How to Balance and Reclaim Your Time
February 22, 2016
Topicsproductivity, Time Management, work life balance
If you’ve tossed and turned at night wondering how on earth you’re going to get to the bottom of tomorrow’s to-do list, you’ll doubtless have asked yourself if it’s possible to strike a better work-life balance and reclaim some of your time. Well, good news - you can.
The often heard claim that "we all seem to be so busy these days" is something of a misnomer; the human race has always been busy. Consider the druids who built Stonehenge or the coal-weary United Kingdom miners of the 1980s - they seem somewhat far removed from the modern age of email and video conferences, but their days were no different. Arguably, they were a whole lot worse than what we have to contend with!
Productivity experts will quickly point out the time-sapping endeavours and interruptions which thwart our working lives, but there are other ways to balance and reclaim time. Here our five of my favourites:
1. Use an app
If you know me, you’ll know I’m rather fond of answering questions relating to personal improvement with the help of software. And not software for software’s sake, either. Thankfully, I’ve saved you an awful lot of time by trying some of the best time-reclaiming apps out there. The best I’ve found is Balanced, which forces you to do the things you love doing whilst achieving greatness at work. Sometimes we need to be forced.
2. Don’t let email rule your day
I’m a big fan of email. For all its faults, I think it is still a superb method of communication. What I’m not a fan of, however, is email’s propensity to distract us from more important tasks. It shouldn’t, after all, be used as a way to get people’s attention. One of the best things about email is that it can be ignored. Don’t be afraid to do just that; set aside specific times during the day reserved for email activity and turn it off at all others.
3. Get in the habit of saying "no"
As humans we’re largely a helpful bunch. Our yearning to assist others comes from a desire to better oneself and to impress upon others our desire and ability to get stuff done. Unfortunately, that often results in taking too much on. Carefully assess every task you’re asked to perform. If you have doubts you can do a good job in a reasonable amount of time, say "no."
4. Over-invest in friends, family and hobbies
Work is incredibly important, of course, but it is next to useless if you don’t spend as much time as possible with the people you love and doing the things you enjoy. Force yourself to over-invest in friends, family and hobbies. It’s the easiest way to reclaim time!
5. Allocate a specific time to each activity
I’m a big fan of breaking my day up into bite-sized chunks. By allocating a specific amount of my day to each task, I always complete them within an acceptable time frame, and never feel I "owe" myself any time.
The key to reclaiming time is to work yourself into a position where you don’t even have to think it necessary. The 5 tips above - when combined - represent zero-cost ways of both improving productivity whilst ensuring nothing is neglected. And that includes the time you want to spend doing the things you love!
Hi, Mark – excellent time management post with some fresh thinking around how to deal with what we incorrectly perceive as a “lack of time”. It’s all about choices.
I was particularly interested in your points around technology use. In a recent Tweetchat with leadership folks, the issue arose of whether technology enhances or diminishes our interactions and activities. The discussion was all over the place and the verdict somewhat mixed, but I did get a sense that technology USE is the issue, rather than the technology itself and that is also what I am getting from your points.
Balance sounds interesting and I will check it out. As for email, I have several accounts and, in order to maintain my sanity, am already striving to let them sit. I experience much better ability to go through emails quickly, make immediate decisions regarding what to keep and what to delete, and generally save time and energy when I do many emails at one sitting several times a day, rather than the “death by a thousand small cuts” approach of trying to stay on top of the flow all the time all day long.
Appreciate your useful comments:)
Thanks, John. You’ve hit the nail on the head – it is indeed about tech use, as opposed to the apps and devices themselves. The key is finding a bunch of tools that work for you – figure out the best way to use them, and stick to that workflow.
And, yes, there really is no such thing as ‘a lack of time’!