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My new year resolution: make the most of my time


My new year resolution (well, one of them) is to make all my time matter in 2012.  In other words, I’m trying hard to avoid finding excuses to fiddle around.  On my banned list are:

  • Moving papers from one side of my desk to the other on the pretext of prioritising them
  • Checking my emails more than once an hour
  • Googling for the answer to any and every question, whether or not I need to know
  • Spending hours searching for new friends and acquaintances or checking out the latest comments on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter

From now on, if not confined to the bin, these activities will be limited to the least amount of time I can get away with – and the first will definitely be off the agenda altogether, if at all possible.

Why, you may ask, is a business operations consultant doing any of this anyway?  Fair question.  But like everyone else, I’m only human.  On the one hand, I find myself wondering where to start on the mountain of tasks confronting me first thing in the morning; on the other, I start off enthusiastically, but either something goes wrong or I burn out.  Either way, I wind up staring out of the window or getting side-tracked, which can go on for hours.

The fact is, it can be difficult to get started in the morning, and it’s certainly inadvisable to try and work for too long without a break.

So here are my tips for a productive day:

  1. Write yourself a list of things that need to be done during the day and the approximate amount of time each is likely to take (if you want to get ahead, can do this the previous evening  - it’ll help you off to a kick start in the morning).
  2. Prioritise them and organise the list with the most important things at the top.
  3. Put a couple of quick items from the top five priorities at the very top of the list.
  4. Allocate approximate times to each item.

So far so good: it’s more or less what I’ve done in the past.  It may seem a bit pedantic, but at least I know whether I’m asking too much of myself and can really decide what I can leave until tomorrow.  The trouble is that it doesn’t provide any leeway for things going over time, people phoning up or other things cropping up.

So here’s what I’m going to do this year.  First, I’m going to build blogging, Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter time into the day, but for no more than half an hour a day.  Second, I’m only going to allocate 40 minutes of every hour to working.  That way, there will be plenty of flexibility – and, most importantly, if I finish what I’ve set myself to do within the time, I can have some “free” R&R.  So I no longer need to feel guilty spending a few minutes chatting to a colleague about non-work things, staring out of the window at the birds feeding on the bird table, or even to the odd game of Freecell or cup of tea.  Sounds perfect!

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