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164: Mastering Time Management and Maximising Productivity
14th July 2023 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:19:08

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Are you constantly caught up in the busyness of work, yearning for more time and struggling to stay productive?

In this episode of the Happier at Work podcast, we dive deep into the topic of busyness, productivity, and effective time management strategies. Aoife shares her personal experiences and insights, offering practical advice to help you shift from being busy to being truly productive.

With these 20 actionable tips ranging from changing your language to setting clear expectations, prioritising tasks, and practising self-compassion, this podcast will empower you to make meaningful changes in how you approach your work and utilise your time. Whether you're battling imposter syndrome, juggling multiple responsibilities, or simply seeking ways to optimise your productivity, this episode is a valuable resource for finding balance, reducing stress, and achieving greater satisfaction in your work-life journey. Tune in, take notes, and start implementing these strategies to create a happier and more fulfilling work experience.


Further points throughout include:

- Shifting your mindset from being busy to being productive.

- Setting clear expectations for yourself and others.

- Prioritising tasks to focus on what truly matters.

- Minimising distractions and practising doing one thing at a time.

- Taking breaks, allocating time effectively, and practising self-compassion.


Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!


Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:


https://happieratwork.ie

https://www.impostersyndrome.ie/

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/aoifemobrien

Twitter - https://twitter.com/HappierAtWorkHQ

Inst - https://www.instagram.com/happieratwork.ie/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/happieratwork.ie

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm0FKS19I5qSlFFmkx1YGqA

Transcripts

Aoife O'Brien [:

You. How many times have you heard the phrase when things calm down or when I'm less busy? As if sometime, some miraculous time in the future, things are going to be less busy than they are now and we'll have much more time at our disposal. Or maybe it's some variation of that, or maybe it's you that's saying it. And we're so busy being busy that it's very hard to kind of stop ourselves and take a step back. So let this week's Happier at Work solo episode be that opportunity for you to have a think about busyness and being busy. Now, productivity is something that I've been interested in for as long as I can remember, really. And at the moment in my business, I'm going through a particularly busy time. And just as an example, yesterday I had six and a half hours of calls and it kind of gave me pause.

Aoife O'Brien [:

That's bad planning on my part, by the way. I'm not trying to place the blame anywhere except for myself, but it gave me reason to kind of rethink this idea or to revisit this idea of productivity and what that actually means. But not only is it me who's concerned about these things, but I hear it all the time from my clients, whether it's my corporate clients saying I'll have time to look at that when things come down a little bit in the future. My private clients as well, in relation to impostor syndrome in particular, they're putting it on the long finger, they're not really looking at it, or they don't have time to take yet another course. And because of that, I've added a module on time management, productivity and busyness into all of the programs that I deliver. So this podcast episode is going to serve as something very practical when it comes to thinking about busyness, thinking about productivity, and thinking about how we use our time and how we spend our time. And before I go any further, I wanted to share something that I heard a few years ago and that's about investing versus spending time. So thinking of time like money, that if you are investing your time, you're going to get a return on that investment, whereas if you're spending your time, it's not necessarily going to provide that return.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So investing time can be investing time in building relationships, in doing something that you're learning something new. So it's going to pay dividends at the end. So I really love that shift and the kind of thinking and this podcast episode will have a few of those changing your language. I am going to number them so that when it comes to the end, I can remind you of everything that I've talked about because there are so many things to cover. I'm not expecting that you're going to make all of these changes all at once if you're not doing some of the things that are on the list. But rather make one change and see how that goes. And of course, you're always welcome to listen to this podcast episode again in a few weeks or in a couple of months, whatever it might be. Maybe take on something else that is quite new for you or that is a change.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So starting with number one, a few years ago, my friends used to complain that I was always busy. That anytime we were trying to meet up, it was like, you're busy, you're always busy, you're always busy. And at that point, I decided to change my language. It wasn't about being busy, it was about being productive. And it also made me think about how, again, how am I spending my time or how am I investing my time? So changing that language from being busy to being productive and think about what that means for you, whatever it is that you're doing. Number two, then get and set clear expectations. So if you don't know what the expectation is of you in work, then you can't share that expectation with your team. So make sure that you are really clear on the expectations of you in the role that you have.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And by expectations, I kind of always consider these in two different areas. First of all, what does good enough look like? So how do you know when you're finished? How do you know when you're actually done? What does that look like and how long should it take? So if you're giving an indefinite amount of time to something, then it's going to last indefinitely. Number three, then is prioritize. So prioritize what you're working on. And if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. And if you have to reprioritize, then reprioritize. If you have to say no to things that you really want to work on, then so be it. But really focus on what are the core things that really have to get done today.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Number four, then it's another reframe. And I love this. I hear Vicky Shilling talking about this quite a lot. I don't know the origin of it, or is it Vicky's phrase herself? But rather than saying, I don't have time for that right now, shift your language to that's not a priority right now and see what happens. If you're telling yourself or if you're telling other people that that's not a priority, it helps you to articulate what your priorities are. It helps you to see what you're saying no to. And it's much harder to say no to something that is a priority if you're using the language that's not a priority right now. And an example I always think of is when it comes to movement.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And I get out of the habit on occasion and I let things slide and I don't go for a walk or I don't get outside for a couple of weeks. And if I was really honest with myself, it's because I haven't prioritized getting outside. It's because I haven't prioritized actually getting out there and moving my body. And that brings me nicely on to points five and six. So number five is to get outside, make sure you get outside, get some fresh air, get some sunshine. If you're in Ireland the week that I'm recording this, it's quite changeable weather, a little bit of rain, a little bit of sun, but do make sure that you get outside at some point in the day. Number six then move your body, whatever that means to you. So that could be going for a walk, it could be going for a run or a swim or doing some yoga.

Aoife O'Brien [:

It could be being outside or being at home, whatever that means. Number seven is do something fun or do something that makes you laugh. And for me this really came to the fore during the pandemic when I was stuck at home on my own and really wanting and needing that laugh at the end of the day. So I stuck on, I think it was Modern Family, which I'd only ever watched in bits and I watched it from start to finish. I went back to some of my old favorites like Curb Your Enthusiasm and the US office and things like that. But I think having a laugh during the day really helps you to kind of lighten things up and to reduce the amount of stress that you have and makes things easier to do and easier to tackle. Number eight then is about taking breaks or building breaks into your day. I know a lot of us these days are working in a hybrid situation or remote so we could be in meetings that are running kind of back to back.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Thankfully yesterday I had built in some breaks. There was one meeting where there was no break in between, which was quite stressful trying to gather things before going into the next meeting. But do try and build those breaks in into your day so that you actually get to take that break and the stress doesn't build up and you have some time to compose yourself a little bit as well. Number nine then is to allocate your time. So look at what you have on your to do list. Assign amount of time that it's going to take. So how long is this thing going to take? And what I do on my to do list is I have an estimated time. So I say this is how much time I think it's going to take and then I have an actual time as well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So I can look back and I can say, well I gave that 1 hour and it only took half an hour, or I gave that 1 hour and actually it ended up taking me half a day. So just becoming more aware of your ability, I suppose, to estimate the amount of time things take, but also looking at the reality and the picture of what you're actually doing. The other thing that this allows for is time blocking. So if you want to block out some time to do some project work to really get into a flow state and do that deep work, then you're able to do that. I do things on certain days. So for example, Thursdays are my podcast recording days. Tuesdays I have client calls, and then typically on Mondays and Wednesdays I try not to have any calls at all so that I'll be able to focus on project type of work on those days. Number ten then, is to do one thing at a time.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And I think a lot of this list serves as a reminder to me as well as for everyone else. But I get distracted quite often. I'll go in to check something and then I'll get distracted by something else. Or I'll have an idea what I've started doing is having a separate notebook where I can just jot down. Like, here's the idea that I had, here's something that I need to check out later. Rather than going down the rabbit hole of oh, I just need to check this thing and that inspires me to check something else. And before you know it, you're half an hour later and you haven't started the original thing that you wanted to start. Number eleven then is about minimizing distractions.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I often put my phone onto do not disturb. I don't have notifications on my emails and I don't have my emails on my phone, so I try and minimize the distractions. Now that's not to say I don't get distracted by the phone just being there itself and wanting to pick it up and just check even if I haven't had a notification, just kind of checking in and seeing what's going on. But if you are doing that type of deep work, I think it's important just to put the phone in another room. So for example, I'm doing quite a big batch of podcast recordings this afternoon and my phone is in a completely separate room and I've got my email shut down as well. Another thing that I love to talk about in relation to this is motivation. So oftentimes we're waiting to start a task till we feel really motivated. If you're anything like me, maybe you're motivated by a tight deadline, which I often am, and I leave things.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I like short, sharp deadlines. That's how I tend to work. But really, if you want to focus on a long term project, it's about thinking about commitment rather than motivation. I always find it much easier to kind of associate this with exercise and things. So if you want to get up at 06:00 A.m. And go for a run, it's not about waking up and feeling, oh, I'm so motivated to go for that run. Right now it's more about I've committed to myself that I'm going to get up at six in the morning and go for that run. So same applies to work.

Aoife O'Brien [:

It's probably the analogies are a little bit harder to understand or to specify in those scenarios, but thinking about it as a commitment rather than waiting to feel really motivated. Number 13 then is about knowing yourself. So find what works well for you. It's all very well to look at frameworks and to hear, oh, it's great to get up at 05:00 A.m. To write your pages and to do your meditations, but find something that works really well for you. And you don't have to have all the answers straight away. Try stuff and take it as a learning. If something doesn't work, take that as a learning that's information as well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

You can use that to understand yourself a little bit better. So I find a really great practice around this that I don't do as much as I would like is reflecting. So taking time at the end of the day or at the end of the week to reflect on what went well, what could have gone better, what might you do differently? Number 14 then is meetings. I think the bane of a lot of people's lives. Too many meetings, meetings with no agenda, meetings with no purpose, meetings that could have been an email, meetings where there's numerous team members, and really there only needs to be one represented there. So have a look at the meetings that you're in, maybe as a team get together and decide what meetings you need to have, who needs to be there, and how it's going to be structured and how you're going to communicate with each other going forward. Number 15 then, and I love this, I only heard of this quite recently, it's from David Allen, and it's called the Two Minute Rule, that if something can be done in two minutes, do it immediately. Number 16 then is accountability.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I'm a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin. She has these accountability archetypes, for want of a better word. So there's four different types. You can take her quiz on her website and really it's about understanding your tendency when it comes to expectations. So can you set expectations for yourself and then fulfill those expectations? Do you need someone else to hold you accountable? Do you rebel against any sort of expectations or do you need to internalize those outer expectations that are placed on you so that it makes sense to yourself? Within her framework I'm an upholder, which means I don't necessarily need that outer accountability. I can hold myself accountable to things myself. Number 17 then is focusing on outcomes. What outcomes are you trying to achieve from the work that you're doing? This will help you to really prioritize, it will help you to measure the effectiveness of what you're doing.

Aoife O'Brien [:

It will help you to see where you need to focus your efforts as well. Number 18 then is saying no. So are there certain things that you need to say no to. Are people asking you to do stuff that maybe is more part of their role? Are the requests coming in at the last minute? Are you being overloaded at work? Find some positive ways to say no. And if there's stuff that you can delegate that you don't necessarily have to keep doing and again, maybe this is a controlled thing, but there could be stuff you could say no to or that you can delegate to someone else. Number 19 then, is to show yourself some self compassion. Oftentimes I'll get to the end of the day and I won't have hit everything that I have on my to do list. And the same things carry on to the next day and the next day.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And we have this tendency, I think, to beat ourselves up because I haven't got to the end of the to do list. And if you're anything like me, it is a never ending to do list. There's more stuff keeps getting added on so you're never going to feel that sense of okay, I've finished absolutely everything, especially if you haven't given yourself enough time to do it. So if you've said that something's going to take 1 hour and it ends up taking 3 hours, which means other things get pushed off that list and into the next day, it's about showing ourselves some compassion because we prioritized or we reprioritized. And it's not about being busy all the time to get everything done, it's about getting what needs to be done, done. Number 20 then is about energy management. So again, this ties in with the idea of knowing yourself. I am an early riser.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I tend to do my best work in the mornings, so therefore I have kind of the project work and deep work in the mornings and I prefer to have calls and things then in the afternoon and then how I structure my week. Overall I tend to leave Mondays free and Fridays free. So Fridays will be reflection and tying up any loose ends that I haven't got to during the week. And then Mondays will be for planning and for project work and things like that. Wednesday is kind of a floating day if you like. I tend to keep it free and it'll either be project work or it will be meetings, but knowing when you feel most energized and the kinds of things that give you energy. And again this ties in with reflecting. So use that to really understand yourself and what works best for you.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Because at the end of the day it's not about listening to someone else, it's about understanding yourself and how you work best. Before I do a recap on all 20 of those ideas, I'd love to know if you have tried anything before, if you're trying anything different as a result of listening to today's episode, you can reach me on Happier at Work, ie. All of my social links are there. So I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what you're doing differently. So number one is changing your language from busy to productive. Number two is about setting clear expectations. Number three is about prioritization. Number four is reframing.

Aoife O'Brien [:

That's not a priority right now. Number five, get outside. Number six move your body. Number seven do something fun or that makes you laugh. Number eight is to take breaks. Number nine is to allocate your time. Number ten is to do one thing at a time. Number eleven, minimize distractions.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Number twelve commitment, not motivation. Number 13 know yourself. Number 14 cut down on the number of meetings. Number 15 the two minute rule. Number 16 accountability. Number 17 focus on outcomes. Number 18 saying no. Number 19 self compassion.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And number 20 energy management. That is it for this week's episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I'm so thrilled that you decided to tune in and well done you for making it all the way here. I really appreciate you taking the time out to listen to today's episode and do get involved in the conversation. I would absolutely love to hear from you.

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