Time, One Thing You Can't Afford to Waste

Expert Author Susan Leigh
So many people say they have no time, that there are not enough hours in the day and yet often, when they're really busy, are amazed, incredulous at how much they actually manage to achieve. The saying, 'if you want something doing ask a busy person' rings especially true. A busy person doesn't waste time procrastinating, mulling over where to start. They simply begin and do it.
With that in mind, let's look at ways to avoid wasting time:
- Prioritize. It can become a habit to instantly react to other people's emergencies and demands and, on occasion, that might be appropriate. It's reasonable to treat an important client with respect, to let them know that they're a top priority. After all, your quality customer service may have been a significant part of their reason for choosing to come to you in the first place. But even important clients have to appreciate that they're not the only call on your time. They have to treat you with respect and be reasonable in their requests.
Prioritizing helps you to list the immediate, most pressing demands on your time. Order them in the most efficient way. Some tasks may be complex and require a lot of time, others may need to be undertaken in stages with input intermittently required from other service providers. These are important considerations to factor in. Make a comprehensive list in order to assess and prioritize the best way to proceed. Then, when any new demands are made upon you, you can modify your list and make sensible, realistic decisions. Using a list helps you organise your thoughts and prioritize your time more effectively.
- Be constructive. People typically fill their time with what needs to be done, so a simple task may take thirty minutes or half a day, depending on how much time there is available. Focus on the task in hand and commit to maximising your input. Then reward yourself with a short break.
Notice how much time you fritter and waste. A 5 minute coffee break can take more than double that if you calculate the time spent walking to the kitchen, chatting, waiting for the kettle to boil. Watching the news can absorb another 30 minutes if you become distracted by reports on topical items. Calling at the local shop several times a day can further add to the amount of time wasted.
It's important to have breaks. They help manage stress, provide a helpful interlude to reflect on problems and issues, give an opportunity to consider a different perspective and become calmer. Make the most of your breaks by including healthy food, water, fresh air, exercise. Use your time constructively.
- Commit your full attention to each task in turn and avoid being distracted. Some people switch their phone to silent, only check their emails and post at specific times so that they're able to concentrate fully. Then you're less likely to make mistakes, repeat work you've already done or lose track of where you're up to.
- Delegate. Some tasks may be able to be done satisfactorily by another person. Taking on a junior may initially mean having to spend time training or clarifying processes and procedures but that may be good practice in the long-term. And a fresh pair of eyes may make valuable suggestions.
Sharing work or forming alliances with other associated businesses may ease your workload by passing on tasks that are better suited to their skills. If they share some of their leads and contacts you could find that you're able to offer an improved service to your combined clients.
- Pay attention to admin. If you part-finish a piece of work make clear notes as to where you're up to, any actions that have been taken. It saves time when you eventually return to it. A clear, visible summary saves time, effort and potential embarrassment at looking inefficient.
Implement systems that help you manage work efficiently. De-clutter regularly and archive old, outdated data away from more relevant operational paperwork.
- Time management also means allowing time for fun, relaxation, family and friends. Make time for your special people and nurture those relationships. Let them be a significant part of your life and support network. They are often an important part of the reason why you work so hard.
Equally, allocate valuable time for yourself, just as you would a respected, valued client. Be sure to stop and give yourself credit when you've completed an important task or project. Enjoy each achievement rather than simply moving from one task to the next. It's important to value how you spend your time.
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