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Where Does All The Time Go?

November 2nd, 2018

Last week I promised that I’d try to give you some sound advice for ensuring that you actually find time to write. I know that many of you lead busy lives, but others use ‘lack of time’ as an excuse for not settling down and getting creative. So whichever category you fall into, read on….

Do you have days when all you seem to do is run around frantically and then collapse at the end of it all, wondering what you have achieved? There’s an important lesson to understand here:

Being busy doesn’t mean being productive.

Time management strategies are all about getting more done in less time. It’s about being more efficient with your time. In some ways, referring to these strategies as ‘Time Management’ strategies is a little misleading. We can’t manage time, but what we can do is manage ourselves better.

Time wasting activities can include anything from watching too much TV, spending too much time on social media, chatting for too long on the phone or having friends round for coffee when you’ve vowed to sit down and write.  So, spend the next few minutes (it will be time well spent!) just thinking about your personal time wasting activities. What sort of things do you do that gobble up too much of your time? Be absolutely honest with yourself and write down anything that comes to mind.

Identifying the time wasting activities that you are conscious of is a useful step forward in taking control of your time. When you find yourself slipping into one of these activities, you can then make a rational decision to stop what you are doing and begin doing something more productive.

However, it is quite common for us to underestimate how much time we waste. There may also be some time wasting activities that we are not conscious of.  The only way to really assess how we spend our time is to keep a detailed record; so you need to undertake a time diary exercise.

Time doesn’t always go where you think it goes (down a large black hole), so keeping a detailed record over several days will help you to identify several things:

The activities that take up a lot of your time

The part of the day when you are most productive

The time of day when you are least productive

Times when you may be able to combine activities to make more efficient usage of your time.

A time diary is most useful if you record everything for seven consecutive days. This is important because weekends are just as vital as weekdays. If we’re not managing our weekdays properly, then this can impact upon our weekends. Also, try to pick a typical week. If your life is one long daily dash from the moment you get up to the moment your head hits the pillow, then you may feel that a typical day does not exist. However, what you are looking for is an average week. In other words, don’t pick a week that happens to coincide with the school half term break. If you’re trying to manage your time at home better during the week, then coping with the kids at the same time is not a typical week.

“I don’t have time to fill out a time diary.” This is a common excuse! And it is just that – an excuse. Remember, this is only temporary. It’s for seven days. Yes, it will be an effort, but it’s also an investment in your future.

Complete the diary as you go through your day. This is vital. Whatever you do, don’t sit down at the end of the day and think to yourself: Now, what was I doing between 7.20am and 7.30am? You probably won’t remember, and you certainly won’t be accurate. For the time diary to be effectivel, it needs to be as accurate as possible.  Create a simple grid structure breaking the day into ten-minute slots during each hour of the day. If you get up at 7.00am and go to bed at 11.00pm then cover that period for each day. But adjust it to your own circumstances.

Ten-minute slots provide enough detail. If you undertake an activity that is only five minutes (a trip to the toilet, for example) then you can simply cut the box in half to show this. If you were to record everything in half-hour time slots, you would be less accurate, which means that you may not record all of your time wasting activities.

Try not to analyse your activities at the end of each day. Instead, leave it until the exercise is complete at the end of the week. You may look at one day’s activities and think you’ve spotted a time wasting moment. Then you’ll try to avoid doing that activity the following day. But that’s not what we want. For the exercise to be of most benefit, you need to record a week’s worth of normal activity. Be honest with yourself and record everything!

Then, at the end of the week, sit down and analyse your diary. You’ll be able to see exactly where your time is going and you’ll then be able to start changing your habits so that you are able to slot in the writing you want to do. You can’t change habits overnight, but you do have time to write –  only you can organise your life to give yourself that time!

Author: Diana Nadin

 

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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