10 Easy Ways to Liberate Time
Ten simple techniques anyone can use to liberate time from a too-full calendar. From how to use Pareto's Principle to looking at your planner in a broader perspective to make better choices learn how to liberate time.
Why would you want to liberate time? Because, you cannot make it, create it, save it, spend it or most of the other terms we use when talking about our time. We do however liberate time from one activity for another.
Any time you say ‘yes’ to doing a new thing, you are making a choice (consciously or unconsciously) to substitute how you’re spending the time now in order. We frequently make these substitutions unconsciously, often resulting in giving up time for sleep, exercise, a healthy meal, time with our friends and family and other activities. Were we to make our choices more consciously, we might make different decisions. Life is a pie chart, not a to-do-list!™
If you make too many unconscious choices when it comes to your work life, you may be feeling stressed, burned out, or out of balance. It is easy to over commit - to unconsciously give away your time - by saying yes to activities without conscious thought about what you have to give up to have time for the new commitment.
With an understanding about the concept of liberating time, you can begin to make conscious choices about whether to say “yes” to an activity or “no”. Before making a commitment, look at where you will have to liberate time from your current workload. Then, make a conscious choice about whether or not the new activity has enough value to make a substitution worthwhile.
Here are 10 quick and easy ways to begin to liberate time and reverse the process of unconscious over commitment.
1 - Use the 80/20 Rule - When you are starting a new project, regardless of the deadline, ask yourself how you would accomplish the project if you only had one day to complete it. What would you do if you had to complete it in one hour? This questioning process will help you identify the 20% of the effort that will yield 80% of the results. Known as Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 rule is useful in helping you keep projects under control and using minimal time with maximum results.
2 - Create Artificial Limits - Parkinson’s Law on the other hand, states that things will expand to fill the space available. Reverse it. Limit the amount of space or time for projects, tasks and activities and all begin to shrink to fit the smaller space available. To start, give yourself deadlines to complete certain routine activities. This allows you to keep them small and liberate time for the bigger more important projects.
3 - Create Systems - Liberate time from routine activities by creating systems. The systematization of small tasks allows you to spend less time and energy, because they take less thought, and when you’re doing them, they happen more quickly.
4 - Keep Like Things Together - If you spend just 15 minutes a day looking for things, you are loosing more than 2 weeks of productivity per year. However, when you can consistently follow a single path, you liberate time by eliminating the run around. For example, if have keep paper in your desk, on a shelf and in the closet, you have to look three places for paper. Keep it all together in single, logical location so you know exactly where to go every time.
5 - Contain Meetings – When someone asks to meet with you, start with building a quick agenda. This will help determine if a meeting is needed or if a phone call or e-mail can be just as effective. If you agree a meeting is needed, the agenda can help determine the start and end time – always agree to the end time as well as the start. Distribute the agenda beforehand to ensure everyone is prepared. Stick to the agenda and time commitments that have been agreed to beforehand – it builds trust.
6 - Know When to Say Yes - One of my favorite time management tools is actually a line from the movie Jurassic Park. “Just because we can, it doesn’t mean we should.” I think that’s highly applicable in our own lives when there are so many things we could do. Just because we can, it doesn’t mean we should. You need to touch base with your values, priorities and strengths. Before you say yes to doing something ask yourself these four questions:
- Does it add value to my life?
- Is it a priority in my life?
- Is it something I do well and will therefore enjoy doing it?
- What activity am I willing to take some time from in order to do this?
7 - Know How to Say No - You can liberate time by learning how to say no in a positive way. Here are several options that you can use:
- You can determine that you can and want to do something, but the requested time frame doesn’t fit your schedule. Offer an alternate time. You would say “No, I cannot do it now, but I can do it at this time”.
- You can offer to do a portion of the project if that makes sense, meaning you have the time, the interest and the skills to do it. You would say “No, I cannot do the entire project, but, I would be willing to do this part.”
- If it is not something you can do well or enjoy, perhaps you know someone who can do it well and who would genuinely enjoy the project. You can say “No but I know of someone who might be interested in this project. Then give the name of the person he name or, if you’re not comfortable giving the name, tell them you will check with the person and get back to them.
- You can just give an honest “No. Most people appreciate or would rather hear an honest “No” than to have someone say “Yes”, and then not follow through.
8 - Keep it Simple – The fewer steps to accomplish something, the better and the less time taken. The trouble with simple is that it can take some time to get to simple. Often, we tend to think in the direction of the elaborate - there are so many wonderful things we could do, should do, would do but it is almost always worth the effort to ‘peel the onion’. Let the big ideas come out, and then think your way back to simple. Give yourself time to think your way through to the simplest, most effective solutions. In the long run, you will liberate time.
9 - Group Like Activities Together. When scheduling appointments and planning your week, look at the geographic location of the various activities outside the office and try to schedule into a single day those activities that share a path or a common destination. Set aside days just for appointments and other days just to work on in-office projects. Let calls go to voicemail for 30 to 45 minute chunks at a time, and then spend the rest of the hour returning the calls. These are just some examples of how you can group activities together to maximize efficiency. When you work in a less disruptive manner you actually liberate time.
10- Plan All Four Kinds of Time - We all have four uses for our work time.
- Committed time is time we have promised to others in the form of appointments.
- Allocated time is time we committed to ourselves to work on projects.
- Routine time is the amount of total time you need per day, per week, month, quarter and year to complete repetitive items such as – mail/e-mail calls, filing, quarterly reports, annual taxes, weekly bookkeeping - all the kinds of small activities that left undone create clutter and chaos and done too often can steal time from important projects.
- Discretionary time is leaving small windows of time throughout the day to accommodate the fact that days rarely go as planned. When you plan every moment one unexpected call can throw the whole day off. Plan things in 15 and 30 minute increments even though they take 10 or 20 minutes.
The two kinds of time people rarely plan for in their day are routine time and discretionary time. To help with routine time, do a short time study to figure out exactly what routines you have and how much time per day, week, month, quarter and year is already gone because of those routine activities. Learn the time quantity and then allow for it on your calendar. Once you roughly know the amount of time per day spent on routine activities, you will have a realistic sense how much time you have available to schedule ‘committed time’ and ‘allocated time’.
Start liberating time today!
Learn more about the author, Susan Lannis.
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