T is for Time. Not enough time in the day? You’re probably making at least one of these 12 mistakes. This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.
The nature of time.
Time is a curious beast. As a kid enjoying the seemingly never-ending school-summer holidays, I was always amazed at how slowly time passed – I even used to laugh at my dad when he told me that it speeds up as you get older. Now I’m the parent telling my boys the same thing when they lament how agonisingly long it is until their birthday, or Christmas; or when they moan about how slow a 10 minute car journey seems.
Time is relative.
And it’s not just age that changes our relationship with time. Our activities also have a huge impact on how we perceive the quality and passing of time. Whether you’re having a challenging week at work waiting for that Friday afternoon that never seems to come, or enjoying a fabulous fun-filled weekend where Sunday evening appears in the blink of an eye, it can feel as if you are always fighting time. Working parents in particular may frequently feel that time is their sworn enemy. When you’re trying to fit in two jobs where you used to do one, time is ruthless and unforgiving; always running out on you when you need just a little bit more of it or when there’s somewhere you need to be – an hour ago.
So how do you win the battle against time? In his 2,000 year-old treatise ‘On the Shortness of Life’, stoic philosopher Seneca opined, ’Life is long if you know how to use it’. And it’s this idea of ‘worthwhile’ time that has been the game-changer for me. I have realised that time itself is not the enemy; it’s ourselves. We have the power to control how we spend our time, and it’s how we spend our time that determines how we perceive it – or the lack of it.
If you’re one of the many people who frequently wishes there were more hours in the day, then this blog is for you. Today I’d like to show you the mistakes you might be making that are costing you precious time, and give you strategies for dealing with these mistakes so that you feel less overwhelmed and can create enough time in your life for everything that matters to you.
Start by downloading this week’s freebie ‘How to take control of your time.’
12 common time-wasting mistakes.
1 – Wishing there were more hours in the day.
This is lazy thinking! The reality is if you had more hours in the day you’d still be overwhelmed because you’d either a) try to do more and/or b) take longer to do things because you know you have more time. When you wish for more hours, you’re blaming time itself for how busy you are, instead of taking ownership of the time you have and using it more effectively.
2 – Thinking you have no free time.
Have you actually stopped to measure how much free time you really have? Most people I ask aren’t able to tell me because they haven’t. You very likely have more free time than you think. Download this week’s free guide to learn how to measure it and read my blog on the importance of planning your free time.
3 – Not planning your time.
If, like most of us, you start every day with reaction activities such as opening your email or looking on social media, you are handing over control of your day to someone else right from the start. How many times have you launched into these activities only to later look at your watch and find that it’s almost midday and your morning has all but disappeared? Instead of reacting, be deliberate and intentional about how you use those precious productive morning hours. Most of us are more energetic and make better decisions earlier in the day. Don’t waste this time on low value reactive tasks like email – save those for later.
4 – Not getting up early.
If you press snooze on your alarm every morning and stumble out of bed leaving barely enough time to race through breakfast and rush out of the door to the office, you’re missing one of the most valuable balance and time saving strategies there is. Getting up early gives you more time – though not because you have more hours in the day for work tasks – (read my blog on how to get up early and you’ll see that work and email aren’t allowed in my getting up early strategy). In fact, what you get is so much more valuable:
- time to reflect on your goals and values and to plan how you are going to drive those goals and honour those values each day.
- time to yourself
- time to read, learn something new or grow
- time to exercise.
In a nutshell – time to do all the things you say you don’t have time to do!
5 – Not honouring your commitments.
Do what you say you’re going to do, at the time you say you’re going to do it – without distraction. If you say you’re going to work for 2 hours, then work for 2 hours. Don’t work for 20 minutes, get up and go for a coffee, work for 10 minutes, then scroll through Instagram for a while, then do another 15 minutes of work before you call your mum. Work for 2 hours! When you say that tomorrow at 9am you’re going to review an agreement, write an article or make that call, do exactly that. Don’t interrupt yourself. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get distracted. Honour these time commitments to yourself. It sounds hardcore. But I know when I do this, it absolutely works.
6 – Multi-tasking.
A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan has shown that contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking actually inhibits productivity because of the accumulated time people waste switching between tasks. The switching of cognitive functions causes a time delay which although small, adds up to a significant amount of time ‘lost’ for people who regularly work by switching back and forward between multiple tasks. Focusing on one task saves this lost time, and also is shown to foster a longer attention span generally.
7 – Allowing too much time to do things.
I have been guilty of this in the past but have changed my habits and the results have been mind-blowing. Where I would previously have set myself half a day to write an article, or a chunk of time to prep for a meeting, I’m now cutting that time – not just by 50% – but by 75%. The results are amazing. Yesterday I had a book that I’d wanted to read ahead of a meeting. I allowed myself the 25 minute train journey and the 15 minute bus ride to my destination and I speed read the whole book. It was incredible. I got my son Noah to test me when I got home just to check whether I’d taken it in. And I really had! It turns out, if you give yourself 3 hours to do something, it will take 3 hours, maybe more. If you give yourself an hour, it will take around an hour.
8 – Spending too long on your devices.
Digital devices – they are useful but they are also the most sinister thieves of time, ever! They and the platforms they support are specifically designed to keep you using them for as long as possible and can quickly create a black hole of time; time you could have spent honouring your values, connecting in real life with someone you love (who is right there in front of you!), or creating memories. Social media may be fun and has its uses, but these benefits come at the cost of your most precious commodity; time.
9 – Not setting goals.
If you have no goals, time will fly! Goals aren’t just about achievement and progress, they are also markers in time, acting as measurable stepping stones on your life journey, reminding you how far you’ve come – and exactly what you’ve done with your time.
10 – Not knowing your values.
Values are so-called because they add worth to our lives; they’re the things that give us meaning and make us happy. We lament our lack of time because we regret not doing more of what makes us happy in life. If you know your values and honour them with your actions every day, the passing of time won’t fill you with regret. Have a look at my blog post on identifying your values here.
11 – Procrastinating.
One of the worst time wasters of all! When you put things off or procrastinate, you’re at least doubling the amount of time you take to do something. Knowing that you still have to do something you haven’t yet done takes up head space and emotional energy. It follows you around like a dark shadow and seemingly accelerates time until the moment when you finally have to do it. Just do it straight away and save yourself the anguish – (and of course, the time!).
12 – Not being present.
Being present is my favourite way of slowing down time. (Have a look at my recent blog post on the subject here). If you’re never in the moment, or if you’re always busy, always looking ahead – the present is wasted; neglected; unappreciated; and forgotten. Try to live mindfully – appreciate the moment, acknowledge your activities, your surroundings, your sensations and emotions. Time slows down when you give it the respect it deserves.
So are you a time-waster or a time-wizard? The next time someone you know complains of being time-poor, send them this blog or invite them to download the freebie ‘How to take control of your time’!
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org