How to Make the Most of your Time

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Life can often feel like a battle to find or create the time for the things we should be doing to reach our goals and realise our true potential. Managing a job, family, friends and other commitments is hard work and it’s one that we often don’t make any easier by not being clear on where we are headed, what we value and not being intentional with the way we spend our time.

The importance of time in relation to achieving anything

Time is finite. There are 24-hours in each day so no matter what you want to achieve you need to make sure it fits within that period of time and you need to start by subtracting anywhere between 7-9 hours for sleeping.

When people set themselves goals the first barrier they come up against is finding the time to commit to achieving them. Managing your time efficiently is about creating the margin that helps you succeed and create your ideal future. How do you do that?

1. Look at the systems in your life

When you start to look around systems are everywhere. They are the key to running anything efficiently and making the best use of your time. For example, what system ensures your Amazon parcel arrives when it says it will? What system ensures that coffee is always available at your local Starbucks?

All systems contain three key elements: an input, a process and an output.

An input is anything you do to activate the system or give the system use. A process contains the steps and functions that the system will perform. An output is the result that you get from the previous elements: input + process = output.

To get the most out of any system you need to optimise the input first. Your second focus should be to identify what the right process is to obtain the maximum output.

Unmanaged systems produce bad results. The good news is that making some small changes will help you to improve them. Take a moment now to think about the last goal you didn’t achieve. Why didn’t it come off? Did you have a system (or systems) in place to support that goal? If you did, were your inputs or processes right and did you have a handle on what the output should have been?

It takes time to create or improve a system, but the short term pain is outweighed by the long term efficiencies and peace of mind you will have from using a trusted system.

It’s impossible to fix everything at once so pin point the systems that are essential to helping you achieve your goals and work on improving those first.

2. Have a strategy to get through each day

Having a strategy is a bit like having a map in your mind of how you will navigate your way through each day and stop yourself from being thrown off track.

By pulling together certain systems you will create your strategy. For example, you might decide to tackle your most important task (MIT) first thing every morning in conjunction with setting out your clothes the night before. By doing these two things you won’t compromise your MIT because you will have created the conditions for work to start promptly each day and to have a clear and calm mind before you start work.

3. Work with other people

Working with other people will ultimately allow you to achieve more both personally and professionally than working on your own. Don’t overlook the power of people to help you achieve your goals. They are not the enemy to productivity. Rather than spending less time with people, think about how you can make the time you have with others the most effective.

The best way to do this is by being a good communicator and to have a managed on-going dialogue with those around you. For example, when someone interrupts us we often get frustrated and think that the person doesn’t respect our time, when in fact the person doing the interrupting just wants our help.

If you prefer to work undisturbed between certain hours of the day then communicate that to people. Stress that not interrupting helps everyone work more efficiently by encouraging them to plan their time and to work out problems for themselves.

Consider delegating tasks that you don’t need to do or that other people can do more efficiently than you. Ask yourself what your time is worth to you and whether that time is best used doing the task yourself or by asking someone else to do it. For example, maybe one of your goals is to spend more time with your family but you find yourself spending every weekend carrying out chores like cutting the grass. You could consider employing a gardener to do that task for you. The money you spend on the gardener will far outweigh the value you will get from spending more time with your family and achieving your goals.

Making small improvements every day will motivate you in the short term and help you reach your goals in the long term.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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