Don't Squash Your Big Goals for the Year by Squandering Time

Don't Squash Your Big Goals for the Year by Squandering Time
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Author of 'The Time Bandit Solution' and Co-Founder of Cohen Brown Management Group
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What’s your annually renewed vow? Eat better, exercise more, lose weight? Spend more time with the kids? Keep a weekly date night with the spouse?

Have you set a goal that's work related -- perhaps to keep a neater office and files? Are you trying to land that big client you’ve been going after for months?

Honestly, I don’t care what it is, but you do. You care so much you’re feeling bad right now that you didn’t make it happen last year.  

There’s a reason if you keep failing at realizing your resolutions, and I don’t think it’s because you’re weak-willed, lazy or insincere. I don’t even think it’s because you’re too busy, although you probably feel that you have too much to do and not enough time to keep your vow. 

Half the problem is that you keep letting your time be stolen from you by interruptions, especially at work. When people sit down and account for their time, they discover that they lose three to five hours a day to unwanted and unproductive interruptions from people I call time bandits, according to my research. Among them are probably your nearest (employees, colleagues, clients and customers) and dearest (yourself).

So you won’t have time to keep your resolutions unless you learn to deter your time bandits during your workday. Here are some timely tips to get started:

Related: 4 Tips to Optimize Your Time as an Entrepreneur

Understand the challenge. For a few days, calculate how much time you lose to interruptions. You will then have incredible motivation to change.

Train people who interrupt you. Learn how to explain to those who might interrupt your work that you want to take care of their request but make it in their best interest to let you "time lock." Have them allow you to block out some uninterrupted time. Assure these people that you will take care of them -- later. Offer to support them when they need the same thing: uninterrupted time.

Protect yourself from losing focus. People are often their own worst time bandits. Learn techniques to help you concentrate, so that you don’t waste your own time when you're trying to concentrate.

The other half of the problem is planning and prioritizing the time you've regained from reducing interruptions. If you don’t plan to succeed, you are in essence planning to fail. If every week this year your weekly plan does not show adequate time allocated sacredly to your resolution, then you are inviting failure. 

The reason you must resolve to work on your resolution is because you've made a habit of not doing so. People “run out of time” to exercise because they let something else intrude, which then spills over into the night.

They don’t eat right because they can’t find time to pack a healthy lunch, let alone find the moments to eat it. They cancel the weekly date with the spouse because they need to finish that big project for a client.

People refer to "next semester" for signing up for a Spanish class and ask, What’s the big hurry about making a will?

So here are brief tips for allocating time to meet your needs:

Related: 3 Small, Doable Ways to Become Wildly More Productive

Determine the critical tasks. Obviously you consider your new resolution among your most critical tasks (along with keeping your business afloat and attaining health and happiness). That goal was critical enough for you to make a solemn vow, which means you must prioritize it, not let it take a backseat.

Handle the many minor tasks efficiently. If a project is not critical, it should be designated to the minor many slot. Such tasks are often repetitive or homogeneous tasks, tailor-made for batch processing. Doing like work in batches creates momentum and efficiency. 

Distinguish between hard and easy tasks.This is a subjective assessment. Determine what's hard for you to accomplish as opposed to what’s easy. Slot in hard tasks when you have energy or creativity for them. Hold the easy ones for when your energy or creativity is lower.

Plan for a week, not just tomorrow. Seeing the whole week at once makes it clearer the tasks that are critical or minor and what can be batch processed. This ensures that you have allocated sufficient time to achieving your resolutions. Writing things down spurs thinking, creativity and task execution.

As you go through this year, if you find yourself backsliding on resolutions, check these tips again and find renewed resolve.  

Related: The Most Important 20 Minutes of the Day

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