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Understanding Time Management

Time is the one thing we all have in equal measure. How come then, that some people seem to be able to make more out of their time than others? They breeze through work in an efficient way, get a long list of tasks accomplished before they even get to the office and have weekends free to enjoy time with their family.

There is no magic pill you can take that will bring you this level of mastery over your time. There are however a number of techniques that you can use and incorporate into your daily routines to enable you to make the most of your time.

On this page, you will find lots of resources to help you in your own pursuit of effective time management.

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Time Management Blogs

How To Kick Ass At Changing Your Habits

Habits are the subconscious behaviours that we all do, often every day without making a deliberate decision to do so. Habits are our brain's way of saving energy and they can be really helpful and really unhelpful! We all have bad habits that we develop over time that we want to change.

Increasing your job satisfaction

Do you feel stuck in a rut at work? Are you satisfied with your role? Job dissatisfaction levels are reportedly pretty high in the UAE (around 73%*). This seems high but also plausible; when residence status is tied to your job many will stay longer...

Struggling with your productivity at work?

Are you a procrastinator? A report in the UK revealed last week - it was actually a couple of weeks ago but I procrastinated this post - that Britons spend nearly four hours per day delaying tasks...

remote working

Remote Working In Bali

I always try to get away a bit during summer, I love the sun more than most but the Dubai heat at this time of year is no fun at all! This year I decided to venture further away and for longer than normal to Bali for a month of remote working.

Managing Distractions #2: Yourself!

This week we are looking at how to manage distractions from yourself! Distractions can often come from yourself, from your desire to be multitasking, the sheer amount of noise in your head or boredom from the tasks you are working on.

Managing Distractions #3: Email

I spoke with a group of managers last week who said that they thought the email was one of the biggest hindrances to their personal productivity. It is a sentiment shared by many. We are overloaded with emails; some are important, others not so much.

Changing Habits

When you think about the habits that you have in your life you probably have more than you initially think. Because habits are subconscious it might not even occur to you that you are often acting out a routine rather than making conscious decisions.

  • A habit has a cue. The cue tells you that you need to do something. So for example, the cue could be the beep on your phone which instinctively causes you to pick it up and check the message. A cue could also be emotional; every time you're feeling a little bit bored you go to the cafe and get a cookie.
  • Habits also deliver a reward; there is some positive feeling when we have completed the routine that reinforces the habit and makes us do it again. When you brush your teeth in the morning and evening the reward is that fresh minty sensation in your mouth and that clean feeling on your teeth.

To change habits, you need to set a simple cue and ensure a clear reward. For example, if you want to start running each morning choose a clear cue such as leaving your clothes by your bed; the reward could be the sense of accomplishment from recording your miles each day. Changing habits requires determination; you have to believe that you can be successful, and you can become better in whatever area you are trying to improve.

Tips to Build new Habits

  • Set a Trigger. Set a clear trigger for the positive behaviour that you want to encourage. For example, as soon as I arrive home from work I will do some exercise.
  • Reward Yourself. If the activity itself doesn't give you enough intrinsic reward you can link a reward to the behaviour in order for the habit to stick. For example, you know you should catch up with your team each week but you hate doing it. Treat yourself to something after the catch up so you have this reward to anticipate.
  • Know Why. Link the habit that you are trying to give up to something bigger. For example, I want to stop smoking so I can see my grandchildren grow up. There is a bigger purpose motivating you. It makes the day to day easier if you keep this goal in mind.
  • Visualise the Process and Result. Visualise yourself doing the new habit before you do it. Go through the process in your mind and also visualise the emotion. How will you feel after you have completed the habit? What does your future self-look like?
  • Tweak Your Environment. Make it easy for yourself by designing your environment to support good habits. Close internet browsers while you work so you don't habitually check the news; leave your exercise gear by your bed so it's the first thing you see when you wake up and don't drive by the McDonald's drive-through so you are not tempted to go in.
  • Create an 'If Then' Scenario. If a habit isn't sticking, break it down and analyse exactly where you are going wrong. Plan a, 'if then' scenario for when this happens. For example, if I get home and feel too tired to exercise I will nap for 15 minutes then get up rejuvenated.

Managing Procrastination

Procrastination is the art of putting something off or delaying something - especially something that you should be doing!

People procrastinate for many reasons, maybe it is because of dislike of the job or the task; confusion about where to start; failing to see the value of an activity or simply a need for regaining control in an environment of micro-managing. Why do we choose to do things other than what we think is best for us to be doing? As humans are we, not rational creatures who make logical decisions! Procrastination affects some people more than others and for some can be a real barrier to achieving goals, taking the next career step and being a key team player. If this is something that you suffer from you need to manage it constantly to ensure you are getting the right things done at the right time.

How to avoid procrastination

  • Relate every Action to a Goal. The most effective strategy to overcome procrastination is to improve your ability to choose which projects should be worked on. To do this, link every task to a goal. Is the activity directly linked to a long-term goal? Implement this by regularly setting SMART goals. Know why you want to achieve each goal - link it to an emotion that you will feel once the goal is completed and what this will mean for your life. Clearly identify how the task will help you to achieve that long term goal.
  • Plan the Next Action. Instead of focussing on the big project you need to do, the challenges you will face and the complexity of it; focus only on the next action you need to complete. When you write this next action on your to-do list make it very action orientated, include a verb like 'write', or 'call' or 'research'; this will encourage you to take action. By making it small and specific it is easier to get the task completed. Once you have done the action you can focus on the next 'Next Action'.
  • Create a Sense of Urgency. Parkinson's Law says a task will expand to fill the time allocated to it. If you have a three-week deadline to do something, odds are you'll be finishing up at the end of day 20. If you create a sense of urgency around tasks you'll complete projects faster and develop a larger capacity to get more done. Create self-imposed deadlines, challenge yourself to do things faster, even if others set you a different deadline.
  • Start Small. We can put off starting things when the task seems insurmountable; it's a challenge to find the initial willpower to start. You make the excuse that the task is too overwhelming and you'll start when you have more time. Instead of worrying about how much there is to do just turn it into a daily habit where you complete a very small amount. For example, if you need to write 10,000 words, just focus on getting 1,000 done each day.
  • Temptation Bundling. Combine doing something you dislike or may struggle to motivate yourself to do - with something that gives you pleasure - a temptation. For example, only watch your favourite TV show at the gym; treat yourself to a nice meal once all your finances are in order or go to your favourite café to have that difficult conversation with a member of your team.

If you are a chronic procrastinator you will love this Ted Talk by Tim Urban

Is there any benefit to procrastination?

Some studies have shown a link between moderate procrastination and improved creativity. When people rush in and complete a task too quickly they are not allowing the creative process to work fully and lacking original ideas. The research also shows that people who procrastinate too much leave no time for new ideas. There is a sweet spot where original ideas can flourish with just enough procrastination to allow ideas to form and enough forward planning to have time to implement those new ideas.

(For more on this see the great Ted Talk by Adam Grant

Work-Life Balance

Getting a workable balance between work and your personal life is critical for your long-term health, happiness and effectiveness. What that balance looks like will vary for everyone but it is important for you to recognise when the scales are tipping in one direction or another. Technology and being constantly contactable add to the challenge of separating work and personal time. Add to that demanding bosses, stressed clients, work emergencies and working across time zones, gaining a balance can seem impossible!

However severe the challenges in attaining balance, the importance in doing so is large. Without taking time for yourself you will experience stress, burn out, low motivation and resentment. The first step in attaining work-life balance is to accept that this is your problem to solve! Your manager, customers or partner cannot take steps to solve this problem for you.

What does balance mean?

Balance does not mean equal time - we spend a lot of hours in the office! Balance means what is acceptable to you to have the quality of life that you want. Balance means having enough energy to give attention to yourself and your family. Balance means that the quality of the investment of our time gives us a sense of peace, satisfaction and accomplishment.

How to regain control of your life

  • Setting boundaries and expectations of what is acceptable to you and what isn't is critical for gaining the type of work-life balance that you desire. You need to teach people how to treat you. If you always answer your phone on a Saturday, the client will continue to call you on a Saturday. If they know you won't answer on the weekend they will make sure they clarify everything before the end of the week or wait until the new week to call you. Boundary and expectation setting applies to every area of your work-life balance. Decide what is acceptable to you, act in that way, and others will adapt to the boundaries you have set.
  • What are the non-negotiables in your life? What are the things you absolutely need to do to stay sane? Figure out these things and build them into your schedule with no compromises. It might be dropping off or picking up your child from school, or being home by 6.30 every night for family dinner, or maybe it's going to the gym each morning. Work out what small rituals help you to be happier, relaxed and more productive. Figuring out what these things are and making time for them every day will help prevent stress and burn-out.
  • Ask and you shall receive. So many organisations are becoming more open to flexible working hours and working from outside the office. Often we find that people are at their most productive when they are working from coffee shops or at home where they are free from office distractions! Speak to your boss about crafting a work day that suits your life and allows you to get more done. Maybe it is avoiding the afternoon commute and working a couple of hours from home, coming in earlier and leaving early or working flexi-time. There is often a win-win-win ( for you, your boss and your family) solution that can be found. One thing is for sure, if you don;t ask you don't get!

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