How to Be More Protective of Your Time

How protective are you of your time? This week on the Productivity Paradox podcast in episode 059, I talked about tracking our time, our rhythms, multitasking, and more. These different components are important to take into account when we’re looking at how to be more protective of our time and carve out blocks for focused work.

Today, I’ll walk you through the top things you must know when learning how to use time much more wisely than you have in the past, and give you a FREE downloadable tool to help!

If you’ve been feeling unproductive, scattered or distracted… this post is for you!

 

Activity + Rest

To understand how we can best use our time and track it, first, I want to explain how our body ebbs and flows in cycles.

 

  • Circadian Rhythm: the 24-hour period in which we live. We’re awake for about 16 to 18 hours and using energy during that time, and we’re asleep for 7 to 9 hours when we’re renewing our energy.
  • Ultradian Rhythm: Within the circadian rhythm, the ultradian rhythm is the ebb and flow. During the first part of this cycle, our heart rate, our hormone levels, our muscle tension, alertness and brainwave activity all increase. After about 90 to a 120 minutes, the body starts to crave rest and recovery. Our ultradian rhythm repeats throughout the day with these 90 to a 120-minute periods of high energy, and then about 20 minutes of rest and renewal. This is why we cannot work solidly for longer blocks of time. Our bodies simply are not designed to work that way.

Keeping this in mind, we should note that if we’re blocking off a solid three or four-hour power session, you aren’t really doing more work, you’re just wearing your brain out. Knowing how to best use our time means know how our energy works with activity and with rest.

 

How to Increase the Quality of Your Work

When you’re invested in protecting your time and using your natural rhythms to your best abilities, you’re able to accomplish so much more.

I’ve mentioned the idea of monotasking before, but I want to reiterate its importance. Society is stuck on the concept that multitasking is a great skill to have, when in fact, it’s detrimental to working effectively.

My number one tip for you today is for you to invest your time wisely and focus on ONE task at hand, and not get distracted by other things – big or small, internal or external.

When we focus solely on one task at a time, when we are mono-tasking, we’re focusing on effectiveness, and that brings out your highest quality of work. If you’re focused solely on efficiency, you might actually end up spending more time going back and correcting.

Mono-tasking is a way of being more mindful and intentional with the blocks of time you have during your day. To do this effectively, we have to be careful that we’re not lining up our blocks of time one right after the other.

 

Get rid of ‘Attention Residue’

This is where your attention doesn’t immediately switch from one task to the next. It gets stuck still thinking about task number one while you’re working on task number two.

We don’t want to have that attention residue because it’s bleeding in to our other tasks. This is why it’s so important to give yourself some wide space between things that you’re doing. Before you switch from one thing to the next, you have to allow your attention to switch as well, so we need to protect that block of time from distraction.

Clarify What’s Important Today

Once we recognize distractions for what they are, an internal urge to get away from that task at hand, we can really begin to deal with them properly. You can set your intentions, and that is what this episode is all about. It’s one of the core values I shared with you last week, time is best spent on the things that are important to you and your goals. Harvard experts recommend that if you’re deliberate with your time and if we set a focus for our attention, we won’t get as caught up with distractions, so figure out what’s most important today for you to get done and recognize that.

Clarifying this will allow you to set a positive intention and move forward deliberately, really protecting the time so you’re focusing on what matters most.

The Problem: Planning Fallacy

A lot of us live in chaos because we don’t properly estimate the amount of time things take. It’s estimated that organizations lose or waste about 11% of their project budgets due to poor estimates and bad planning. If we apply this statistic to your productivity, that means we would find an extra 18 and a half hours in the week if we just have a better sense of how long things are going to take.

We tend to think of ourselves as far more productive than we actually are, so we grossly underestimate how long projects take us.

When we understand our rhythms, how attention residue works and that we’re overestimating our productivity levels, we can begin to effectively find blocks of time in our day for focused work.

 

Effectively Block Your Time

Back in episode 23, I had an interview with Laura Vanderkam, who has done a lot of research on time tracking through her blog and in her book. She talks a lot about why it’s so important to see what you’re doing with your time to understand how you’re spending it. As she says, how can you spend your time better if you don’t even know how you’re spending it now?

The Productivity Matrix

This is where my free tool for your comes into play – the Productivity Matrix. This exercise is designed to help you track your time through color coding your activities throughout your day for one week. This way, you’ll get a clear picture of where your time is being spent.

Basically, you assign a color to different activities. Let’s say you do blue for sleeping activities, and red is for important level work, and green is for social media, and black is for exercise, and so on. I want you to assign a different color to the different categories of tasks that you do throughout your day. What you’re going to do is you’re simply going to stop and color in the appropriate color on your time tracker. You’ll begin to see how your day is spent, and you’ll likely even begin to see that ultradian rhythm in action.

There will be peaks where there’s large amount of tasks being done, and valleys where you didn’t do much of anything at all. I don’t want you to mistake this as a tool to get rid of those valleys – that’s not possible. This is how your body naturally works. We just want to be able to recognize highs and lows in order to use them better.

I learned that my peak productivity is high at about 4:45 in the morning, and I am not a morning person. I don’t always wake up this early in the morning, but when I have a lot of things going on, I do.

I find that when I’m really deliberate and I focus my energy during this 4:45 block of time, I get almost a full day’s work done before my family’s even awake.

 

What’s Next?

You might be surprised of what you’ll see. No matter what, you’ll discover even when you’re really busy, there’s probably times that you’re devoting things that you care less about that you could get rid of so you could spend time on the important tasks.

Go ahead and CLICK HERE to download the Productivity Matrix tool to get started!

Knowing how you’re spending your time is going to be so powerful for you. Once you begin to see where your time is used best and where it’s wasted, you can begin to really invest in yourself during these pockets of focused time.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up for my weekly podcast newsletter! You won’t have to find the freebies again – I will send them right to your inbox with new episodes and actionable tips anyone can implement!

 

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton