Is it really ‘no time’ that’s making you feel stressed?

I went to my first networking meeting of the year yesterday with the lovely people of Locks Heath Brainstorm where we talked about New Year’s resolutions for business. It became very apparent early on that what many of us struggle with is ‘lack of time’ leaving people feeling stressed, overworked and inadequate. Lack of time easily turns into procrastination if you don’t get a handle on it and that is what I want to achieve during 2015.

Where does our time go and why do we feel so pressured? Isn’t the point of all the gadgets and electronic equipment that we have to save us time? We no longer need spend time scrubbing clothes or pots because we have machines doing it for us. We have computers to help us manage our daily lives – shopping, socializing, paying bills and processing. Slow cookers, food processors and breadmakers etcetera take the chore out of cooking. So if we have all this spare time now what do we do with it?

Today’s discussion brought up some real questions about time management. Is it that we don’t have enough time or that we don’t use the time we have productively? Time management is a learned skill so why is it not taught in schools? Also what is really good time management and is there such a thing as multitasking in reality?

This whole subject is close to my heart as in the Counselling room ‘no time’ is often given as a reason for clients not doing the things that they really would like to do. Is it really no time or is it that something else is stopping you? Lets dig a little deeper. Whist it can genuinely feel like a lack of time, ask yourself are you prioritising other tasks rather than doing the stuff that challenges you? Why would you do that, is it lack of motivation or self confidence? Fear of failure can be a great feeder of procrastination and avoidance and it’s amazing how important the ironing or the washing up can become when you have a task ahead that takes you out of your comfort zone.

So what can you do about it?

  1. Learn about time management and get a good system in place that suits you. I have been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and he offers a really good practical solution for getting organized and keeping on top of things both work and personal. His way may not be the one for you but find one that is and that works.
  2. Don’t overload yourself. Your ‘to do’ list is always gonna be there so ask yourself each day ‘What do I want to achieve today?’ Give yourself a limit of say 5 things and anything else you get done is a bonus. Make sure the 5 things are achievable in the time you have and include things like ‘being present in your meetings’.
  3. Make a list of the Time Bandits in your life (and your office)! Who are the people that ask for 5 mins of your time and take 40? Recognize who these people are and address the time you give to them. Learn to say ‘no’ or ‘later’.
  4. Make your ‘to do’ list realistic and task focused. So putting ‘get funding’ on your list is vague and overwhelming. In order to start getting funding what is the next task? The next task might be to email your colleague and ask him for the details of the funding he got – the item that goes on your to do list for that day is ‘email colleague’.
  5. Set firm boundaries with yourself. Dedicate time in your diary to the task you want to achieve and stick to it. You wouldn’t check on your facebook whilst in a meeting with your boss would you so why are you doing it when you are in a meeting with yourself? Put your phone away, close down your facebook/twitter etc. and ignore your emails for the time you have dedicated. If this is difficult get yourself a mentor, coach or counsellor – someone who can help you set the goals and that you can be answerable to to help you reach them.
  6. Be honest with yourself. Have you not applied for that promotion because you have ‘no time’ or because you don’t know how to sell yourself on the application? If it’s the latter then do you have a friend or colleague who can help you? Someone who is capable of recognizing your strengths and helping you get that down on paper. Is there more to it, are you scared of failing or making a mistake? Then find someone to talk to about this and address your fears before yet another opportunity goes by.

As a self-confessed avoider my New Years resolution for business is to really address the best use of my time. I have a list of things I want to achieve this year and I am going to be keeping a close eye on where my time is going and how I am spending it. ‘No time’ will no longer be an excuse for not doing the things that challenge me. What will you be doing to manage your time this year?