There are never enough hours in the day is a familiar refrain in offices across the land. If like me, you’re constantly racing to catch up with the clock, maybe it’s time to take a new approach. Tired of feeling constantly frazzled, I nipped out after work last week to attend a talk on time managment by leading psychotherapist and change worker, Matt Kendall. Ruthlessly regimented, these tips are not for the faint-hearted but could just help you leave work on time for the rest of your working life.
1) Create a time audit – just like finance and diet overhauls, it’s important to know how your time is frittered away on a daily basis. From colleagues who linger a little too long at your desk through to convoluted reply to all e-mail exchanges, identifying the time thieves is the first step to taking back control of your time.
2) Plan your hours – Once you’ve got an idea of where your time goes, it’s time to take action. Organising your time efficiently applies not only to work but to every aspect of your life from paying bills through to planning a social life. To achieve this feat of military precision, Matt recommends using Google Calendar. Start by plotting in your work tasks hour-by-hour before moving on to your time outside work. Create regular weekly and monthly alerts for essential shopping and household chores before planning those all-important social activities for the week ahead. By pro-actively using time management tactics at all times, you’ll feel more confident and in control of all aspects of your life.
3) Work in 20 minute bursts– it’s been proven that our brains can only function at optimum performance levels for twenty minute intervals. Rather than sitting for hours labouring over a project, Matt suggests focussing your attention entirely on one task for twenty minutes. If this proves difficult, set a twenty minute alert on your google calendar. At the end of this interval, move away from your desk to grab a glass of water or stretch your legs. Physically removing yourself from the task-in-hand will not only refresh your brain but will also motivate you to re-focus quickly when you get back to your desk. It will also help to remove the health risks associated with sitting for long periods.
4) No pain, no gain – if you find you’re still distracted despite these short bursts of activity, wear a rubber band round your wrist. Every time Twitter tempts you to abandon ship, ping the rubber band against your wrist. The pain you experience will very quickly train your brain to stop acting on the distracting thoughts.
5) Batch tasks Workplace anxiety is often caused by feeling overwhelmed by the range of tasks being asked of us. One way to stay in control is to batch similar tasks together. For example, if you have five phone calls to make, do them all at the same time. Take the same approach to the inbox. Delay responding straight away (unless extremely urgent) and fix a daily time to clear them all at once. If faced with colleagues and clients who demand instant attention, send an auto-response to let them know when you’ll be in touch. Take back control of your time and you’ll take back control of your life.
Matt Kendall provides a twice weekly series of interesting talks focussed on all aspects of personal development.
What techniques do you use to leave work on time?