Positive intent. I love that phrase and use it quite often in communication and coaching. It sums up so many shortfalls in a real way. A person had all the positive intent in the world, but maybe how they went about getting to a solution wasn’t quite right. You’ll often find positive intent in your personal life. Maybe, it’s the positive intent to take better care of yourself or get a better hold of your time. 

Time stealers love to eat with positive intent. They are the little distractions in your day and week that add up to a total derailment of what you intended to do and work on at that time. 

Identify where time stealers come from

Time stealers can from anywhere and can range from those very small distractions that pile up, or something that starts off small but ends up eating up large blocks of time.  Some common areas for time stealers include:

Your mobile device: For all the great things that our mobile devices have introduced into our lives, it is also the most common place to be a time stealer! Notifications, social media apps, texts, games….the list can go on and on. There are many ways to handle your device from muting your device for blocks of time, to physically moving it out of reach. Assess the impact that your device is having on pulling you away from what needs to be done throughout the day and take steps to dampen its influence and temptation. 

Work informal communication channels: Pick your poison: teams, slack, discord, or other similar programs. These can turn into major time stealers, especially in group or team chats.  When one of these gets out of hand in while you’ve got things to do, mute the chat or notification until you can come back to it. 

Open-ended hobbies and projects: I love a good video game, but many are set up in a “one more thing” format to entice you to keep playing longer than you perhaps had intended. It’s easy for 30 min to turn into a couple of hours or more.  Open-ended hobbies are the same way; they offer a healthy escape from the stress of the day, but they can also pull too much time away from things that you need to be doing throughout your day. Put these in your time management system to help you stay accountable here. 

Other time stealers

  • Multi-tasking
  • Perfectionism
  • Doing work outside your role/other people’s jobs
  • Unnecessary meetings
  • Emails; both unnecessary ones and a feeling to immediately reply

Leverage your system to purposely use discretionary time

Your time management system can do a lot here in terms of helping you stay accountable and on track with what needs to be done today and this week. 

My daily view keeps track of my scheduled meetings and activities, but I also write things down that need to get done that day…at some point. When I’m out of a meeting or have a block of time, I start working on that list until it’s complete. In fact, this session is written exactly that way! I need to get it done today, but not at a specific time

The types of items that fall on this section of your to-do list are often important or urgent in nature and are typically maintenance focused. Some examples from this week’s list for me include Call dr office, update travel profile at work, enter in my vacation days, practicing music, calling someone back etc. None of that is life-changing but all things that need to get done.  

Are you capturing those items in your time management system? What things do you need to write down or capture to make sure that time stealers aren’t taking the opportunity to get these things done?

Other Considerations

Making good choices with discretionary time.

Be intentional in this time as well or it will fill with junk. It’s ok to put fun or “vege out” moments in there. Just protect yourself from distractions where you can lose large amounts of time that can eat into other planned productive times.

Planning time

Make sure to include margin time for planning. It’s typically best at the beginning or end of the week.

Dealing with procrastination

If you deal with procrastination, you will want to be more thorough in calendar planning and the use of the erase board/daily planner. This will help you overcome the habit of waiting until the last moment.

Homework: Goal setting

Choose a long-term goal (6 months to over a year out) Set a date and work backward to build out a plan in the time management system to meet the goal. Focus on daily behaviors and timely checkups to stay on track to meet the goal.

Self-reflection to determine the impact of time management

·       How did you do in implementing the habits of time management?

·       Have you seen a decrease in stress and a better ability to do things (personally and professionally)?

·       Have you improved on meeting deadlines?

·       On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel you are with your time management skills?

·       What do you feel like you need to work on to raise that number?

Keep to the positive habits around time management, and make changes to your time management system if it’s not working for you. As you combine those efforts with eliminating time stealers, you’ll really start making progress toward a very productive and less stress-filled day.  Next time, we’ll talk about leveraging the power of delegation to take your time management skills to the next level. 

Make a better tomorrow.