I’m now in a position where I run an expanding resume writing business, help my fiancee in his photography business and have at least 3 new projects which I’d love to get off the ground this year.
Being effective with my time has risen to a new level of importance. Working long hours is no longer enough - I need to make sure I create as much value as I can from every hour I work.
Here are some techniques I’ve adopted to make this happen - and doing so has worked very well so far.
The amount of work (and the quality of it) that I can achieve between the hours of 7am and 9am is incredible. If I don’t get up early enough to put those few hours in, I feel like I’m playing catch-up all day. What’s critical is not just that I “do work” for those few hours, but aim to bring a task to completion (e.g., write an article, send out a resume to a client, etc.)
Email is the great robber of your time at work.
It's important to answer your emails - yes - however, it's necessary to create boundaries around your email habits, so that you don’t spend all your day in your inbox.
I’ve noticed that email has this odd tendency to be elastic - if you have an hour to do it, you’ll manage to do most of it in that hour. If you have 3 hours to do it, you’ll do pretty much the same emails in 3 hours.
My personal way of dealing with it is to allocate 3 periods during one day to deal with email. 30-60 mins as soon as I get up in the morning. Same again around lunchtime. Same again just before I finish work for the day.
I have a theory about procrastination - I think it's a natural human behaviour which occurs when we do work that we’re not connected to.
I experience desire to procrastinate when I'm doing something which I don't feel is worthwhile, creative and authentic. I avoid doing it and, inevitably, end up scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed.
I experience this when I write. We all know that publishing content online is important. If, however, I sit down to write with the aim of creating an article “because I need to be publishing stuff”, I find myself inevitably procrastinating (and the article I spawn typically sounds detached, clinical and hardly gets read).
However, if I pay attention to my life, continually improving things and challenging myself - and then write stories about my experiences - the opposite occurs. Writing flows easily, feels great to write and makes a difference to others. Go figure.
We are born into a world which is obsessed with short-term feel-good remedies (and credit card companies are profiting from that, but that’s another story).
Successful people, however, have this process in reverse. What they do today is informed by their goal for the week. Their weekly goal is part of their strategy for the month, and so on.
Do you know what you want your life to look like in 3 years’ time? Create that vision and work all the way back from there to find out what your day today should look like.
Now that you have a goal (I bet that you didn’t do the exercise in the previous point - right? And I know I can’t make you - except to say that the power lays in DOING, rather than READING - so go back and give your long term plans some thought) - every moment you can check in with yourself and ask:
“Right now, am I moving closer to my goals? Or further away?”
At any point in time you’re either towards or away from your dreams. Every few hours check in with yourself and be brutally honest about the direction you’re moving in at that point in time.
Whenever you’re noticing yourself being distracted, acting out of fear, avoiding a conversation you know you need to have, do what needs to be done and resume the journey forward.
If I wake up without knowing what’s on the agenda, I’m more susceptible to doing what I feel, checking out what pops into my feed, etc.
When I write my agenda for the day the night before, I wake up feeling like a focussed, clear laser beam.
Answering telephone, replying to colleagues, bosses, helping customers, fixing website issues (and replying to email, which is a point I covered above), are all reactionary tasks.
You can fill your whole day with them and tell yourself that you have “no time” for more strategic or creative things. It’s also a good way to escape doing things that confront you.
You will not have time for writing a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to write or picking up the phone to call a prospective business partner - unless you block off time for it i your diary and treat is as an appointment you can’t miss.
Irene is the founder of Arielle Careers. Through her resume writing services, LinkedIn creation services and interview coaching she helps job-seekers stand head and shoulders above their competition in today's tough jobs market.
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