I chatted to my client for exactly 22 minutes at lunchtime. Why 22 minutes? Because she told me her daughter was having a nap and likely to wake up in the next 30 minutes. She also needed to reply to an email about a job she’d applied for in those 30 minutes. There’s nothing like a deadline to get you focussed and get stuff done!
My clients would love me forever and a day if I could magic up another 2 hours in every day for them. I have magical powers but not that magical. (*Disclaimer – my magical powers are restricted to helping you get really clear on what you want and finding the confidence to get it, not making 26 hours in a day).
However what I can do is share with you the best time-making tips that help you get more done in 24 hours when you feel you have no time, especially if you are a mum who wants to go back to work or start a business.
Only 24 hours in a day
First, let’s face the facts. There are only 24 hours in the day. Every hour has 60 minutes. Every minute has 60 seconds. I have 24 hours. You have 24 hours. Oprah Winfrey has 24 hours. Karren Brady has 24 hours. Even The Queen only has 24 hours. You can only do what you can do in 24 hours.
Those people who get loads done … it’s not that they have found the magic spell to conjure up more time. It’s simply that they use their 24 hours differently. Or they’ve got staff!
How do you use your 24 hours differently?
It is possible to get more done when you have no time. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed or drowning in information overload. When you follow these simple suggestions, you will have more energy and be more focussed in the time you do have available.
1 – Focus on one thing at a time
You might think you can multi-task because you can answer a client call, while unloading the dishwasher, shooing the cat off the kitchen worktop and noticing that the fresh basil on the window sill needs watering. But …. just as your client gets to the crucial part in the conversation, you stop still. You stop still, cutlery in hand, cat rubbing against your legs, because you have started to focus, properly focus, on what your client is saying. Because you can only focus on one thing at a time.
Yes we can do a few things at the same time. You can walk down the street, chat to your toddler, notice the car driving too fast, and smile at your neighbour … all at the same time. However if you suddenly have to focus on any one of those things, for example the car mounts the pavement and you have to spring into avoidance action, your focus on the other activities will pause. Because you can only focus on one thing at a time.
You get more done when you focus on one thing at a time. It’s a myth that we can multi-task. Not even computers can multi-task. They process tasks so quickly that it looks like they’re multi-tasking but they’re not.
2 – The three most important things
If you are limited with the time you have available, be very clear before you start what the three most important things are. Be even clearer on the ONE most important thing. Take 5 minutes just before you go to bed or while the kids are eating breakfast to write down the three most important things you need to do. Then when you get to those precious 30 minutes, you don’t have to waste more than a few seconds reading your list of the three most important things. I have a pack of post-it notes on my desk. The first thing I do every morning while I drink my cup of tea, I write down the three most important things I need to do that day.
3 – Set a timer
If you only have 20 minutes, or 30 minutes, or an hour, close down ALL your social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc, set the timer (I love TomatoTimer) and GET IT DONE. If your most important thing is to reach out to former work colleagues, challenge yourself to see how many you can connect with in just 20 minutes (or however long you have).
4 – Get support from your partner
Set aside a specific time every day to ‘do your thing’. If you are a mum going back to work after a career break and you have your children all day, you may find it difficult to get ‘spare’ time during the day. Enrol your partner and your family. Share this plan with your partner or family and tell them that this will be the time every day that you are going to devote to job applications or marketing activities or whatever it is you need to do. Get their support. You are doing it for your family’s future. It is important. It is an investment.
5 – Don’t overcommit
As women, we are SO good at overcommitting, then feeling guilty when we can’t get it all done. We often overestimate how much we can get done in a day or underestimate how long a particular project will take. Break down bigger projects e.g. updating your CV into smaller tasks. (My 15 Day Challenge will help if your big project is going back to work after a career break or redundancy). It’s much easier to get started on a small task than a big project. Say ‘no’ more often.
6 – Self-love
When you want to get more done in 24 hours, do you simply work harder? Or try and do two or three (or even four) things at the same time? This is a surefire way to burn out and collapse in a heap at the end of the day. Instead, give yourself permission to be kind to yourself. Many of us don’t get enough quality sleep (sometimes unavoidable if you have young children) or take enough time for ourselves. (Discover more ways to cope with overwhelm on my Resources page).
Self-love is about showing yourself compassion. Forgive yourself for mistakes. Don’t try to be perfect. Good enough really is good enough.
7 – Declutter your brain
If you have too much clutter in your brain – notes from school about World Book Day, reminders about dry-cleaning, bills to pay – your brain slows down. Your creativity dries up. Decision-making stutters. Your brain is overloaded.
What you need is a good declutter. Brainstorm all those reminders and notes in your head. Get them out of your head and onto paper. Stop trying to remember everything. That is what pen and paper is for. When your pre-frontal cortex in your brain is overloaded, it just can’t function efficiently. Create a list or a mindmap. Try an application such as Trello or Evernote. Whichever approach you prefer, get it out of your head to declutter your brain.
I couldn’t magic up an extra couple of hours in my client’s day but I was able to give back 8 minutes in her 30 minute window.
Try just one of these time-making tips, and you will notice a difference in how you feel about the time you have available. Which one will you try?
Leave a comment below and let me know. Remember to come back in a few days to share how you’re getting on.