Where Did My Day Go? Tips for Those That Struggle With Managing Their Time

It's 12 o'clock.  Do you know where your day has gone?

Everybody gets the same 24 hours.  How that time is managed is what divides the pack.  If you're reading this, it's NOT too late.  There's still an opportunity to wrangle in your allotted 24 hours and make the most of them.  In a business environment of constant demand and persistent disruptions, time is the precious currency that most of us squander.  We start our days with the greatest intentions and at 5pm, we're faced with the looming question:  "Where Did My Day Go?"

Below, I've highlighted a handful of tips that may help you to regain control of your day. 

Disconnect

Our society is one of infinite connectivity.  Given this fact, disconnecting is probably the most difficult task of all.  The connectivity offered by our arsenal of devices places us in a never-ending tsunami of notifications.  Daily, the wave of buzzes and chimes takes us deeper into the abyss of news updates, the latest viral craze, or the reminder to pick up the dog from the groomer.  Focus becomes the raft that is drifting westward, which leaves the flailing unfocused one there to float or worse, drown.  

A bit morbid?  Eh, Maybe.  Let's talk solutions, shall we?

First, find the "Airplane Mode" or its equivalent on all mobile devices and activate it.  A study conducted by researchers at Florida State University found that merely receiving a mobile notification impairs not only your ability to complete a task but also the quality of the completed task.  If the notification is regarding something that we deem important, we can envision the inevitable "rabbit hole" that lies ahead.  

Secondly, for those who work from home or in the vicinity of a television, HIDE THE REMOTE.  No study is required to prove the validity of the distraction that the TV can be.  A commercial leads to a Google search that leads to scouring customer reviews, which leads to a purchase.  Now, an hour has passed and your productivity has waned significantly.  

Keep a short (prioritized) list 

"Prioritized" is in parentheses but it is surely the operative word in the suggestion above.  Each day, identify three things that have to happen before the close of the day.  Prioritize the list based on impact to others and alignment with the team's overall objectives.  Next, identify the specific tasks required to accomplish those priorities and then get to it! As a bonus, always remember to underpromise and overdeliver. 

Establish a daily cadence

This may be easier for some than others, depending on the type of work you do or the lifestyle you lead.  However, take the time to assess how your days are typically framed.  Take note of the hours that are most popular for meeting times.  Assess the times of day where you're most alert and productive.  What time is lunch?  How long does it take to complete recurring administrative tasks on a day-to-day basis?  Once you've gathered this information, set the framework for your daily cadence.  For example:

  • 7:00am-9:00am - Complete administrative tasks
  • 12:30pm-1:30pm - Lunch
  • No meetings scheduled or accepted after 4pm, except in the case of an emergency
  • 4:30pm-5:30pm - Daily review and prioritization for the following day 

Find the balance that works for you and execute with discipline.  Don't forget to build in breaks. 

Set timers and reminders

Once you establish your cadence, you will need help in holding yourself accountable.  One of the most effective ways to do this is to set a timer.  Example: If you've assessed that it should take 30 minutes to recap and prioritize for the next day, use your "Airplane-Mode" activated device to set a timer.  When you hear the chime, stop what you're doing.  If you find that you're consistently unable to complete the task at hand, revisit TIP 3.  Your cadence may need some adjustment. 

Another handy tool is a calendar reminder.  Most, if not all, calendar applications offer a way to create reminders.  These are the types of notifications that you actually want to encourage.  Set calendar reminders at the beginning of each calendar block (see above).  Receiving these notifications will hold you accountable and help you to acclimate to your new schedule.  

Rest

There's no fancy technique here.  A tired, foggy mind is an ineffective one.  Get plenty of rest so that you won't be forced to seek distractions just to keep your eyes open.