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How many times have any of us said THAT before!? If only I had more time! Or, when someone asks you, “how are you?” We reply, “Busy! Very busy!” I’m even guilty of that myself. I work with a lot of high powered executives, and they all say the same thing too. I hear it everywhere. Everyone feels the pressure to do more in less time or take on more tasks in order to compete and get ahead. There is always one more email that must be sent, one more text, one more project that should have been completed… yesterday! Or, someone else is filling up time on YOUR calendar… because they can!  

Are there really not enough hours in a day? Are we trying to do too much? Do we just have a hard time saying “no?” Perhaps all are true. In this day and age of instant communication, expectations are high. We may feel overwhelmed at how much is on our plate. As a result, multi-tasking has become the norm.  We get stuck on a treadmill wondering how to get off! Or maybe we thrive on that treadmill. Some psychologists will even argue that we are “addicted” to being busy, just as if it were a drug!  

So, how do we get our lives back and feel like we are in control? Yes, there are all kinds of courses, organizers, and planners to help us manage our time, but if you don’t use them, they are meaningless. And, all too often, the more we manage our time, the more we try to cram into our day!

What I’ve come to learn is it really does come down to discipline and having to make tough choices at times. First, begin by doing an “audit” of where you are spending your time, and how? Can you honestly make any adjustments anywhere? Secondly – and I’m sure you don’t really want to hear this – but STOP multi-tasking! According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, our brains are not wired to focus on more than one thing at a time. In fact, he notes that when people think they are multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly, and every time you do, you pay a cognitive price. The easiest place to start is to turn off those pop-up notifications you get on your computer so you don’t get distracted. Also, begin to change your mindset. More often than not, you do NOT need to respond to every email or text message immediately. You CAN control that.

Another way to take control back is to block off time in your calendar that is sacred. No one, not even your assistant, can schedule anything during that time. YOU decide what you need to do in that window. Not anyone else.

One of my best tips I also share with clients is to make your meetings only 45-minutes, not one-hour, or 20-minutes, instead of 30.  You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish if everyone gets used to the idea.  Think about it;  if you have 4 meetings in one day that are now only 45-minutes, instead of an hour, heck, you’ve gained an hour of time!  Maybe you’ll actually have time to prepare for that next meeting, or get a workout in, or leave the office early enough to see your kids before they head off to bed.  It really works.  Just try it!

And finally, learn to say no!  Take on only the commitments you have time for or that you truly care about.  If and when a request is made, is it something you really must attend to, or can you delegate it someone else?  Learn not to feel guilty about saying no.  Setting boundaries is never easy, but if you value your time, others will too.

Written by: Liz Brunner