You must use your 1,440 minutes today, it’s not possible to carry them forward to tomorrow. Any wasted minutes are lost.
Everyday you make multiple decisions about how to use every one of those minutes. Often you’ll be unaware you’re really making a decision – it’s more a rapid response to the latest request, crisis or thought that pops into your mind.
But all those decisions contribute to how you feel at the end of the day.
Some minutes you used wisely bringing a great return or much pleasure – very satisfying. Some slipped by unnoticed, and some minutes you generously gave away to others by helping with their tasks. Probably not so satisfying, perhaps even frustrating.
So imagine for a moment that instead of minutes, you received money each day. Picture a gift-wrapped box containing a golden coin for every one of those 1,440 minutes, and you’ll decide how to spend them.
So many entrepreneurs start businesses with dreams of taking back control of their time, working fewer hours and enjoying work again. You know the sort of thing, it’s almost a mythology – working in your pyjamas, from the beach or for just a few hours a week. If it’s worked out that way for you already, congratulations!
But let’s face it, I know only too well for many entrepreneurs the dream takes a little longer to materialise than we hoped. Indeed, it’s easy to find ourselves working for an even more demanding ‘Boss from Hell’ (AKA yourself) who doesn’t stop nagging for attention 24/7. Trying to keep up with the orders, networking and a ‘to do’ list that seems to have no end, can make it hard to squeeze in time for family and friends too.
I often ask Clients ‘how often do you take a lunch break in a typical week?’ The response, more often than not, is a wry laugh, surprise or polite invitation to take a reality check. For many people, lunch and breaks are rapidly disappearing from the working day, without much thought about the impact.
And of course it’s understandable. When you’re under pressure to deliver against tight deadlines, dash to the next meeting and somehow tame your bulging inbox, skipping breaks and lunch during the day seems a natural choice. Or maybe you choose to sit at your desk, grab a quick bite when you can and continue handling every interruption as you munch.
But although you might imagine skipping breaks saves time, the reverse is true. Sometimes, taking a break is exactly what you need to keep your productivity and enthusiasm high.
Our bodies are not machines designed to run flat out for long periods. Rather, we’re designed for short bursts of activity, followed by a break to rest and refuel.
Most of us spend our working time juggling a multitude of activities and projects. Sometimes this can be frustrating because while we’re undoubtedly busy, it can take an age to finish anything and move on to something new.
I’m often asked whether it’s better to concentrate on one activity at a time or to multitask – and the possibly disappointing, but honest, answer I have to give is ‘it depends’. Both have advantages and drawbacks – and we all benefit from developing the opposite to our preferred approach and increasing flexibility.
Traditional time management approaches typically recommend you single task, following a project doggedly through to conclusion before beginning another. And it makes sense – if you can immerse yourself in a project, you’ll spend less time reviewing information, recapping where you were before beginning the next part.
Sometimes it seems that way, as if you only start the ‘real’ work when most colleagues have left. Interruptions can increase pressure, making a carefully planned project appear impossibly overambitious. Your time is nibbled away, minute by minute.
And when the worst interrupter is your Manager – this can test your diplomatic skills too.
Most of us find these interruptions particularly difficult. After all, that’s our job – to be helpful, co-operative and available when needed. You want to maintain a positive relationship, demonstrate a ‘can do’ attitude and keep on top of your workload.
But it’s not easy when your Manager interrupts frequently with a torrent of new tasks that weren’t on the radar yesterday.
While the interruptions are unlikely to stop completely (and you probably wouldn’t want them to), these suggestions will minimise them, without upsetting your Manager.
Open plan work environments seem to be the norm in most organisations. Some are even going further, introducing ‘hotdesking’ where even your workstation is allocated fresh each day.
An open plan environment is flexible, positively encourages conversation between colleagues, and for many of us this is an enjoyable part of our working lives. This environment is credited with benefits such as better communication, faster problem-solving and decision-making. You can immediately see who is present, and typically you’ll have a wider circle of contacts to ask for help when working in an open plan office.
But inevitably more conversation leads to interruptions to your concentration. Combined with distractions such as impromptu meetings, distribution of birthday cakes and background clatter of printers/photocopiers in use, the noise level can rise.
And it has to be said, working in an open plan office isn’t universally popular. The chatter, people walking past and increased interruptions sometimes causes loss of concentration, frustration and reduced productivity for some.