We all live within a system that gives us 365 days per year. 24 hours in each day. The average person lives for 27,375 days. To survive, we have to make space for certain essentials: sleeping, eating, drinking, going to the toilet. These need to happen to help us live. Live is a key word here, because each of us only have one life. So why not make the most of your time?

Yes, you can fill it with daily distractions, because there will always be things to keep you busy. But at the end of your life would you like to look back and say “What a great life. I was always busy, though I couldn’t tell you what I was doing. But I was always busy”.

Or, “I had an amazing life. I made sure that I got clear on my priorities and created space for following my dreams, rather than bouncing around from day to day being just busy”.

Time management and self-organisation lives by another name … ‘life management’!

Mastering time management will help you get the most out of every part of your life. Let’s discuss how you can learn more about how to master your time to give you space to explore your dreams and live a more enriching life.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

With emails controlling your day?

Making appointments in your calendar that you keep moving to one side, or cancelling, because there’s not enough time in the day?

Have you ever felt helpless because there’s always so much to do?

Working in the daytime, and then again at night. Sitting on the couch replying to emails while your partner sits there on social media because you’re ‘busy’.

Have you ever used a computer and the memory gets so full up that whatever you try to do there’s always a delayed reaction where the spinning wheel appears, to signify the computer’s memory is overwhelmed?

Horrible.

Here are some quick wins to help you become more organised so you can get off the drug of overwhelm (Yes, there is a piece of you addicted to overwhelm, you dirty rascal, even though you’ll never admit it).

This post and next week’s follow-up post will help you stop the never-ending cycle of overwhelm.  You can get clarity, feel less stressed and anxious and feel more focused and creative.

Eliminating overwhelm means …

You will have time. The most precious resource in the world.

You will have time to do the work you love and be present with your clients.

You will have time to exercise and stay healthy. Healthy body = healthy mind.

You will have time to spend with people closest to you, family and friends.

You will have … priorities!

If you don’t ‘have time,’ then what you’re really saying is you don’t have clarity on what your priorities are.

No time = no clear priorities.

Right now you probably work long hours and never feel like you’re caught up. You keep telling yourself, “I just need a day or so to catch up, to get organised, and then I’ll be fine”.

Getting organised doesn’t take a day. It takes a lifetime of commitment. A choice to stop operating in the way that’s hurting yourself.

It takes clear priorities.

Oh, and sh** loads of practice!

There are no silver bullets. No magic pills. You’ll find them from the guy selling snake oil. If you’re looking for those, then this post isn’t for you.

Getting yourself out of your current situation is going to take time and commitment to change.

And you need a powerful ‘why’ to help you.

If you don’t have a clear reason that moves you to want to get organised, and how it benefits all areas of your life, guess what? You won’t commit to getting your sh** together. Simple.

So this is your first step: Have a mature conversation with yourself about what it is you want in life and write it down. Get clarity!

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a very big list. One thing is more than okay. It’s a start. Often the hardest step on any journey of change is the first step.

Take your first step, write down what getting organised is going to help you with. For example:

“Getting organised is going to help me spend more quality time with my children”.

Or you might choose something like this as your ‘why’:

“Getting organised is going to help me finally start a regular exercise program so I can lose weight, feel better and have more confidence”.

So often we sacrifice our health for the sake of being busy at work. The ironic thing is that if you don’t look after your health, you won’t be effective at work or life, so it should be a number one priority. Is yours?

Take a blank piece of paper out and start writing a few reasons to start getting your sh** together by being better organised.

This is the best (and easy) bit. You get to choose your why.

Having clarity around this will help you when it comes to the nitty gritty of getting organised. Because honestly, some of the practice isn’t the sexiest of activities (Notice the word practice. This is what it takes: lots and lots of practice).

The truth is that any form of personal development has sexy bits and not-so-sexy bits.

Commit to practice. And remember why you’re doing this and how it’s going to benefit your life.

Once you have a magnetic ‘why’ you can adopt the current tactics.

Number 1:

Track your time. If you don’t know how you’re using time, how will you know what to change?

Start by tracking your time at work using a very simple, and free, piece of software called Toggl.

Before you start tracking any time, set up projects for the areas on which you know you spend time at work. Don’t pick too many; go for 8-12 maximum to keep it easy to manage. Too many projects will just add to your overwhelm.

Example projects:
• Processing emails
• Client emails / feedback
• Sales
• Marketing
• Finance
• Management
• Strategic work
• Client meetings
• Lunch / bathroom / personal

The great thing about Toggl is that you can also add in some context as to what it is that you’re working on with more specificity. For example, let’s say you’re having a meeting with one of your staff. You would start the timer (which is browser based and also has apps for your desktop and phone). You would select the ‘Management’ project and then add in a small description about the meeting, for example:

Management – Meet with Jane ref customer survey.

Click the start button. Done.

So simple. Just a couple of clicks of a mouse button and a few words on a keyboard.

When the meeting is finished, you might need the loo or to have a small break to freshen your mind. All you do then is click the next project and add a description, for example:

Lunch / bathroom / personal – bathroom

(Toggl will automatically stop timing the first task when you start the timer on the second.)

Rinse and repeat. From the minute you start work to the minute you end.

You could also do this for personal time, but start with work to keep it simple.

You’d be amazed at how much time you spend on crap, like watching TV. Or looking at Facebook, or LinkedIn. Still thinking you don’t have enough time?

We all have 24 hours in a day. Whether you’re Richard Branson, Elon Musk, or Gandhi… you get to choose how you allocate your time.

If you track your time for two weeks, you’ll be amazed to see what you find. The very experience of just tracking your time will tell you everything you need to know about what your current priorities are. With this heightened level of awareness, you can choose to change.

Another great thing about Toggl is that it automatically sends you weekly reports of where you spent your time. You can also do this manually in the reports section.

After a few days, take a look at your report and ask yourself the question:

“Which of these items is moving me closer to my why?”

This should tell you that maybe your priorities are not quite where they should be, looking through the context of your why.

With better awareness you can make better choices, and with better choices you get better results.

Number 2:

Sort your emails out. Stop letting them control you.

Ok, so let’s say your time logs are showing far too many hours living in your inbox (Probably segmented in little bursts of checking and responding to emails all throughout the day because, deep down, there’s a part of you that enjoys the buzz, right?).

The first thing you can do is to stop checking your emails constantly and schedule two specific times in the day, in 30-mintue slots, to process emails.

What’s the difference? Subtle, but important. Checking is another word for being addicted to the little dopamine hits of excitement you get when you see more ‘new mail’ inside your inbox. Not healthy.

Processing means just that. You schedule 30 minutes at 1:00 p.m. and 30 minutes at 4.30 p.m. to process your emails. Just like you would process paper in your in tray.

And schedule this time on your calendar. If you don’t use a calendar read on. In short, you need to!

So here’s what you can do: Open your inbox at the scheduled time, say 1:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. depending on your calendar schedule (Don’t check emails in the morning to avoid getting back into the habit of living inside your inbox ─ save mornings for your most important projects).

You could quickly scan your emails and the ones that are going to take two minutes or less to respond to or take care of, do it there and then. Then delete them, or file them if you like to hoard (If you have the courage to delete them, nothing bad will happen. The world will keep spinning, promise).

For emails that are going to take longer to respond to, schedule time to respond to them properly (Yes, by looking at your calendar and scheduling an appointment with yourself. More on this in Part II) and send a polite response back to the person who sent it, for example:

Hi {insert name},

Thanks for the email. It’s going to take me a little more time to send back a considered response, so this is a very brief email to confirm receipt. I’ve scheduled time on {insert date} to come back to you.
Warm regards

{insert your name}

You could even copy and paste this response into a Google doc or Word doc, and then just copy and paste it as a reply (changing the name and date bits) as and when you need to. This will save you time in the future so you can get closer to your why. Remember that?

Another tip is to not get into a long back-and-forth conversation on email. It sucks your time and the other person’s. So if you feel that’s about to happen or has the potential to happen, head it off quickly by saying something like:

Hi {insert name},

I’ve been having a think about this and it feels like a chat would be better for us to work through it. I have the following times available this week. Do any of them work for you?

{insert date and time options}

If none of them work, please let me know some options for next week that do and I’ll do my best to make time.

Warm regards

{insert your name}

Let’s recap.

1. Don’t ‘check’ emails. Process them.

2. Schedule 1 or 2 30-minute time blocks in your calendar in the afternoon to process emails.

3. If an email takes two minutes or less to complete, do it!

4. If not, schedule time in your calendar to give it attention properly and keep any connected parties aware.

5. Don’t get involved in long, drawn-out conversations on email. Head things off by scheduling a call with the other person.

One final tip: Make a commitment to stop checking your emails on your mobile device outside of these scheduled times. Surely you have something more important to allocate time to (clue: developing strategies to become more organised so you can reach your ‘why’).

In Part II next week, we’ll discuss how important it is for everything you do to be on your calendar.

Wishing you health and happiness,

David.

Want to learn more about getting out of that overwhelm feeling?  I’m holding a live event in London on November 20, 2018, called “Get Clarity”.  This all-day workshop is designed for you to get more clarity about what you really want and to set yourself up for a fantastic 2019.  Be sure you’re on my newsletter list to get advance announcements about Get Clarity.

*A version of this blog post previously appeared in my ebook, Mastering Accountability: Getting Sh*t Done In A Busy World