tasks. When your timer goes off, you’re free to noodle around a bit on less pressing projects.
There! You’ve read all four tips. Go implement them.
Maurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.