Buying time: How to put more hours in every day

by Michelle LaBrosse

How often do we say to one another, "I just wish there were more hours in the day?" Well, there can be. When you use Project Management techniques to your advantage, you can be singing the Rolling Stones classic, Time Is on My Side.

Here are some of my favorite time-saving tips that you can apply both to your business and home life.

1. Avoid the Long, Rambling To-Do List. One thing that gets many of us in trouble is when we have enormous To-Do lists that have no prioritization, and they just continue to grow like a pile of laundry. What’s dangerous about this, is that we get overwhelmed and the To-Do list starts to become the enemy instead of our ally.

2. Prioritize. At the beginning of every day, look at what you have to do and prioritize it. What’s red hot and time specific? Do that first. What do you need to do today to move forward on some of your Big Hairy Audacious Goals? What’s at your Bus Stop? These are things you are waiting for from others. What’s on your passion list? This is what you will you do to recharge you batteries and give you energy.

3. Eating your Spinach. It is human to dive into what is fun, but think of all the procrastination time you save when you tackle the tough stuff first. It’s like eating your spinach before you can have the hot fudge sundae for dessert. It’s also important to tune in to the time of day when you have the most energy. That’s the best time to do your most difficult tasks.

4. Save Time for Murphy. When you over-schedule your day, you create stress for yourself because there is no time for Murphy’s Law – the inevitable things that go wrong that we might not foresee. Try to leave at least two hours of your workday unscheduled.

5. Rebooting your Brain. Sleep deprivation might have been a sport in college, but when you’re working and trying to be effective in all aspects of your life, you need to get enough sleep. If you think of your brain as your own personal hard drive, it needs time to sleep to function at its best and keep all the data in the right places. When you’re rested, you give your brain the white space it needs to do its best work. Nothing is a bigger time waster than when you’re not in top form, and you have to keep doing the same things over and over again.

6. Know where your time is going. If you don’t think you know where your time is going, spend a week logging it, and then evaluate the results. This simple exercise will often give you insight into what you should NOT be doing.

7. One of these things is not like the other. When you group like tasks together, you can save an enormous amount of time and really get momentum going. Look at what you have to accomplish, and set up the flow so that it builds logically and saves you having to back track.

8. Make technology work for you. If you feel like you’re doing the same things over and over again, automate or standardize those tasks. Learn how to manage your e-mail so it is a productivity tool, not a time waster. If you find that you spend all day responding to e-mail, but not enough time completing tasks, you need to evaluate how you’re spending your time, and build an e-mail culture that works for your team and organization.

9. Make meetings matter. Someone once told me about a CEO of a company in New Hampshire who had conference room tables with no chairs. The message was clear. Get to the point and make the meeting matter. Don’t have a meeting if it can easily be handled in an e-mail or a conference call. Have a meeting when being face-to-face has an important impact on the outcome, and set the expectation that everyone’s time so no meeting can be called unless there is an agenda and a clear objective.

10. Stretch. Building in breaks for exercise and stretching is critical to maximizing your time and making sure your brain is working at its peak performance. We see this time and time again in our training, and that’s why we believe strongly in integrating stretching and breathing into our classes.

11. Know your shine time. If you’re a morning person and that is prime time for you, make the most of that time and get up a little earlier to maximize your shine time. Likewise, if you’re a night owl or get a burst of energy in the late afternoon, recognize your energy surges and take advantage of them.

12. Recharge your batteries with passion. Passion creates energy. When you are passionate about something, whether it’s fly-fishing or doing the tango, it helps you recharge your batteries. Make sure to leave space on your calendar for something that you love.

13. Don’t put off professional development. When you invest time in your professional development, you save time because you often accelerate your career. Take the time you have to invest in yourself, and get your PMP® certification or take a Project Management course to beef up a skill set that will help propel you forward. Look at the options available to you – online and offsite – and commit to making every minute matter more.

About the Author
Michelle LaBrosse is the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning. An international expert on accelerated learning and Project Management, she has grown Cheetah Learning into the market leader for Project Management training and professional development. In 2006, The Project Management Institute, www.pmi.org, selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. Michelle is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner & President Management program for entrepreneurs, and is the author of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah Negotiations.

 

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