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Can you really have it all? Here’s how to start leveraging your time…

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I’m constantly trying to think of new and ingenious ways of leveraging my time in order to get more done in my day and still have time left over for fun! I recently bought a stack of books on the subject of productivity, and even though I haven’t yet had a chance to delve into them too deeply (it’s that issue of time, you know?!), I have come across some simple ideas that can help just about anyone get more out of their time. So, I thought I’d briefly share those and some of the strategies I already use myself.

Scheduling… Business guru Marie Forleo says

If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.

I tend to agree. If I enter the specific tasks I have to get done today, as well as deadlines that are looming, into my calendar and follow this pretty much religiously, then nothing is forgotten, promises are kept, and things actually get done in time. I can’t live without Calendar on my Mac and iPhone, and even though I schedule every 15 minutes, I can always see important things coming up and never miss a thing, whilst still maintaining a small degree of flexibility.

Systems… Yes, they take time to create but systems are necessary if you don’t want to keep reinventing the wheel and doing the same thing over and over again. That’s just insane anyway. Proformas, databases, templates, autoresponders, checklists, video and audio – there are so many ways to set up systems that allow tasks you have to do frequently to be done in the shortest timeframe possible. I even set up systems at home, such as with my housework, where I’ve worked out the most efficient order of tasks possible – I know that sounds ridiculous, but some things are best done before others, and it saves a lot of time. What’s more ridiculous are people who love doing housework all day long 😉

Blocking… Blocking out chunks of time in your schedule for focused work means that you get more done in less time… assuming that you’re not distracted during that time, so you need to be strategic as to when you schedule them. You know the importance of scheduling, but blocking is also important to ensure that you’re giving yourself decent periods of time to do your best work. This can’t happen if you’re doing the washing, answering client calls and giving the baby your attention that the same time. Set a timer for half an hour or an hour, and focus on just one task during that time.

Focused attention… This happens during block time. It’s a technique I read about somewhere when I was in my final year of school, but I’ve since learnt that it actually has a name - the Pomodoro technique. If you find it particularly challenging to concentrate during a block, instead split the block into three 15-minute intervals (of course, you’ll need to set your timer for these). During a 15-minute interval, you need to focus your attention so deeply that you don’t think about anything but the task at hand. This means ensuring that there are absolutely no interruptions and distractions possible during this time, and that you’re even able to stop unrelated thoughts in their tracks as you work. When the timer goes off, get up out of your chair (this is very important) and have a walk around and a stretch for two minutes, no longer. Then set the timer again for the second 15-minute focused interval and get down to work. Repeat this cycle three times and then give yourself a ten-minute break at the end, having something to eat, going for a short walk or relaxing.

Prioritise…Stephen Covey was the person that introduced us to First Things First, and showed us that not all tasks are equal. They’re one of the following:

  • Important and urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Urgent but not important
  • Neither important nor urgent

He says we are best to tackle the first two types of tasks straight away, and if time permits, handle the urgent things that aren’t important. And what do you think you do with the last type? That’s right.

We must get our priorities straight before trying to get anything done during our day. What makes a task important to you? It really depends on your personal core values and your business goals. Perhaps it’s any task that’ll help you to connect more deeply and meaningfully with your clients. Maybe it’s developing a system that’ll leverage your time more in the future. Or it could be an task that’s going to grow a passive income stream. Or maybe it’s an activity that puts you in a state of flow and brings immense joy.

What’s important to you is unique to you, so you must get clear on this in order to use your time as effectively as possible each day.

As I continue my research, I’ll be sure to blog about more ideas that I learn and test along the way. There’s always a better way of doing things, and we deserve to have the lives of our dreams and the time needed for that. Wasn’t that a big ‘why’ for having our businesses after all?

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