Zen and the Art of Time Management

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Does the day have too few hours for you to do all your work and keep up with social media posts, phone calls, meetings and water cooler gossip? If you feel like you’re always scrambling to catch up, what you really need to do is just relax. Mindful time management will see you reducing your stress levels like the Zen master you are, little cricket.

You don’t have to kill yourself

Zen guru says: If a task isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s not worth your time and energy.

We have a socially constructed illusion that real success means working long hours and weekends. If you’re not killing yourself at work, you must be unambitious or lazy. False! Working smarter, not harder, is the real key to success. Practice focused minimalism when you take on new tasks. Analyze each task you do in a day and ask yourself: Is it really necessary? What does it add to my career, business and service? If a task isn’t absolutely necessary and wildly beneficial, ditch it.

Just say NO!

Zen guru says: The sound of one hand clapping is: “slap!”

When it comes to guzzling valuable time, nothing beats a chatty colleague or client. While meaningful relationships, friendships and partnerships are essential to happiness, people who can’t add to your day should not be taking up your time. When it comes to managing your colleagues and clients, don’t let them take up tons of your time just to be polite. Set a time limit for each meeting and phone call which you must stipulate at the start. A simple; “Mildred, your issues with the IT department are important to me. I have a meeting in 10 minutes, so fire away!” will save you hours of blow-by-blow accounts and mindless nattering. Your time is precious, so treat it that way.

Each employee must follow their own path

Zen guru says: Just let it go.

Don’t micromanage. Each of your employees must learn their responsibilities and tasks so that they don’t have to ask for your permission. This also requires some super Zen ‘letting it go’ on your part. Set clearly defined goals and tasks for each employee at the start, and then (yup, you guessed it)… let it go! Understand that creativity doesn’t always happen between 9 and 5, so switch to an outcomes-based evaluation of tasks. Employees are evaluated on the final product rather than the way they do it, when they do it and how they go about doing it. Remember; as long as they reach the right summit, it doesn’t really matter which path they took up the mountain. Imagine how much time and energy you will save if you don’t have to police, fret, explain and ‘oh hell, I’ll just do it myself!’

You are far more capable than you think

Zen guru says: You control time, time doesn’t control you.

Start your day by meditating on all the tasks you have to do. Outlining your goals for the day will help you to fulfill them. Think about potential time wasters and set strict time limits for these tasks.

  • Only spend 30 minutes on social media platforms at the start of the day. Close them and don’t open them again until your work day is done.
  • You don’t need to check your mail every five minutes.
  • Set time limits for meetings and phone calls so that verbose colleagues don’t take up more time than is absolutely necessary.
  • Reduce social texting during work hours.
  • Boring, repetitive tasks are inevitable. Don’t interrupt important tasks to do them; set aside 30-minute increments throughout the day where you work intensely on clearing emails, doing paperwork or writing documentation. This will make the task less mundane and it will increase your productivity.

If you build it, they will come

Zen guru says: If you don’t have a destination in mind, you’ll never get anywhere.

  • Set wildly unrealistic and ambitious goals for yourself and watch in amazement as they all come true.
  • Don’t let fear of the unknown make you settle for the security of a known that isn’t making you happy.
  • Don’t put off the hard choices.

Set goals, dream big and value your time above all else. Remember that while you may think its rude to cut people off, they are actually being rude by taking up too much of your time. Effective time management means you reduce your stress levels and leave yourself with time enough to do the things you really enjoy.

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