Why it’s better to work smarter, not harder

There is a golden thread that runs through the advice that experts in time management have to give - concentrate not on how busy you are but on results. In other words, work smarter, not harder.

Recognising the problem

When I suggest to people they are losing their battle against managing time properly, they refuse to accept this until I ask them the following:

• Would you feel lost without your diary?

• Do you have more than one diary or calendar?

• Do you ever feel too busy to enjoy yourself?

• Are you always looking at your watch when in a queue?

• Do you fret about how many jobs you still have to do each day?

• Do you always seem to be trying to do two jobs at once?

If they answer yes to two or more of these, they have a problem managing their time.

How to better manage your time

Making daily checklists is a good way to overcome the problem, but there are also a number of other key principles which will help:

  • Remember you will not get any extra reward for perfection. Always do your best, but trying to be perfect at all times is a fast way to major stress.
  • Spend one day – and one day only – keeping a log of how you spend your time at work. Note how long each job takes, how much time you spend in meetings or getting from A to B. Are you spending periods doing very little? The information will highlight areas that can be improved.
  • If you have projects to finish and are on a tight deadline, release time by taking shorter breaks during the day or starting earlier. However, this must be a short-term strategy only, and should last for no longer than the project.
  • If you can, delegate work, since many people will often help you if approached correctly.

And if that doesn’t work? Asking for professional advice

If you find you are still disorganized, it may be worth seeking professional advice. Some people find this extremely useful, while others do not benefit from it. You may need to invest time and accept disruption in the short term in order to release time in the long term.

After I had an electronic appointments system installed in my surgery I spent a week running late, calling the wrong patients in to see me and leaving others sitting in the waiting room while I had my coffee in blissful ignorance.

I resisted the temptation to chuck it all in the nearest bin and go back to my old system, and two weeks later my days were running smoothly, with large periods of time released which I could use to deal with administrative matters that would otherwise have kept me late at work.

Seek professional time-management advice if you always seem to be running late or missing deadlines. Simple techniques such as daily lists or phone-free time can add hours to your day.

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