Getting things done more easily is crucial in most of our day to day lives now. We are busier than ever, and constantly seem to be chasing our tails. So – how can we get more done without feeling overwhelmed? How can we plan the day so that it’s more realistic and we can feel like we’ve really achieved something? This post may well be the key…
I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the fact that she wasn’t gaining any headway on her day to day tasks.
She seemed to be a step behind all the way through the day, and unable to catch up on lost time. She was really busy all day with tasks, but totally at a loss as to why other people seemed to get a lot more done – no matter how busy she made herself.
I asked her how she tackled her tasks – and she said (as most of us do) that she just writes them down and works her way through the list each day.
There’s nothing really wrong with that – after all – I’m an advocate of a good TO DO list, but is there a better way?
Sometimes we may have to go a step further when writing a TO DO list so that we are getting as much done in the time we have available as possible.
Lists Aren’t Always Enough
Do you simply write down your TO DO list and then work your way through it each day/week?
Most people do – but you could be missing out on a huge time management trick that saves you time each and every time you do something: –
If you don’t give yourself a time limit on a task, then you will take longer than necessary to complete it.
Let me explain.
You may feel that you’re doing everything quickly and getting things ticked off the list, but chances are you’ll be getting distracted in the middle of things, thinking about something else, trying to multitask at the same time, or getting overwhelmed because the list is increasing as quickly as you can tick things off…..
All those things will negatively affect how much you actually get done, and how you feel at the end of the day.
You will feel you’re constantly busy, you’ll be working through your tasks – but you may well still end up not doing as much as you could each day and feeling overwhelmed.
So, what’s the answer?
Get To Know Parkinsons Law
Parkinson’s Law states that: –
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Let me ask you something right now – do you know how long it takes to mow the lawn, or to sort a load of washing, or to clean the kitchen?
Most of us either have no idea, or a very vague idea which may or may not be accurate – we just work on a task until it’s done and then move on to the next one.
Allowing yourself as much time as you need to get something done without thinking how long it actually should take means that you take a little bit of extra time for each and every task you do – and those small amounts of time soon add up to make a real difference in how much you are getting done.
To get the most out of our time, it’s crucial to know roughly how long things take to do.
That way you can allocate slots of time for tasks, and fill your schedule more easily as you will know whether you can fit in a certain tasks into a certain time slot.
You’ll feel less overwhelmed, and be more aware of what’s really possible each day.
How Do I Get To Know How Long Tasks Take?
The key here is to simply keep a time diary for a week.
Yes, it’s a bit of an effort to do, but will be worth it as it will really identify where you are wasting time, and where you can save it.
It will also show you how long your routine tasks are actually taking.
Simply grab a small notepad and start to write down what you do each day – noting the times that you start and finish each task.
With that information you can then work out more easily how much time things take on average to do, and allocate time slots to tasks when you create a schedule for yourself (Cleaning schedules work better when you know what time things take, and your TO DO list will work better when you don’t try and do too much each day).
You should then be able to focus more on each task as you will create a sense of urgency by giving yourself a time limit – and that small change alone should allow you to fit more into the day.
Take A Leaf From Business
I heard that a few top business people only allow meetings to last 15 minutes.
Because of this, they focus people on what they actually want to talk about and get to the point much more quickly rather than spending loads of time on general chit chat.
They don’t waste time on all day meetings, and get more done as a result.
This all sounds perfect in the office – but can it work at home too?
I tried this a while back, and when I was consciously looking at the clock and trying to do things in certain times, I genuinely got more done.
I felt more productive and I felt I had something to aim at at each stage of my day.
I also found as a nice side effect that, rather than feeling rushed and more stressed by having things timed, as I thought I might – the opposite was true. I had more focus, was more sure that I would be able to fit things into the time I had given it, and generally felt calmer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a robot – I sometimes did it fine, but sometimes I went over the time slightly.
The trick was not to stress over those times, merely use the time allocated as a guide – but what I learnt was that I was getting so much more done, as I wasn’t dragging my heels from task to task.
I used the time I had available (that which I had set) and got the task done – and who can argue with that?
When you start to notice people that seem to have time for everything, then you’ll see that the most productive people will have made this way of doing tasks a habit so that they now don’t even realise they are doing it – it’s sort of an internal stopwatch.
They will complete tasks with more of an urgency than other, less productive people, even though both people seem just as busy as each other.
So, just keep in the front of your mind that tasks will grow to fit the time available for them. Getting things done means you need to start to manage your task times so that your tasks don’t manage you.
Always allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to do each task. There’s no need to get stressed by this at all, but be aware of the clock (you could use a stopwatch for a real race against time!), and focus on the task in hand.
How much more do you think you’d get done if you knew how long things took? Now there’s a challenge for you….
P.S Have you joined the Facebook group as yet? It’s a fantastic place to talk to like minded people about all things related to simplifying life – and only members of the group can see what you post so you can be open and honest knowing that it’s a safe place. If you’d like to join in the chat, then just CLICK HERE.