When the clocks spring forward on Sunday, we’ll lose an hour. Just like that. In the middle of the night, time will leap from 2.00am to 3.00am without so much as a blink, and those sixty precious minutes will be lost forever.
But don’t despair. We’ve brought in Karen Perkins, productivity expert, like coach and organisor extraordinaire, to help you streamline your life with the kind of efficiency that would make the Swiss rail network blush. Read on to see how you can reclaim your lost hour and many more besides by spending less time doing boring stuff, and more time doing fun stuff.
1 Be kind to yourself
From the start of any task, be realistic about how much you can achieve, says Karen. “Setting yourself up for failure will slow you down and you’ll waste time later feeling bad about not doing what you set out to.”
2 Get ready
Spending most of tomorrow at your desk? Give it a quick tidy the night before – nothing drastic, just enough that you can get straight to work in the morning without being derailed by papers in your way. “Those little obstacles like a messy work space take precious time to fix, and it’s often a waste of our most productive hours,” says Karen.
3 Loose time
You may be short on free time but long on loose time. Picture this: it’s Friday evening and one of your jobs for Saturday is the week’s laundry. You can’t do it tonight because the machine will be banging away while you’re in bed and it’ll sit wet until the morning. But you could gather it up, stick it in the machine and set it on a timer. By the time you get up tomorrow, it will already be doing its thing, freeing you up to do yours.
4 Habit stacking
When you wake up, check your emails once. Done? Good, now put your phone on silent and start ‘habit stacking’. “This is a technique I use with lots of clients,” says Karen. “Look at your morning routine and pick one nice task that you can put at the top of your list. It could be eating breakfast or making a latte or walking the dog – the important this is you’re happy to do it and won’t dread it. Then build the rest of your morning routine to follow this one task.” It will catapult you into your day in a positive mind set.
5 Must Do list
Your ‘to do’ list could be ruining your productivity. If you start the day with an 18-item-long list, you’re doomed to disappoint yourself when you don’t finish. “Instead,” suggests Karen, “each evening, write a three-point ‘must do’ list. These are the non-negotiable tasks that you have to do tomorrow. Anything else is a bonus. This will help you focus on your priorities and make your work seem much more manageable.”
6 Micro rewards
If you’ve ever struggled to get through what should be a 30-minute task in two hours, you may need to motivate yourself better, explains Karen. Rewarding yourself with a cup of tea, a sit in the garden or even an afternoon coffee with friends when you’ve finished your next task could be the boost you need. “That little ray of sunshine on the horizon will keep you laser-focused during your work, instead of the day stretching out ahead of you without any sense of urgency.”
7 Don’t forget the odd big reward
Always have a bigger reward in the diary. “A lot of my clients find they’re more productive at work when they have a holiday or a weekend away coming up,” says Karen. Knowing you’ve planned in quality family time with a short break will lessen those nagging feelings of guilt around spending time at work.
8 Learn how to delegate authentically
Many of us have no problem delegating in the workplace but would never consider doing it at home, says Karen, where we’ll try to take on every task ourselves. But if you have children, delegating to them could save you tons of time and help build their confidence. “Entrusting chores to your children shows them you respect their abilities,” she explains. “It’s easy to think ‘they won’t do it right’ but taking ten minutes to show them how to load the dishwasher properly will take a daily job off your hands and offer them a bit of independence. It’s a very brave parent that steps back, takes a deep breath and doesn’t interfere. But once you try it, it’s very liberating.”
Try a few of these next week and you’ll have clawed back that hour in no time at all. And remember: the more you get done, the more time for fun.