We’ve talked before about Creating More Time. Whether it’s time for ourselves, time for our families or time for our work – we could all use a bit more.

The good news is that it’s possible to leverage more time from our days with some disciplined analysis, structured prioritisation and simple decluttering.

Let’s go through the steps

1. Analyse – What are you doing now?

First things first. If you want to create change, you have to know the current situation, so, find out how you are spending your time. Track everything you do for at least 3 days, longer if there’s more variation. Keep it simple. This task may entail just dividing work and non-work tasks. If you want to track your exact activities – make it more specific.
Everyone’s schedule will be different but even after taking this one step you may already start to see some possibilities opening up to invest your time differently.

  • What’s your ultimate goal? (increase engagement on Social Media, Increase your business revenue, etc.)
  • Which of your tasks will bring you closer to your goal?
  • Which of your tasks do not impact on these goals? and, Can these be outsourced or eliminated completely?

2. Time to Prioritize!

You should now have an understanding of how you currently spend your time. Now, it’s time to prioritize what is important.
Whatever your method of scheduling – Google calendar, Outlook, a to-do list etc, try reverse-engineering your task list by setting your end-goals.

Think the process through logically:

  • What’s your ultimate goal? (increase engagement on Social Media, Increase your business revenue, etc.)
  • Which of your tasks will bring you closer to your goal?
  • Which of your tasks do not impact on these goals? and, Can these be outsourced or eliminated completely

Your Prioritisation Toolbox

There are quite a few of these matrices, find the one that works best for you! Here are a couple of examples

1. Process / Task Decision – Making Matrix

Spilt your task list into the following categories

  • Automate – Tedious, repetitive or manual processes that software can accomplish
  • Master – Things that only you can do and be responsible for
  • Ignore – Unimportant tasks or tasks that take more time than the value they produce
  • Delegate – Tasks that can be delegated to those who can help or do better than you

Or, you may prefer –

Decision - Making Matrix

2. Eisenhower matrix

Originally developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower but later made popular by Stephen Covey,

Categorize your current task list (or anything upcoming) into one of 4 categories:

  • Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)
  • Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later)
  • Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else)
  • Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate)

From here on in, you focus only on the tasks that are in the “master”, “automate”, “do”, and “do later” category.
 

With everything else, you should…
Eisenhower matrix

3. Eliminate Waste

Now that you have identified the tasks that will have the most impact on your end-goals, it’s time to eliminate any unnecessary or unimportant tasks that are simply a waste of time. Some examples are – checking social media, incoming email, distractions etc. Once you’ve identified these tasks, try  a full working week not doing any of these, and see how much time you gain!

For tasks that may seem urgent, but not important…
 

4. Delegate or Move

Controlling all aspects of our work, and handling every detail may come naturally but it rarely leads to moving our end-goal forward. This can be detrimental when we focus on unimportant tasks that require a lot of our time. Virtual Assistants are an excellent addition to your team, capable of freeing up a lot of your valuable time. Tasks they can achieve for you include – Social Media scheduling, Blogging, Website management, research, and more.
 

5. Continuous Improvement and Optimisation

Finally – here are some other ways to refine the use of your time and optimise your schedule to leverage the most from each day. Don’t forget to measure your success!
 

Your Optimisation Toolbox

 
1. Shorten your deadline for individual tasks

Have you heard the saying that “tasks expand to fill the time you offer them?” This is also known as Parkinson’s Law.

Most of us take more time than necessary to complete a task. If we give ourselves a ,long period of time to complete a small task, the task will occupy all this time. Alternatively, if we only gave ourselves a short time e.g. 15 minutes, we’ll find a way to get it done. So, ask yourself – how many of the tasks on your schedule actually take up the time you allocate to them? Can you them in less? The Pomodoro technique is based on this thinking.

2. Take away some less important free time

Breaks are important during each day but some activities are more important than others e.g. family time. Identify one free time activity in your schedule that is the least important, and cut it from your schedule.

3. Group free time items together

Here’s another tool – instead of having 2 slots of 30 minutes to check email or social media, simply use one 30-minute slot to do both.This is one time it’s ok to multi-task!

4. Do similar tasks at the same time.

If you do several things throughout the week that are similar – do them all at the same time. Once you have your mind fixed on that task or type of task it makes sense that similar tasks will be accomplished more easily with that focus. Also called “theming”.