Use Your Time Well - 9 Tips for Reducing The Busy Burden
My former husband used to complain that I had more free time than he did. I resisted the urge to point out that he had the exact same 24 hours per day as I did. It is true, though, that many of us feel that we are too busy and have too much to do while others, with the same amount on their plate, always seem to have available time.
Did you know that:
Well educated American women have less leisure time than they did in 1965 and nearly 11 hours less per week than women who did not graduate from high school.
Men with a college degree saw their leisure time drop by six hours between 1985 and 2005.
60% of those who use smartphones are connected to work for 13.5 hours or more a day.
We are distracted:
It is estimated that we lose as much as 40% of our productivity when we try to multi-task.
Cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year that cause a half million injuries and take 6,000 lives.
And we are not getting enough sleep:
Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez, and the explosion of the Challenger have all been partially attributed to sleep deprivation as well as more than 100,000 police reported automobile crashes each year.
Medical residents, flight crews, and long distance truck drivers all have more requirements around how long their shifts can be and how much down time there is between shifts than there used to be.
This led me to think about steps we can take to reduce our busy burden, especially at work. Here are some of my conclusions:
Keep your heart and your head where your feet are (most of the time). By staying present and engaged during the workday, we are less likely to make mistakes that require rework or to engage in miscommunications that can be costly in terms of time and money. When you need a mini-break, step away from the computer or work and meditate, stretch, enjoy looking at pictures of your family, or schedule that next vacation, imagining how soft the sand will feel underfoot. Then return fully present to the task at hand.
Sleep. When we operate with insufficient sleep, we are inefficient and ineffective. Moreover, we are more likely to make sub-optimal decisions and have accidents. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Step away from the device. Spending more time on our electronic devices does not lead to increased productivity. A break from them does. During the workday, take frequent five minute breaks, especially when you feel you can least afford it. At home, have device free rooms or times to fully engage your head and your heart where your feet are. Step away from your devices a couple of hours before going to sleep, to increase your likelihood of having a good nightâ€™s sleep.
Be comfortable. During the workday, good ergonomics matter. If you are uncomfortable, it is difficult to fully engage and the added stress on your body of the discomfort will show itself in sub-optimal performance. Take stretch breaks during meetings, wear shoes that allow you to participate in walking meetings, have an appropriate computer setup, and wear clothes that are comfortable.
Be grateful and be kind. Expressing gratitude and kindness to others will likely result in a team effort with work getting done more quickly and efficiently. Kindness and gratitude are also good for your brain, in fact, a feeling of gratitude will increase productivity. Even if you don't have the opportunity to express gratitude, take a moment to feel it or write it down.
Smile. When we smile at people and they smile back, they are more likely to be receptive to our request or conversation. It also improves our own mood.
Conduct healthy meetings. All too often meetings are poorly run, resulting in excessive time spent in the meetings and insufficiently defined or understood outcomes. Schedule meetings to start five minutes after the hour, enabling people to arrive on time from their previous meeting. Follow an agenda with a clearly stated purpose. End the meeting when it is over with clearly stated action items and decisions. If it is a long meeting, take stretch breaks and provide healthy snacks. If it is a small group meeting, consider a walking meeting.
Be intentional. Often people are busy because they do not focus with clear intentions on the intended outcome or plan. Be focused. Whether it is a business activity or a personal conversation, give others the gift of your complete attention and be clear of your own desired outcomes.
Decompress. Often the time in the car or on the subway is seen as lost or wasted time. Consider instead that it is an opportunity to decompress and transition from work to home. This of course means not picking up work again upon arriving at home. Find techniques that work for you during your driving or commuting times that help you make that mindset shift.
There is no question that there are many conflicting demands on many of us and many peopleâ€™s lives are tightly scheduled or often feel overwhelming. I hope in these tips, with the busy holiday season approaching, you are able to find some nuggets that are helpful. Let me know!
I have often seen projects, programs, and strategic plans fail or not be fully implemented. One of the contributing factors is often a work force that is over-stressed, unhealthy, and not committed to the end result. At the same time, corporate health and wellness programs tend to be underutilized with employees not taking advantage of available opportunities.
One common key component of successful strategic planning, successful programs, and successful project management is a fully engaged workforce. By incorporating health and wellness into these efforts, rather than having health and wellness programs as separate functions, the employees have a voice in what is included in the program and see their ability to influence corporate strategies. They are also more likely to embrace these strategies. In my experience, including employee wellness in corporate strategies demonstrates the organizationâ€™s commitment to their employees and leads to a more productive, healthier, more creative, and more engaged workforce.
My focus is working with organizations to help them grow and reach the next level.