Tips for taking Control of the Clock
Time is the world's greatest and, quite possibly, the world's only equalizer. I've said this before but it's worth repeating. No one has more hours in a day than the next person. We all have been given the same amount of hours and minutes. So why do some people seem to accomplish more in a day than others? Why do some people appear to be highly productive, while others struggle to finish a couple tasks on their to-do lists?
The difference comes down to HOW we use our time. Not the amount of time we have, not whether we prefer to wake up early or stay up late. It's all about how we prioritize and plan our days. But what's the best way to utilize the hours we've been handed without having to constantly race the clock and feeling burnt out by the time we crawl into bed?
Weigh your daily tasks
Have you ever heard the phrase "all things being equal"? Or have you heard people talk about the importance of balance in your life? Do you find it hard to find balance in the day to day? I do. And you know why?
There is no such thing as a balanced life.
That's right. All things are not equal. One task will always outweigh another. One job will always be more important than another. And, to make everything more complex, no one task remains the most important. There is no such thing as a balanced life. But we can actively balance the tasks within our life.
Think of it this way: Take two dumbbells of different weight and hold one in each hand. Now hold them both at shoulder level. You can hold both weights at the same level, but one takes more strength and concentration to keep at that level. They are not balanced naturally by weight. They are balanced by active effort and control. Our lives will never be balanced. Different priorities require different amounts of energy and focus.
Apply this to your daily tasks and appointments. Which task takes top priority? Which one will require the most time and energy? Is there a task, big or small, that must get done no matter the circumstances of the day? Make a list and prioritize the order in which you accomplish each of these by weighing their importance.
Block your time
My mom and I got on the subject the other day about time blocking. She told me about this lady by the name of Jordan Page. She's a wife and mother of six who uses and teaches this method of time management. I watched her YouTube video "The Block Schedule System" and was blown away. She divided her day into time blocks of about 2-3 hours each, designates her tasks and appointments into the proper block, and then prioritizes them within the block.
At first, I thought this sounded way too complicated. But I'm giving it a go, and from the very short time I've been applying this, I've found how much less complicated my day feels. There's routine in most of our days to some degree, so by creating blocks to fit your individual routine, you're helping yourself control the the clock and move swiftly from one completed task to the next.
Protect your time
Gary Keller, author of the bestselling book The ONE Thing, takes time blocking one step further and advises us to protect our time blocks. We must give the time we've allotted for our tasks the attention it deserves. This means not letting outside distractions take over. While some distractions, such as family emergencies or impromptu events can't be ignored, we can protect our time from the smaller interruptions. Schedule coffee dates and errands in their own time block. Find a quiet, isolated space to complete your most important work. If someone comes around and asks for your help with a job that is not imminent, work with them to schedule a time for later to get to that project.
Jumping from task to task before one is completed keeps you on the move constantly without gaining any lasting productivity. By protecting our time we can eliminate the urge to scatter ourselves about.
Unplug from technology
Technology is great. Our cell phones alone allow us to do so much. But as great of a tool as technology can be, it can be just as detrimental. The internet, social media, television--they all distract us from the job at hand and suck our time away faster than anything else. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Facebook or Instagram one minute and then glanced at the clock only to be horrified that over an hour has passed in what felt like a matter of seconds?
Phones and TV are appropriate during certain times, but just like with everything else, they do not always hold the most importance. Power down the electronics frequently throughout your day. When you're working on your biggest priority--unplug. When spending time with family at the end of the day--unlpug! When in an important meeting or appointment--unplug. I am actually starting to delegate my technology or "digital time" to certain time blocks of my day and leaving it out of others completely. It's not an easy habit to develop, but it greatly increases my productivity and my allows me to focus on my biggest priorities.
There are numerous other ways to help manage time and get the most out of our day. But these tips are the ones which have helped me the most in recent months.
Time management is like a muscle. We have to consistently work it in order for it to stay strong and useful. I'd love to hear what time management tips you have and how you apply them to the day to day.