Are your working nights and weekends just to stay on top of things?
If so, chances are you have things or people that are robbing you of your time.
So what can you do about it?
Well, the first thing to realise is that we each get 24 hours in a day. Not more. Not less.
So if we can’t create more time, we need to identify what is wasting our time… and then go about eliminating these time wasters!
And by doing this most people can find an extra 5 to 10 hours every single week!
1) Conduct a Time Audit
The best place to start if you want to find out how much of your time is being wasted is to do a time audit. This is where you write down every 15 minutes what’s happening with your time. Observe everything – the projects you do, the tasks you work on, what interrupts you and where you go off course.
Do this for a week and you will know exactly what’s happening with your time. And it will become clear what things are wasting your time… that you need to eliminate.
I remember one of our clients did this and he was the kind of guy who didn’t like paperwork. He would see a pile of quotes on his desk and go, “I’ll just have a coffee and then I’ll get stuck into them” or “I’ll just go and check how the guys out the back are going and then I’ll get onto those quotes”. He was procrastinating!
Now this guy had a young family and was working 60-70 hours a week. All he wanted was to have more family time… but he was too busy! Turns out when he did the time audit, he was wasting about 15 hours a week on those coffees and breaks – those times when he was procrastinating. And the interesting thing was until he did the time audit, he didn’t realise it was happening.
So this is something that you might want to do.
And once you know what your time wasters are, the next thing is start eliminating them.
2) The 2 Types of Time Wasters
There are two main categories of time wasters. The first one is what we call distractions. Distractions are often internal ie we have allowed ourselves to get lost or distracted on something. For example, you’ve gone onto your phone to check social media and then all of a sudden, an hour’s gone by! Or you’ve gone to check an email and then you have got lost in your inbox. Your time has been wasted because you’ve been distracted from the job at hand. And this all adds up.
The second type of time waster is interruptions and typically come externally from you. These are where something or someone interrupts you. You might be in the middle of working on something important and you get interrupted. The phone rings so you answer it. Or someone walks into your office. Or you get a question from your staff. All these things interrupt what you are doing and rob you of your time. And studies show that this can cost us up to 30% of our productivity.
So how do you eliminate these?
How do you get back those five hours a week?
Well, you handle each type of time waster differently…
3) Eliminating Distractions
So with distractions you either want to eliminate them or set clear boundaries. For example, if you are wasting time on social media you could delete the app off your phone just check it on a computer. Or put boundaries around it. For example, one of clients made the commitment to only check facebook during his lunch break. It’s all about setting some boundaries.
The other thing to do is switch off notifications. Whenever you get the message ‘You’ve got mail’ or a notification pops up on your phone our first instinct is to check it. Switch these off because they can be very distracting.
Taking this to the next level, only have certain times when you check email. Most people can get away with checking their email once a day. Or if you often get time sensitive messages you may need to check three times a day. And in between these times have your email closed or your phone switched off. You will find you are more productive, and just like when you get back from a holiday you will quickly clear your inbox with this newfound focus
All these take discipline but the payoff is great.
4) Eliminating Interruptions
To eliminate interruptions, you want to focus on what you can control. For example, you can’t control when your phone rings, but you can control if your phone is on. Get in the habit of turning your phone off, switching it to silent or even putting it in a drawer so it is out of mind and out of sight. If you are expecting any important calls you could also give it to someone else in your business to manage. This removes the chance of being interrupted so you can get a key project or task done.
The other way to eliminate interruptions is to get to the root cause of what is causing them. If you are commonly getting interrupted by staff with questions, then get to the root cause of why they are asking the questions. Identify common questions that you could write a system for and train your staff in.
For example, one of our clients who runs a mechanical franchise was often getting interrupted by sales reps dropping in unannounced which interrupted his day. What he did is set time aside each week as to when he saw reps. So if a rep dropped in unannounced, he said ‘Sorry, I can’t see you now., I see my reps between 9 and 11 or Friday morning. Would you like to make an appointment? The reps soon got the message and he went from being reactive all the time to seeing reps at a time that worked for him.
Another one of our clients who runs a law firm did a similar thing with his team. He was often getting interruptions from staff walking into his office with questions about legal matters. What he did is twice a week he hosted a lunch and learn. His staff would bring their questions to the meeting and they brainstormed them as a team. So rather than just reacting to questions all the time, he set time aside so it would work for him. And the best thing was, because people often had to wait they would work out the answers to their own questions.
5) Your Next Steps
So what are your top distractions? What are your top interruptions? What is wasting your time?
If you are not sure about what your time wasters are then do a time audit for a week. If you need some help with this, send us a message and we will send you a copy of our time audit template.
Get to the root cause and then work out the solution that needs to be put in place to eliminate them using the examples above.
You’ll be able to free up at least 5 hours a week plus be more productive every day.