15 April 2008
How to Steal Back Your Free Time
Do you ever think you have so much to do that you need more hours in the day? You're not alone. According to a recent study, a vast number of people are using modern technology and multi-tasking to cram 31 hours of activity into 24 hours.
Doesn't sound wise does it? All these gadgets and labour saving devices that were designed to save us time and enrich our lives have actually created a personal disaster area for many people as they've become so wrapped up in checking emails, calling friends and family, updating social networking sites and checking in with work on their 'Crackberry' at the weekends. Is this you?
I'm all for progress but not when it's not managed properly and ultimately it's our responsibility to be vigilant with how we let technology rule our lives. Especially when the biggest excuse for not staying fit, eating well and taking good care of ourselves is lack of time. Do we really not have time or are we allowing all these other distractions to hijack the valuable time we do have?
A few months ago I read The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris which is a pretty compelling book (although unethhical in parts) that advises taking a different approach. Rather than seeing how much you can pack into each 24-hour period, think about how efficiently you can get things done. Ask yourself, do you need your email switched on all the time, pinging away with new messages distracting you from whatever task you're trying to complete? Do you need to check your phone every 5-minutes to see if you've missed a call or SMS? Do you need to be involved in every work meeting going or social event - online or offline - that's taking place?
Technology is brilliant for managing your schedule but if we're not careful it can eat time. This is usually time that we would have spent being active or taking exercise, planning, shopping and preparing great meals, taking some time to relax and unwind or to spend quality time with the people close to us. And as the article says, multitasking and continually trying to pack more in can actually be counter productive as the quality of what we're doing suffers. Constantly multitasking can also lead to burnout either mentally or physically.
So here are some tips on how to show your technology who's boss. By following these rules, you'll be able to achieve what you need to AS WELL as have time for the richer things in life like looking after yourself.
Check your email twice each day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Set aside a chunk of time to deal with the messages and then turn it off again. I find that dealing with emails at 9.30-10.15am and 4.00-4.45pm works well.
Manage your phone time by using your voicemail. It's amazing how many people call others when they're a bit bored or have some time to kill but not much to say. If you answer all of these calls you could lose hours in a day. Let some of these calls go to voicemail and 9 times out of 10 the caller won't even leave a message but will leave you alone and call someone else to kill time instead. If something is urgent they'll leave a message and you can get back to them right away.
Decide in advance how long tasks will take and allocate them only this time. If you approach a job with the attitude that it'll take as long as it takes, you could be there for hours and you'll get easily distracted along the way. If you decide in advance how long something will take then you'll complete it quickly and efficiently, often well within the time limit and you can move on to the next thing on your list.
Try it, you might just get a bit of your life back.
Photograph by niallkennedy (Flickr)