In the Western world, we’re obsessed with time. We schedule meetings to start at precise times, we rush to get things done as fast as possible and we tend to view time as a kind of currency, which we desperately need to allocate effectively.
Right or wrong, these are the expectations our society places on us, and it’s aggravating to reach the end of day feeling like we've “run out” of time.
Common complaints, like “there isn’t enough time in the day,” get passed around the office, serving as an expression of desire for more productive hours to get things done. But here’s the thing: You have the same hours to work with as everybody else. What you need isn’t the ability to cram more hours into an arbitrarily defined day, but to make better use of the hours you have.
If you feel like you’re always running out of time, there’s probably a reason for it -- and you’re probably guilty of at least one of these seven time-sucking productivity sins.
1. You're not setting a schedule.
Consider the idea of Parkinson’s Law; essentially, it’s our tendency to expand the amount of time it takes us to complete a task, to fill whatever amount of time is allotted for it. If you have an hour to complete a report that usually only takes 45 minutes, you’ll find yourself taking the full hour.
This is just one of the reasons why setting a semi-strict schedule for yourself is necessary if you want to get everything done in a timely manner. Every night before work, sit down and set a schedule for the next day that includes everything you want to accomplish, including some leeway for communication and interruptions.
2. You aren't prioritizing effectively.
When you feel that you’ve “run out of time,” it usually isn’t because you have a handful of small, easy, unimportant tasks left over. It means you’ve forgotten or neglected something big -- and that means you probably didn’t prioritize your day adequately. Organize your tasks into different tiers of importance, and focus on your most important tasks first. If you feel that everything’s important, you need to take a step back and subdivide even further.
3. You lose track of time.
How many times throughout the day do you look up at the clock and say, “It’s that time already?” If you feel pressed for time, chances are, that scenario happens often. This is because you aren’t keeping track of your time; just as it’s important to track your spending, to stay within your budget, it’s important to track your time to get everything done in a day. Set alarms and notifications on your phone to keep yourself aware of the time, or use time-tracking software to study the broader trends of your working experience.
4. You’re trying to multitask.
This one is counterintuitive. If you’re strapped for time, you’ll likely be tempted to stack tasks on top of one other, completing multiple things at once in the same amount of time. Seems like a good, time-saving strategy, right? Wrong. The science is in on this one. Multitasking actually makes you less productive -- and negatively affects the quality of your work. Don’t do it.
5. You don't delegate enough.
You have employees. You have teammates. If your schedule is really so packed you literally feel that there isn’t enough time in the day, you need to delegate some of those tasks to other people. Delegating efficiently is a skill all its own, but you’ll need to master it if you want to keep your sanity in this high-pressure environment.
6. Your communication is inefficient.
Most time is lost due to inefficient communication, one way or another. Maybe you spend too long writing emails or chatting with colleagues. Maybe too much of your day is tied up in taking phone calls and getting interrupted. Maybe your team’s communications are disorganized, which makes you spend twice as long on certain tasks. A thousand things could be wrong here, but smoother, more concise, more streamlined communication can solve almost any of them.
7. You don’t have the right tools.
We live in a glorious age of technology -- so what devices, software and platforms are you using to get your job done? I have a personal list of favorite tools I practically can't live without; and, collectively, they’ve probably saved me thousands of hours of time. Yes, there’s a financial cost involved, but it’s well worth the exchange to get more of my time back. If you aren’t using any high-tech tools in your job, or if the ones you have are more irritating than helpful, it’s time to do some research and find some systems to help you out.
Being a business owner is demanding, and nobody is arguing that. But, no matter how long your task list gets or how many people you have to deal with on a given day, there are always enough hours available to you -- if you know how to use them properly.
In time, with practice, you’ll get better at maximizing your productive efficiency, and soon that feeling that you’re perpetually “out of time” is going to pass.