“Spend the time you have available wisely.”
Time is inelastic. Despite what some of us persist in believing, it will NOT magically expand to accommodate all we have to do. So, in order to maximise the time we have available, we have to spend it wisely.
Here’s how to do that.
Structure your time
The very first thing to do is understand the structure of your time. If you think of the time you have available as some amorphous dimension, you will fritter it away on this and that without any real consideration of what is the best use of the time available. How many times have you got to the end of the day and felt like you’d accomplished nothing even though you’d been “busy” all day.
All time is not equal. If you’re a morning person, your morning time is worth more in terms of productivity than your late afternoon time.
So think of time as variable in terms of potential for accomplishment and identify your most valuable time. Do the same for your intermediate-value time and your lower-value time.
Reserve your most valuable time for your most intellectually demanding activities. Your intermediate-value time should be spent on important tasks that don’t require quite the same level of concentration. Finally, reserve your low-value time for activities that don’t require much in the way of concentration.
Now, obviously, if you have a full-time job away from home, the decision of how to spend your 9 to 5 hours will largely be out of your hands. So, the best you can do if you’re a morning person is to try and take care of some of your intellectually demanding activities first thing in the morning, say between 05h00 and 07h00. On the other hand, if you’re a night owl, working a full-time job probably won’t be much of a problem for you.
If you run your own business from home, however, effectively structuring your time in terms of peak, intermediate- and low-concentration blocks can make a profound impact on your productivity if you use that time intelligently.
Identify what you have to do
Now that you have some sense of how to best structure your time, you need to turn to what, exactly, you’re going to spend that time on.
That means identifying what you have to do. And that means identifying what you DON”T have to do as the flipside.
When identifying what you have to fit into your schedule, think about all areas of your life. Making time for yourself is NOT something that you get around to only if there’s time left over. Making time for yourself is as much a priority as anything else.
A good way of identifying activities that should be included in your schedule is to test them against the criteria of furtherance of an objective. If the activity does nothing to further any objective, why are you even doing it?
So start by identifying objectives for your life. Consider categories such as health, finance, business/career, spiritual, family, social, intellectual and so on. Establish objectives for every area of your life that are important to you.
Everything you do should bring you closer to an objective. If it doesn’t, again, why do it?
Allocate your activities
Now that you know how to best structure your time and what activities are going to lead you closer to your objectives, it’s time to allocate those activities against the time you have available and in accordance with your various concentration levels.
Begin by estimating how much time each activity in your day is likely to take. Be realistic about what you can really accomplish in one day. If you overload yourself, you’re only going to stress out about what you’re NOT doing and that makes you less effective in what you ARE doing. So pace yourself. Just don’t WASTE time.
Assign your most intellectually demanding activities to your peak concentration time. This may be writing a chapter of your [e-book] or writing an article for the next issue of your [e-zine]. Assign your less concentration-intensive activities to your intermediate-concentration time. This may be redesigning a web page or reading or responding to e-mail, for example. Finally, assign your truly “no concentration required” activities to your low-concentration periods. If you’ve allocated time to exercising, this would be a good time to do a workout.
Stroking two birds with a single hand
There’s no reason why you can’t use the same time to accomplish more than one thing. For example, I am writing this article (a high-concentration activity) on my laptop while enjoying coffee in a Santa Monica café (a low-concentration activity).
Group like tasks
Grouping like tasks will allow you to accomplish more in the same amount of time. It is much more efficient to run three errands while you’re out and about rather than making three separate trips. Similarly, it’s more time-efficient to run one large load of laundry rather than two separate, smaller loads. So give some thought to these mundane sorts of activities too. There’s always a way to shave off a bit of time by grouping similar activities and doing them in one hit. E-mail’s another prime example. It’s far more efficient to check and respond to mail twice a day than to read and respond to each message as and when it comes in, thereby distracting yourself from what you were doing in the first place.
By thinking about what you have to do and scheduling those tasks in conformity with your concentration levels as well as grouping like activities, you will naturally make the most effective use of the time available. Your productivity will increase proportionately.
Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning A Home-Based Business Online... practical home business ideas, resources and strategies for the work-from-home entrepreneur: http://www.ahbbo.com