I am, and always have been, obsessed with time. I’m obsessed with how to make the most of it. I’m obsessed with finding it, keeping it, losing it, and making it. Of course, time itself remains consistent and set. Minutes, days, weeks, and years come and go at the same speed for every person on this planet. We all get the same 24 hours.
Today I encourage you to forget the 24, and focus instead on the 1440 minutes. It’s not unusual for people to discount the power of the minute. We’ve all been guilty of not starting a task or project because we don’t perceive there is enough time to finish, or even make a dent, in said task. Yet the sand-glass shows us, each pebble is a powerful part of the whole, and every minute spent towards a task is one minute closer to getting it done.
The first powerful tool in your possession in the 10-minute timer. You may already realize how many times a “quick look” on Facebook or at email can become 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or more. I’ve been using the 10-minute timer to help me reboot, read-up, or slam through the “easy list” for years longer than our newest conveniences of computer-in-my-pocket technology. That said, it is that timer on my phone that has become my best friend.
When to use the 10-minute timer.
You’ve hit that 3:30 brain fog, every task looks too long or too much and honestly, you just dread everything. Set the timer. You may be surprised at how much can get done in 10 minutes. 10 minutes is the perfect amount of time to: flip through the latest trade magazine, go through the “clutter” emails and decide what’s junk and what needs to be addressed, check in on your business Facebook page, engage with your social networks on Twitter or LinkedIN. The timer is your friend. These are important things to be done, that can easily become a “time suck” – beep, beep, beep – move on!
Another great option, if you’re a list person, use 10 minutes to knock out as many of those “easy” tasks in a row. For example, the important but not urgent correspondence, filing paperwork, a follow-up on those “watch” jobs. The ten-minute timer is often a reboot for my day, and gets me rolling again to tackle the next round of tasks.
The next level: the 30-minute power tool
OK – now you’re getting serious. This isn’t about a restart but getting some real work done. Tackling the “easy list” is also a smart move in your 30-minute block. Anytime I can blow through several of those easy tasks in a row, I get the endorphin rush needed to keep on track.
More often, however, when the pile of to-do’s are bearing down, the best use of those 30 minutes is to tackle the thing I most wish was already done. I’ll be honest, the thing I most wish was already done is frequently the thing I least want to do. (In my home life, it is likely some housekeeping chore.) With my 30 minute timer I know I’m only going give this task 30 minutes. Anybody can handle 30 minutes, right? Even after years of 30 minute blocks, I admit I am nearly always amazed at how much I can accomplish in that time.
Tackling the Big Stuff – 30 minutes at a time.
I also use 30 minute chunks of time to work on big projects and ongoing important processes and improvements. You know what I mean, the writing of SOP’s, the new computer system/safety program/employee handbook…it looks like a mountain, so getting it done seems impossible because you don’t have (and will never have) enough time. But you do.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers.
Every great journey was taken one step at a time. Don’t be afraid to tackle the big stuff with small chunks of effort.
The 60 minute Lie.
Don’t be lured by the hour block trap that your planner or electronic calendar suggests. For example, never start a meeting or appointment on the hour. This allows other people’s hourly mindset to encroach upon your own. Set your appointments for 1:15, instead of 1:00 and watch how those 1 hour meetings reform to 45 minute meetings. Other people may have an hour, but we’re in printing, we’ve got other things to do!
Protect Your Hours
And lastly, take those one hour (and longer) tasks seriously and give them the attention they need. Don’t try to slate the big, important, business in the middle of the day when a one hour task will take 3 hours because there are, and will always be, relevant, unavoidable interruptions. Slate your most important long term/long time tasks for your most quiet, most alert time. It’s pretty common for us printers to work half days. You know, 12 hours at a time. So, if your quiet time is at 5:00 am before the shop lights up, or maybe at 8:00pm after the night shift has started but rarely meanders to your office (or maybe both), plan the best use of that time slot.
Be in charge of the hours, don’t let the minutes rule you when you have that luxurious 60 minutes in a row. Resist the urge to use your “quiet time” on the easy list, like social networking, or anything that can lead to a “time suck.” I could go on about cultivating and finishing your important thing, and maybe I will later. For now, let’s leave it at: Guard and protect your most focused time to use it at its best advantage.
Make it a Habit
Good habits are the minute habits, like wiping down the counter after spilling that drop of coffee in the company lunchroom. The leader with “not enough time” to take 30 seconds to wipe up that spill, is likely the leader of a plant with “not enough time” to check a job’s quality before shipping it from the door. What are you doing with your 1440 minutes today?
- © 2017 Mardra Sikora