The one complaint I hear more than any other is, “I just don’t have enough time to get everything done”. The problem is, not only do some people have the time, but they also achieve a lot more as well. How is this possible?
“All Work & No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy”
Two colleagues at a company where I used to work were sat complaining about how much of their time was wasted waiting because the three owners of the business always arrived late for our monthly management meetings.
Over lunch, one of the managers asked me how it was I was always seemed to have something positive to say in the meetings as they “didn’t have the luxury of time to think about it, let alone prepare anything”.
I asked him what his day had been like so far. He listed half a dozen grumbles about how much traffic there was and told me in great detail about the conversation he had with one of the other managers before the meeting started. He explained how they had compared notes on how bad their journey was; how poorly England played in the Rugby World Cup which they watched on the television; and they talked about working over the weekend on next year’s budget and how unrealistic the deadline was set by the business owners for submitting a draft of their budget. Eventually, he asked, “And what about you?”
I explained that I scanned my notes for the meeting and thought about what I wanted to say on some of the agenda items. I also showed him my pad on which I had scribbled some notes on the feedback I had been given by the owners on my draft budget. He looked at me and promptly quoted me the well-known proverb: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
I replied, “Well, this Jack had the time to get my budget done and go to the England match”. With that, he turned and continued bemoaning the budget deadline and how much work he had to do. I share this story not to impress you, but to impress upon you that we have choices – choices about how we manage our time.
My 15 Minute Time Manager
As a young manager bursting with energy and in a ‘hurry to get on in life’, I stumbled across Ken Blanchard’s series of One Minute Manager books. I was fascinated by his stories about the One Minute Manager – since then I have tried to use many of his ideas. Inspired by his ideas, I started using what I call, ‘My 15 Minute Time Manager’.
It is based on the reality that in most days there will be 15 minutes where we are waiting for someone or something – we have a spare 15 minutes. Assuming this happens twice a day and we work five days a week, this represents 2.5 hours per week – just under 7% of my working week.
The problem is the 2.5 hours does not all come at the same time nor is it possible to predict when it will be – all I know is that it is more than likely that it will happen. Knowing this, my problem was how to make the best use of it.
My answer is so simple that anyone can do it. Keep with you (in your head or on a notepad) one or more tasks or problems you need to address. I know that 15 minutes is not sufficient to complete the task or to resolve the problem, but it is long enough to ponder and think about it. If I have a report to draft, in 15 minutes I can make a list of bullet points; or draft an introduction; or design the graphs I want to include; or list the support documents I will need.
Part 1: Fifteen minutes is a long time
I challenge you to sit for 15 minutes without speaking or any distractions or interruptions. Notice how long it feels; notice what you are thinking about; notice if your mind wanders; notice how you feel afterwards, that is assuming you managed the full 15 minutes.
Part 2: Fifteen minutes is long enough
Now take a pen and a notepad and write down at the top of the page a problem or a task you need to undertake. For the next 15 minutes, just focus on the task or the problem and jot down your thoughts. Every time your mind wanders, look back at the problem or task you wrote down on the top of your note pad and focus and carry on until the full 15 minutes is up.
Now ask yourself: How long did that feel? How difficult or easy was it to keep focussed on the task or problem? How much did you get done? How can you use your notes to get the task done or the problem resolved?
My guess, if you did this exercise with 100 per cent commitment and focus, you got a lot out of it. With practice, you will be surprised just how much you can get done in 15 minutes. This is because most of the hard work for most tasks and most problems lies in the thinking and planning stage NOT the doing.
Fifteen Minutes is Long Enough
Fifteen minutes is often longer enough to get ahead, to make a start, to know what the next step is. This week, look out for the empty 15 minute timeslots in your schedule. They might come at the end of your day; in the airport lounge; or waiting for a meeting to start. You might even get lucky and find that your train or flight has been delayed by 30 or 45 minutes in which case why not do two or three back-to-back 15 minute sessions.