What would you do with more hours in your day? While actually creating more time isn’t possible, you can become more productive with the time you’ve been given and use it toward things that move the needle for you, whether personally or professionally. The “time hacks” I’m going to give you here aren’t the typical “wake up earlier” or “work faster” or even “delegate tasks to other people.” While such advice isn’t bad necessarily, it’s just that I’ve found even more effective time management tips that have allowed me to greatly reduce the number of hours I spend tied to a computer each day, which then allows more time to pursue hobbies and past times I enjoy much more.
Take a look at seven things I highly recommend you implement in your own lives this week. Will you commit to giving them a try?
Standing meetings that aren’t necessary.
So often we find our calendars littered with recurring meetings (whether weekly, monthly, or some other frequency) that become blemishes in our day and keep us tied to our phones and computers when otherwise we would not need to be. These meetings can prevent us from taking that spontaneous family walk, running an errand when it’s most convenient, or getting in a workout. I suggest taking a critical look at these meetings to determine whether they really need to take place at all. You might be surprised to find that when you first began having these meetings they were effective and critical, but now they are non-impactful “check-in” sessions that consist of more small talk than productive work discussions. Start weening such meetings off your schedule, and you’ll see your calendar open up with more (and flexible) time for meaningful work or personal activities.
Phone calls that could have been an email.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I’ve written about this many times. It’s those phone calls, and especially missed phone calls, that simply could have been an email. There is a time and place where phone conversations are the best way to hash out ideas, share information, and get on the same page with someone. But there are many, many more times when emails are far more efficient. The most frustrating phone conversations are ones where someone says “That all sounds great, can you send me those details in an email.” Right. Because email also gives you a record of the conversation you had with someone. You can refer back to it when needed, and so often this helps clear up confusion or expose a mistake when all of that would have been lost in a phone conversation.
Video calls that could have been a voice call.
I understand that during quarantine and the sudden shift of so many people now working from home that video calls have become all the rage. For people who were used to that face to face interactions with coworkers, this is a great alternative to feeling that connection even while working from home. I’m okay with video calls overall, but here’s my grip. Video calls require people to see my face which means I should look somewhat presentable. This makes morning video calls the worst. I get my best work done in my pajamas or workout clothes! So if my day has even just one video call, I lose up to an hour preparing for the call (showering, changing clothes, makeup, drying my hair, cleaning up the mess in the background, etc.) I’ve also found video calls to last longer than voice calls because, for good reason, they feel more intimate and social.
My tip here is to really scrutinize the need for the video aspect. When someone says “Hey, can we touch base tomorrow?” and then sends you a Zoom invitation, clarify whether this needs to be with the video on. I find humor the best approach and am candidly honest with the fact that I don’t plan to look presentable at that time and can we all just agree to keep the video off. Usually that’s more than okay. Now I can take the call while out for a walk, no makeup, in gym clothes, with a moving backdrop.
Attempts to multitask.
Multitasking sounds like something that would save you time, but here’s the truth. It’s impossible to multitask. I’m certain there’s science out there to back this up, but I need look no further than my own real-life experiences. I sometimes think I can toggle back and forth between tasks, or write while I listen to a podcast. What ends up happening is nothing gets my full attention and everything takes twice as long to complete. As humans, we are far better off fully dialing in to whatever task is most urgent and important that the moment and seeing it through completion. Then we can switch over to the next task, also giving it our full attention.
Accepting every meeting request.
If you really want to waste time and shred up your schedule, accept every meeting request that comes your way. Refer to my points above that most meetings could be phone calls, and most phone calls could be emails. Fortunately not many people are meeting in person right now, but we’ll get back to it soon enough. And when we do, you’ll find hours of your day go missing from taking one or more meetings a day. There’s the getting ready and looking presentable for a meeting, then driving to whatever meeting location you’ve chosen, and then meetings always tend to last longer than what a phone call (and certainly an email) would have taken.
Moreover, you need to consider what you hope to accomplish with this meeting. If someone is requesting it of you, is it just because they’re trying to sell you something? Or do they want to meet up to “learn more about one another and how our businesses might help align?” These are telltale signs of a meeting that will likely result in $0 additional income for you, and worse yet you’ve lost time on it.
Not putting boundaries on your time.
Here’s a critically important tip. You need to put boundaries on your time and protect them like it’s your job – and it kind of is. A meeting scheduled for one hour can easily slip 15 or 20 minutes over. If that happens with every meeting you set, imagine the time you’ve lost in your lifetime. I’m always inspired by how therapists set boundaries on their time, because their clients are paying for it after all. They are very aware of what time it is and when a session is about to come to completion, they wrap things up kindly and professionally with something like “I see we’re just about out of time, is there anything else you’d like to discuss.” I think we could all say some version of this in meetings and on phone calls and reasonable people would respect that. Their time is valuable too!
Another boundary we must keep is our personal time. When work calls and emails start bleeding over into the precious few hours we have in the mornings and evenings with family, lines can really get blurred. We all need downtime and to be disconnected from work before plugging back in again. Protect your off time by refusing to accept phone calls or answer emails during these hours, unless its dire circumstances.
Allowing scope creep.
My final tip is to really watch out for projects that creep past their original scope. Here’s an example. Say you manage a client’s Facebook page, but one month they decide to create a Twitter page they also want you to manage. Okay, that’s only a little bit more time. The next month it’s Instagram, and the following month they think growing a Pinterest presence is also important. Now here you are getting paid for what you originally thought was just managing one social media account and you’re roped into four! This is scope creep. And when compiled across many clients and projects it can eat up countless (unpaid) hours.
When projects creep past their scope, this must be addressed quickly and professionally. Otherwise, people may think it’s okay and you’re agreeable to completing the additional work for no added cost. If you ever do go back and address it, you lose leverage to charge for it. What I usually say is “I can certainly help with that. Would you like me to get you a proposal for the additional work?” or “That would take us beyond the scope of our original project, but I would love to help. Here’s how much additional time I expect this to require and the cost for it.” I’ve never once had someone push back on this because I believe it’s professional and reasonable to respect your time and to expect others to do the same.
What are your biggest struggles – or triumphs with time management in your personal or professional life? Join in the conversation in the comments below so we can learn from your experiences and advice!