Have you ever been at work for a whole day, and when 5 p.m. rolled around, you weren’t really sure what you had accomplished?
This happens to a lot of us, myself included. I have often started out the day with the best of intentions and finished it with a to-do list much longer than when I started.
The worst part was, I was always a little foggy on how I had actually spent my time. For sure, some “urgent” emails had interrupted me, and maybe some meetings. I might have also been on social media for a bit, but, I swear, it only felt like 10 minutes.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever wondered where your time went?
The fact is, we all waste time. Microsoft did a study about the productivity of work hours. They found out if people work about 45 hours a week, they are unproductive about 17 of those hours.
That means the key is not to add more hours to the day but make the hours we have more productive.
If we work to stop wasting our time and start treating time like its more precious, we can be more productive and do more of the things we love.
How to Protect Your Time
The key to protecting your time is knowing what you need to get done and planning accordingly. There are a lot of sayings about how failing to plan leads to problems. I won’t waste time quoting them, I’ll just tell you those sayings are right.
Follow the steps below to protect your time, so you can be more productive and have more hours to spend how you want.
1. Make a List of Your Tasks for the Week
This is something you have probably done before. A lot of people have a to-do list for work that they update daily. When I first started working full-time, I was a big fan of the to-do list, but for me, that didn’t translate into productivity until I added the next step.
2. Schedule Tasks on Your Calendar
Anyone can have a to-do list, and that is a great start, but in order to use your time wisely, you will need to know how long these tasks will take you. An easy way to do this is to schedule tasks on your calendar for a specific day and time range. If finishing up your current project is going to take you three hours, put it in a three-hour time block on your calendar.
Schedule out everything from your to-do list onto your calendar for the week. Fill in all the spaces, so every hour of your work week has something assigned to it. This will help guide you so you spend your time wisely on tasks you need to get accomplished.
Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll want to schedule everything down to the minute because it will be too easy to get behind, but you will want to give yourself certain chunks of time for certain tasks on your to-do list.
For me, this process added accountability to my to-do list. Instead of just a list of things I needed to accomplish, I now had a time when I was expected to do things. This increased my productivity because I already knew what I needed to be doing at any given time.
3. Make Schedule Changes When Necessary
You may be thinking that you can’t schedule your time in advance because things come up and need your immediate attention. That’s okay. You can change your schedule mid-week if you need to.
Don’t be held hostage by your schedule, but don’t let falling off the wagon ruin your productivity. If you miss one of your tasks don’t let that ruin the rest of your day. (Like with your diet, don’t let eating some chocolate lead to pizza rolls, ice cream, cupcakes, and soda.)
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4. Take Breaks
Protecting your time and increasing your productivity doesn’t mean you can’t ever take a break. Breaks actually help you be more productive. However, you will want to be careful about how you take breaks.
For many of us, we will take a break by getting on social media for a few minutes or checking out a favorite website. It’s easy for that 10 minutes on social media to turn into an hour.
If you schedule out or plan for your break times, you will be able to rest from your work, but still get back to it when you need to.
5. Be Aware of Your Distractions
There are a lot of things to distract you from work including social media, your coworkers, emails and more. You don’t have to get rid of these things, but be aware of how they will be incorporated into your days.
For example, if you schedule some specific times during your day to answer emails, you don’t have to worry about stopping a project to respond to someone.
Be aware of how long each task will take you, and remind yourself that you won’t get it accomplished in time if you give in to distraction. When you schedule your tasks, it actually sets you up to avoid distractions, but distractions are still something to be aware of.
6. Be Disciplined
This is the hardest step. You can put a schedule in place to protect your time, but it doesn’t work if you don’t.
It will be really tempting to waste an hour on social media today or spend some time browsing stores online. Don’t.
This is the biggest struggle for me personally. Often, the best way to be more productive is to just be disciplined and do it. It’s really hard, but it’s worth it.
I followed these steps and saw my productivity increase exponentially. I found I had more time for things that truly mattered to me.
Think of what you could do if you could get more done in less time. You may have more time for family or more time for a hobby. You may have more time to work on moving up in your company.
Whatever way you want to spend your time, you can. But to get that extra time, you have to protect your time.
Be sure you treat your time like the precious commodity it is by protecting it.
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