People often say that, when you become a mum, the way you work changes. With more defined work windows, often driven by childcare arrangements, mums often feel their focus is improved, procrastination is reduced and productivity somehow increases – despite the lack of sleep on some days!!
Parent or not, effective time management is a lucrative economy for business and can bring massive value to you as an individual. I read a quote the other week that stated that “all time is spare, it’s just a question of how you use it.” This is so true and really encapsulates the attitude change often required to maximise your minutes, however few and far between they are.
Here’s five simple things we can all do in the workspace to improve our time management and boost our productivity. A lot of the answer is to reduce distraction as well as just focus on time:
1. Switch off the email! This is always my first tip – those little notifications that pop up telling us that we have ‘one new message’, it’s car crash for concentration. Have set times each day that you manage your inbox and use your out of office to manage expectation if you’re worried. If it’s that urgent – the phone will ring.
2. Do one thing at a time. As women, we often joke about the skill we have, over our significant others, to multi-task. In reality, no-one can multi-task. Trying to do more than one thing at a time always takes longer and will usually be poorer quality too. It can take up to 20 minutes for you to pick up where you left off when you return to the first task too.
3. Do your highest value activity first. It’s human nature to sometimes put off the more challenging things on your ‘to do’ list. However, these are usually the high value items! Evaluate what is high value for you and high value for your company and always tackle them first.
4. Be open about focus. So many people, particularly people managers, feel pressure to be ‘available’ all the time and this can lead to constant interruptions during the working day. If you need to focus on something, just tell your colleagues you’re shutting yourself away for a while. They’ll be fine without you for an hour! You can do this with headphones or moving to a different space altogether.
5. Manage the voice in your head. No matter where you go, you can’t get away from your own head! Lots of people struggle to turn off the voice in their head that is curious to everything going on around them or is thinking about the shopping list, picking the kids up, Eddie’s birthday party plans etc. Find a method that works for you to manage the voice in your head and use it – this could be writing things down, managing to do-lists or even some basic breathing and mindfulness to help you focus on the task at hand.
We’ve all had days in the office where we’ve felt so busy – yet, we get to the end asking ourselves, “what have I actually achieved today?” So often, we mistake activity for productivity – it’s dangerous and it makes us busy fools! The big challenge in today’s world, where there are so many distractions, is to keep focused on the job at hand. It sounds crazy, but no-one gets paid to send emails. Try these five tips to manage your time better – you’ll soon see the results!
*Mum to Elouisa, Jane Sparrow is passionate about enabling individuals and organisations to perform at their best. Author of ‘The Culture Builders: Leadership Strategies for Employee Performance’, she has worked with businesses across the world, including Sony, Google, UKTV, Coopervision and Save the Children, to create and sustain high performance cultures. Focus is one of a number of areas including personal growth, emotional and physiological management and motivation, covered in The Culture Buillders’ ‘Bank of Me’ programme. For more information see www.theculturebuilders.com.