If you were granted 10% more time in your day, a magical 144 extra minutes, what would you do with it? Relax, sleep, answer more emails, get to the gym – there are many possible answers to a question which is, unfortunately, a mere fantasy. In a world that is rapidly changing, maybe the one guaranteed constant that exists is time itself; there will always be 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. So, maybe we need to stop wishing for more time or complaining that we don’t have enough of it and think about how we can be more productive in the hours we have available to us.
There are many tools that can be considered when looking at time management. These may range from creating a list (or if you are really good, the advanced version that is called a ‘prioritized list’), switching off email alerts and only dealing with messages) at certain times of the day, using headphones to block out surrounding noise, asking for help if help is required rather than staring at the same screen for an inordinate length of time; may be some of the techniques you use. All of these are useful, but I am going to suggest that if you want to regain some precious minutes you only need one key underlying mantra and that is ‘Switch on to the moment’.
For many people the world of work revolves around meetings and email, and it is quite possible that > 80 % of time is taken up with these two factors. Equally, when talking to workforces up and down the country, it seems that these two functions merge into one another, as laptops are paraded in to meeting rooms and people kid themselves that they are engaged in the conversation, whilst at the same time writing an email on a totally different topic. This multitasking culture is an efficiency myth – mistakes occur, time is lost and it is highly possible that the lack of focused engagement can lead to frustration from other participants.
The brain is an organ that allows us to access a set of specialist skills that are collectively known as ‘the executive functions’ and it is these skills that allow human beings to operate at a higher cerebral level than other mammals. Paying attention is one of these executive functions, and it is one that we often abuse.
The meeting scenario I mentioned earlier in this article is becoming a default behaviour in the corporate world – one that hankers for more time. So it does seem ironic that the technology that should make our lives easier is in fact the cause of inefficiency and frustration. If you want to gain some productive minutes in the day, my challenge to you is to be more conscious about switching the machines off and switching your brain on.