I’m often asked by clients and others, “How can I make more time? I don’t seem to have enough.”
Sorry to break it to you but you can’t. 24 hours is all we get on this planet each day and that’s it. Having said that, it actually isn’t necessary to make more time. In fact the whole time problem is less about whether there is enough of it or not and more about how we think and feel about it.
The problem can usually be summed up in once sentence – There isn’t enough time to do what I need to do. The crux of the problem lies around the ‘do what I need to do’ part of the sentence. It gets down to a matter of focus.
Let’s break it down…
If we’re honest with ourselves, what we think we need to do and what we actually do get done are usually very different. If you’re a prolific list maker, you might find that half the stuff on to your to-do list never actually gets done. Or it may only be 20%. Doesn’t really matter what the number is but that’s the reality.
A lot of what we think is important at the time we put it on our to-do list doesn’t turn out to be important enough to get done and will ultimately just get crossed off. At any given point in time, we don’t know which items on our list are just going to get crossed off but we know it’s a good many.
So straight away, we know that the ‘not enough time’ problem isn’t as big as we think it is. Just sit with that for a moment and let that sink in. Feels better already doesn’t it?
Whatever anxiety is left will be around what we are not doing, what has yet to be done. If that’s where our focus is then it’s natural we’ll feel anxious because, relative to the amount of time we have available (i.e. relative to now ), what we are not doing will always seem so overwhelming.
So let’s take our action item above a step further.
We know for certain that most of the stuff on our to-do list isn’t going to get done today. Easiest way to work out what that might be is to decide what can get done today in a realistic manner.
Pick seven items and seven items only. One largish task, one or two moderate tasks and four or five minor tasks. That’s it. No more. And make sure they are tasks and not projects. A task is a single action item.
The largish or one of the moderate tasks must be from your ‘important but not urgent‘ list. This way you know you are in a proactive rather than reactive mode. You are moving forward rather than just treading water.
So now the bulk of your to-do list is history for today. Instead of investing all your emotional energy into dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of items that aren’t being done, you are now free to invest it in the seven items that will be done today. You’ve gone from not having enough time to having plenty of time, all in a space of two to five minutes.
Efficiency will go up, anxiety will go down.
When you’ve done those seven tasks, if you have capacity for more then by all means do them. And at the end of the day, rather than berating yourself for what didn’t get done, you can acknowledge yourself for what you did get done. A perfect set up for tomorrow when you can go through the process again.
Any tips to share on how you ‘make more time’? Drop them in the comments below.