Our days, weeks and months seem to fly by. Often we look back at our day, not satisfied with what we accomplished because we know we could have achieved more. Very likely, we did not take advantage of several opportunities to make better use of our time because:
1. We fell for multiple distractions that did not need the sort of attention we gave them. Examples are: checking our phones and emails too frequently, or exploring information which is not going to impact our lives at this time.
2. We did not work to a plan for our day’s tasks. By this we do not mean making lists and setting goals. That’s too obvious. It’s really about prioritizing what we need to do and allocate the right amount of time needed to accomplish them.
Successful people force themselves to focus on high-payoff activities and have the correct estimate of the time and concentration they need to achieve each goal. So, given that you already have your goals and that the hours in a day are fixed, its really about a deep understanding of how you will use your time each day for your goals.
At Support Functions, we use the following system to help people make the most of their time for maximum productivity each day. It has given us excellent results over the years and helped individuals and companies maximize their productivity.
The system consists of two parts. Part one analyses how our time is being spent every week and the second helps assign time in a manner that gets us maximum payoff from our efforts.
Part 1: Time Spend Analysis
Start with putting all your activities in a typical week into ‘activity groups’ and assign a color to each group. For example, your groups may be sleeping, personal work, commuting, product development, knowledge enhancement, training, sport/leisure etc. Then you have to fill in the time you spend on each group into the form below using a color you have assigned for each group.
Each box in the form represents 15 minutes (.25 of an hour), with the idea of helping you be as accurate as possible. At the end of the week, add up the number of boxes of each color and divide by 4. That will tell you exactly the number of hours you are typically spending on a particular activity group.
A completed form will look something like the image below. We may think we know where our time goes, but when you look at a snapshot like this, you can instantly recognize opportunities to add or delete time from certain activity groups. You can also make changes to when you should do certain activities based on what you believe will be the most productive use of your time. For example, some executives have made simple changes to when they commute so as to accommodate time to knowledge enhancement when they felt their minds would be most responsive to learning. The colored boxes help to define that more easily.
Personally, I do this every so often when I am not satisfied with how much I’m getting out of my day. My recommendation is that you do it at least once a quarter.
Part 2: Focused Time Scheduling
The next step is to identify the areas that deliver the highest payoffs and focus more of your daily attention to them. Using the following form will constantly remind you to focus and increase the amount of time devoted to what really matters most. We call this Focused Time Scheduling.
On this form, you need to define the specific projects or categories you wish to focus on and allocate a weekly goal in terms of hours / week.
As with the earlier form, each box represents 15 minutes and you can note the specifics of what you accomplished next to the marked boxes.
As with most people, keeping this form handy throughout the week will remind you to work on these high payoff projects resulting in significant productivity improvements.
A completed form can look something like this:
The objective is to get as close to the targeted numbers of hours as possible. Do not worry about being perfect.
If you would like to receive a copy of the form electronically, please request it here.