How To Finally Get Control Of Your Time

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“I don’t have time”, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”, “I’m busy”. Do you use these phrases regularly? If so, then this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast is for you.

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Script

Episode 98

Hello and welcome to episode 98 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week we are returning to the question of time, and how to manage your time on a daily basis. I know so many people really struggle with this, yet there are a few things you can do to reduce your feelings of stress, overwhelm and that feeling of busyness. 

But before we get to this week’s question, for those of you in the UK—or anywhere really—the Life and Time Mastery workshop is returning to Scunthorpe on the 28th December. 

This workshop is going to be very special. We are calling it “Life and Time Mastery - the 2020 Edition - Start Fast. Start Strong” and its single purpose is to help you to set yourself up for the best decade you have ever had. 

So if you are in the UK and want the opportunity to visit the wonderful Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe, spend a day with some incredibly energised, positive and amazing people plus Kevin Blackburn—a regular guest on this podcast—and myself, get yourself registered soon. Places are limited and they are selling out very fast. 

It would be fantastic to meet you in Scunthorpe in December. AND… There might even be a possibility to meet this show’s mystery podcast voice. Now there’s a fantastic reason to join us. 

Okay, onto this week’s question and that means it’s now time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Jake. Jake asks: Carl, I know you talk a lot about the 2+8 Prioritisation system and I do understand it, but I have so much to do each day, I really can’t cope. There’s no time for me to block time off for focused work and even thinking about working on my goals is a joke. Is here anything you can suggest that will help? 

Thank you for your question, Jake. 

Okay, let’s start with time. Everybody gets the same amount of time each day. Twenty-four hours. Some people can get an amazing amount done in that time, while others struggle and seem to be always telling everyone who will listen how busy they are. 

So if we start with the premise that we all have the same amount of time, the only variable is what we are doing in those twenty-four hours. 

Let me tell you a little secret. The way to get the most out of the time you have available is to get realistic about what you can achieve. 

If you have a complex 100 plus slide presentation to create, you are never going to do that in one day. Not if you accept that throughout the day you will get interrupted and distracted. It just isn't going to happen. Take a typical Apple keynote presentation, for example, we know, from the books that came out following the death of Steve Jobs, that one of those presentations took around six months to prepare. And in the two weeks leading up to the keynote, a team of people were spending all the time they had available putting the finishing touches to it. 

So, if you have a project as big as an important two-hour presentation, you are going to need more than a week to prepare it. If you are the kind of person who leaves those kinds of tasks until the last minute then sure you are going to feel busy and overwhelmed, yet those feelings are entirely of your own making. 

What you have to understand is that a lot of the work you have to do, if you want to do the work properly, will need more than a day to do so you need to spread out your work. Short sprints over a longer period of time will result in better performance and a lot less stress.

Here’s a trick I do. At the end of every day, I look at my calendar not just at tomorrow but for the rest of the week. I am looking for days that have filled up with appointments and comparing that with my task list for the rest of the week. I spend around ten minutes each day, just getting a big picture view of my week and making sure no day is overloaded with too many appointments and tasks. 

If I do find I have a day with too many appointments and tasks, I will re-schedule some of those tasks to quieter days. Or remove the non-urgent tasks altogether from that week. I’ve even been known to re-schedule less important appointments. If I have a couple of quiet days and three busy days, I will do as much as I can of my bigger project work on those quieter days. Just getting those big tasks started is often all that is needed to keep the overwhelm and stress at bay.

In a way, you need to develop the mindset of protecting your time. 

Let me ask you a question... do you have the courage to schedule rest time? I ask that because I’ve seen people try and work through an enormous amount of work and meetings only to find their effectiveness becomes so bad they end up having to redo a lot of the work they did when they were exhausted because of all the mistakes in there. 

When I ask them about rest periods, they tell me their client, customer or boss “needs” it tomorrow morning. When pushed, they usually confess that they could ask their client, boss or whoever if they could send it later that day and almost always they would be allowed to. The reason they don’t is that they are afraid that they may be told no. Part of getting in control of your available time is asking for and setting realistic deadlines. If you don’t have the courage to ask, then you only have yourself to blame.

If you think you can do a week’s worth of twenty-hours a day and get yourself on top of your work you are deluding yourself. You won't. You would get far more work done if you just did five or six hours of concentrated focused work each day. 

Never be afraid to schedule some rest time. An extra hour of sleep will do far more for your effectiveness than trying to work an eighteen hour day. 

So, what else can you do? 

One of the most powerful ways of getting in control of your time is to begin the day knowing what it is you want to get accomplished. And when I say knowing what you want to get accomplished I mean in a realistic sense. 

One of the most common reasons for feeling overwhelmed and stressed is setting unrealistic expectations. When you fill your day with appointments and tasks something will break, usually, that will be you. Your discipline will fail, you’ll look at your list of things to do and no matter how determined you are to get everything done, either you will run out of time or your resolve will break at some point in the day. 

The truth is there is a limited amount you can effectively do each day. We are living human beings. We are not machines. You will get tired as the day goes by and your ability to focus will reduce. This is something you really need to understand if you want to become more effective and productive. And no matter how super-human you think you are, you are still a human being and you are not as super-human as you think you are.

One thing we can all do is to find where our optimum is. What I mean by this is where the point at which our effectiveness begins to reduce. 

In my case, I know I am good for around 2,000 written words each day or roughly four hours of concentrated work. If I try and do more than that, while I can do it, my effectiveness diminishes and I end up having to rewrite those extra words the next day or redo a lot of the work I did. Not very efficient. 

A recent similar example of this occurred with my exercise schedule. Over the last six months, I have been exercising very intensely. Each week I have pushed myself harder. Last weekend I ran 5 miles - no big deal, except I haven't done much running over the last few months. Instead, I have focused more on circuit training—that’s the old fashioned name for CrossFit—so naturally, as I was unwisely pushing myself through the last mile, I felt a pain in my Achilles' tendon. Then the following day as I was pushing myself towards the end of a bench press session, I felt a sharp pain in my neck. The following two or three days I was walking around with a limp and a stiff neck. Why? I pushed myself too hard and did not take enough rest. I was not able to exercise at all for three days. How effective was my exercise? Had I reduced the intensity a little, got enough rest, I would have been able to exercise those three days instead of feeling frustrated.

Remember you are human. There’s a limit you can do each day and when you go beyond that limit something will break and that is more likely to be you. You are not indestructible. 

Your most effective tool at managing your workload is your calendar. Your calendar does not lie. It has those twenty-four hours on it each day. You can add your meetings and appointments and you can schedule blocks of time to get your work done. If you adopt a policy of ‘what goes on my calendar, gets done’ then this will work incredibly effectively. If you start to ignore what's on your calendar then you will soon find yourself stressed, over-worked and overwhelmed. 

Here’s a trick I use with my calendar. If someone asks for a meeting I always reply “I’ll check my calendar and let you know later.” I could very easily look at my calendar on my phone right there and then and give an answer, but I want to see the big picture of my work before I commit to a meeting. I want to see where I am before and after the suggested meeting time and I want to know how much work I have on at that time. I cannot do that if I am forced to make a decision there and then. 

Don’t be so quick to confirm an appointment. Be more deliberate with your scheduling and you’ll find you will soon become much less stressed and overwhelmed. 

SO there you go, Jake, I hope some of these tips have helped you. Remember, you are a human being and there is a limit on what you can do each day. Be deliberate with the work you choose to do, make sure it has the biggest impact on your projects and try to schedule enough time each day for rest. You will get far more done if you are rested and not fatigued. 

Thank you for your question and again, I thank you all for listening. If you have a burning question you would like answering on this show, then please email it to me at carl@carlpullein.com and I will be happy to answer it for you.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

Ep 69 | How To Find Time For Yourself.

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about finding time for yourself.



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 69 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about finding some time for yourself when your work (and life) seem to fill up all your waking hours. 

But before we get into this week’s question and answer, I’s just like to let you know that if you are enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I have updated it for 2019 and it now includes a downloadable workbook which gives you a file you can save to any of your devices so you always have a guide with you to help you keep on track on stay organised. All you need to do is go to your student dashboard and you will find all the new stuff, as well as your new free courses, right there. 

If you haven’t enrolled in this course yet, then take a look at the course. I believe this course is the best time management and productivity course there is and once you have completed the course, you will have everything you need to get yourself better organised and more productive.

Also this week, I updated my coaching programmes. My coaching programmes now start at $99 for a single session plus a follow-up call. I want to be able to help more people and I know coaching can be very expensive. But I realise if you complete the questionnaire you give me enough information before the call for me to help you turn where ever you are today into building a system that works for you using the tools you want to work with. So take look at how I can personally help you by visiting my coaching programme’s page. 

Okay, it’s time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Alex. Alex asks, I work in a very busy real estate office where my bosses and clients are always asking me to do work. It’s never-ending and when I finish at the end of the day, I have to spend all my free time replying to emails and catching up with the work I did not have time to do during the day. Do you have any tips on finding time to relax?

Thank you, Alex, for your question. 

Okay, this kind of problem happens to a lot of people. It usually comes about because of working in a traditionally reactive industry such as real estate where everyone expects you to deal with their issue now and are not prepared to wait an hour or so or even a day or two to get the answer they want. 

The problem here is when you are constantly working in a reactive state, mistakes are going to happen. When mistakes happen you have to allow additional time to rectify those mistakes every day. Sometimes those mistakes are simple typos on a property’s prospectus, other times it could be a much bigger mistake that takes a lot longer to rectify. So slowing down will free up more time because by doing things in a more focused manner will reduce the number of mistakes. 

So how do you find time to relax when your work never lets up and it’s a constant stream of requests and urgencies all day?

Well, the first thing to understand is by blocking some time off every day to focus on your work you are going to be in a much better place to deal with customer and colleagues requests. To do that you need to manage expectations. 

The number one reason why we end up in a situation where we are having to drop everything to deal with our customers and colleagues issues is that we trained them to expect immediate attention. I see this all the time. When we are trying to win the business or get the sale we will do almost anything for the potential client (or impress our boss) and that sets a precedent. Once the precedent is set, your client and boss will always expect you to drop everything for them. When you try to slow things down after you have won the business, the client complains or if you don’t reply to their email immediately, pick up the phone and asks you to deal with their “urgent” problem. 

The trick is to retrain your colleagues, bosses and clients. And this is much easier than you think. With your clients, all you need to do is to tell them that you are not usually available at certain times of the day. For example, if you block 10 am to 11 am every day for doing quiet work, then tell your client that you are not available between those times to answer calls or emails. In my experience, when you tell clients, colleagues and customers that you are unavailable during certain periods of time during the day they will understand. I have never had a student, client or colleague who has ever got upset because I have taken an hour or two of my day to get on and do some focused work. 

Now, according to many studies, include one done by Harvard University, people are only actually doing work for four hours a day. The rest of the time they are refilling their water bottles, chatting with colleagues, getting coffee or having their lunch or afternoon break. So, if you block 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon for quiet, undisturbed work, you are actually doing about the same amount of work a typical worker does each day. 

Another reason for not being available 24/7 for your colleagues and customers is by making is a little more difficult to get in touch with you, you train them to find their own solutions. When you are always there for people, they begin to rely on you to solve all their problems. You make it far too easy for them to just ask you to do the work instead of doing the work for themselves. In the past, I’ve had students ask me to write their emails for them because I made if far too easy and was far too quick to reply. 

When I started intentionally delaying my response times by two hours, the number of requests reduced. I never lost a student or customer. If I am being honest, I still did the work almost immediately, I just did not send it immediately. I delayed sending it. This actually gave me peace of mind knowing if my student called or messaged me asking me where the work was, I knew I was ready to send it immediately. The thing is, I never did get a call or message asking me where the work was. Because I was sending it within two hours. 

Over time I extended my response times. Now I usually tell people I will get it to them within 24 hours. This means I rarely have anything that can disrupt my daily plan and I can add in any additional work at the end of the day after I have finished my planned work. 

A good way to manage your time for this is to dedicate an hour at the end of your day for dealing with customer and colleague requests. When you send your replies later in the day, it is unlikely you will be asked for changes the same day. Remember, you are not the only busy person. Everyone thinks they are busy. 

Another way to manage your client’s expectations is to tell people right from the beginning when you stop work for the day. Now I love doing the work I do so my cut off time is 10 pm. After that time I do not respond to new emails, messages or calls. My phone automatically goes on do not disturb at 10 pm and does not come out of do not disturb until 7 am. I have told all my students and clients if they want me to do anything for them they need to get it to me by 10pm if they want a response the same day. Again, when you put some restrictions on your available time, the people you work with respect that time. 

I know it is hard to set restrictions on your time, Alex. It was very hard for me to do it when I began doing it. But in the ten years or so I have been much more restrictive about my available time, I have never had a boss, client or student complain and I have always kept my promise about when I will deliver the work they want me to do. 

People do not get angry because you protect your time and give yourself set periods of focused time each day. People get angry when you do not deliver on your promises. If you keep telling your clients “I’ll do it right away” and you then get side-tracked by another request, you are not keeping your promises to your clients. It is that that will damage your relationships with your customers. It is far better to manage expectations by telling your customers, clients and colleagues you will get it done by tomorrow or the end of the day. You can then see where you have your next period of focused work and add that task to that period. 

The final part of this answer, Alex is again to take your calendar and find at least one hour each day you can dedicate for yourself. That can either be the morning or the evening—it depends on whether you prefer mornings or evenings. That hour is for you. It is not for catching up or finishing off client work. It is an hour dedicated to you for doing the things you want to do. That could be exercise, quiet meditation or just taking a walk. We all need that alone time each day to reflect on where our life is, where we want it to go and how to get there. Without that quiet reflection time, we end up drifting and before long we have no idea where we are or even where we want to go. Our lives become a daily cycle of customer and boss requests and we end up living our life on someone else’s agenda. That is never going to lead to a fulfilled, happy life. 

So, Alex, from today, begin dedicating an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon for focused work. Tell your clients and colleagues that you are not available at that time and instead focus on doing work that is important to you. I would also suggest you pick a time each day for yourself to do with whatever you want to do. That’s just 3 hours out of 24. It is not much, it’s just 12% of your day. 

Begin telling clients when you will deliver the work. Be less specific about how much time it will take you to do the work. So for example, if you have always told clients you will get whatever it is they want you to do back to them within the hour, tell then you will get it back to them later that day. If they complain, then say”okay, I think I can get it done by the early afternoon” - you will be very surprised by how accepting your clients will be.

The thing we all have to remember is we only have a limited time on this earth and when we give up time for other people at the expense of time for ourselves we are wasting a very scarce and valuable resource… Our time. It is far better to put restrictions on our time available for clients and customers so we can spend more time with the people we love and care about. 

Good luck, Alex and I hope this answer has helped.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.