Prioritising: How To Turn “I Don’t Have Time” Into “I’ll Make Time”

Time management is less about saving time than it is about effective prioritisation.

Consider this: why is it that there’s always room for dessert, no matter how full you are? It’s because we know how fantastic dessert tastes, so we don’t want to forgo it. Similarly, if we thought something was important enough, we’d accommodate it into our schedules no matter how “full” our day is. 

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The problem is, priorities generally don’t stay the same week after week, though there are, of course, some constants. Without staying on top of our priorities, it’s easy to slip into time-wasting activities that aren’t beneficial. 

Here’s how you can prioritise effectively and turn “I don’t have time” into “I’ll make time” without stretching yourself too thin. 

P.S. Master the art of time management with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness at the managerial level today!

 

1. Run a time audit

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step towards an effective treatment regime. Likewise, to remedy your time management, you need to know what exactly the problem is with how you’re spending it now. 

To know which activities are consuming your time unnecessarily, you need to conduct a time audit on yourself. Once you know this, it’s easier to decide which priorities you could re-allocate that lost time to moving forward. 

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Here’s how to do it:

  • Keep a time diary every day for a week, then look at it to identify counter-productive time usage patterns
  • Utilise digital tools effectively: iOS, for example, allows you to track how much time you’re spending on each app. It also allows you to block off certain apps if you spend more than a given amount of time on it in a day. Likewise, there are Chrome extensions that can help you achieve the same effect on your desktop computer. 

 

2. Know your priorities: 2 different approaches

If time is money, then you should treat it as such by looking carefully at how and where you can invest your time for the best possible returns. That, of course, necessitates planning. After subtracting working hours and time for sleep, you have 72 free hours a week to use. That sounds like a lot of time, but it’s also too easy to dawdle these hours away unproductively.

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Make a categorised list of your priorities for the coming week 

In her viral TED talk, time management expert Laura Vanderkam advises using Friday afternoons to plan out your entire coming week: 

  • Categorise your priorities under three main headings: career, relationships, and self
  • For each category, include 2-3 items
  • Look at how you’re going to fit it in each of those items over the week

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Schedule your entire workday

If you prefer a more controlled approach, follow bestselling author Cal Newport’s advice to schedule each workday: 

  • Divide your workday into blocks of time for designated activities
  • Each time block should be at least 30 minutes
  • Batch “shallow work” like doing paperwork and sending emails together and fit it into a 30-minute block
  • Estimate how much time a day you need to dedicate to “deep work” like writing reports for clients
  • Revise your schedule accordingly as the day progresses. There will be interruptions and overspilling of time, but it’s normal

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Though it might seem an extreme approach, it helps you stay in control of how you use your time. According to Newport, the point of your schedule isn’t to you follow it without any deviation whatsoever. It doesn’t matter how many times you need to revise your schedule, because this itself is a tool to help you be more deliberate about how you spend your time. 

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