Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gain Free Time

Everyone wishes they had more free time. While no one can add hours to the day, you can use the time you have more effectively. The underlying factor is reducing stress. Doing so, will provide fringe benefits to your reputation and free time.

Stress increases as you sense a loss of control. This can be emails accumulating at work, a  loose door lock, or dishes piling in the sink. The typical reaction is to wait. Wait until you finish the task you're on, wait until the task is large, or wait until it becomes an issue. While these are valid reasons to set a new task aside, these new tasks add up. You develop the reputation that you're slow to action, never have time to help, or always let the situation reach a tipping point.

The converse, if you tackle the simple task, is that you are quick to respond, effectively manage time, and head off problems before they start. You will still have larger tasks, and they can't be put off either, but interrupting a big task to complete a small task is effective.

These are fringe benefits, where the main benefit is stress reduction by controlling aspects of your life. You have solved a problem and can point to what you've accomplished, not to what you've put off. Big problems take time, but a list of one big problem is less stressful than a list of ten small problems.

Employers favor employees who get the job done. If two employees are working on similar tasks, where one finishes the big project first and then completes the small tasks, and the other does the reverse, despite finishing overall at the same time, employers favor the employee who effectively managed his/her time.

The effective time manager responded to numerous issues quickly and is responsive throughout while still progressing on the large project. While in essence it's self marketing, it's effective. Colleagues trust you for a quick solution or help.

I had a loose lock cylinder on a door at my home. I would have to jiggle it for every use. Instead of fixing it, I reasoned it wasn't a big deal. It magnified other problems, and mentally I began to think of all the problems with my home, when the catalyst was this one lock. When I finally fixed it in a matter of minutes, I was proud of the accomplishment and was no longer reminded of everything wrong. Fixing a small problem early ensures it won't get worse, and thus won't cost more.

What if you don't know how to fix a door lock? With Google, we don't live in a society of 'I can't.', but in one of 'I will figure it out.' Between Google and Youtube, few problems are too big to handle.

Dishes pile up. It's easy to put them off for when you'll have more time. Don't save it for the weekend. The weekend comes and you don't want to wash dishes on the weekend. You put it off on Monday because you don't want to start the week by washing dishes. It's mid-week and you reason you might as well wait until the weekend. The cycle repeats until every dish you own is dirty. Washing any dishes every night or every morning before heading into work ensures that it won't become a monster time sink when you decide to tackle the job. You keep the weekend free of chores.

"My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can
do today. Procrastination is the thief of time."

-Charles Dickens

How do I know this works? Because I implement it. I've gotten praise at work for being quick and responsive. I have friends ask me how I have time to do so much. I don't save chores for the weekend. When something breaks, I fix it. When I create dirty dishes, I wash them.

By addressing small issues immediately, you reduce stress by controlling life's variables, you market yourself positively to friends and colleagues, you are not immobilized by a sprawling to-do list, and most importantly you regain the weekend as time to have fun, not a time to catch up.
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