Do you feel your work has taken over your life? Work can seem like a giant time sucking machine that will take as much time as you give it. There is always something to do and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done.
Learning to manage your time, set your priorities and set limits on what you take on can help you get back to a reasonable work-life balance. Working long hours and overloading yourself with tasks is a path to stress and burn out. It will derail your career and your health.
The following three steps will help you streamline your work life and give back more time for your family and yourself. You will find you can get the work that needs to be done if far less time than you are spending now.
” The strength of a person is not measured in their ability to carry the weight of the world, but their ability to wait on the strength to carry them through.” – Samantha Storsberg
Manage Your Time
The key to reclaiming your life from your work is to reclaim your time. Time is your most valuable asset and if you are overloaded at work you will have little time for anything else. Start with these three simple steps to set limits on how long you will work, look at how you spend your time and what your tasks are.
To be able to manage your time you must know what you do and how much time you spend doing it.
- Set limits on how much time you spend doing work. You time may vary, but if you allow yourself to work 70-80 hours a week you need to trim that down to 50-55 at the most.
- Keep a time log for one week. The key to managing your time is to first determine how you are using it. Write down what you do each day for a week and how much time you spend doing it. While you are doing this right away look for time wasters. Do you waste time in meetings you do not need to attend? Do you waste time doing work the can be delegated? Do you waste time doing work others have pushed on you?
- What is your job? Create a list of your tasks including how much time it takes to do them. Start with the things that must be done. These are your A-list tasks, the required functions of your job and those that are important to you. Now add the tasks that need to be done, these are your B-list tasks. Now add the tasks you want to get done, these are your C-list tasks.
Set Your Priorities
Look at your tasks list and decide which ones are the most important. These are the task you should focus most of your time and energy on. Set aside time on your calendar to take care of these tasks. Look at your A-list tasks and think again, do they really belong there?
Now that you have taken care of your A-list tasks it is time to look for tasks you can eliminate from your list or divide them up to fit into your work schedule.
- Are there any tasks that can be cut out completely without doing harm to yourself, your job or the business?
- Are there tasks you can delegate?
- Are there tasks others have pushed on you that they should be doing? If so push them back!
Slash and burn through your tasks eliminating anything that is not required. If there are items you really want to do then schedule time for them, but do not add time to your schedule to do them. Outside of your primary job your other tasks should be ones that improve yourself or others. Prioritizes these and stick to your time limits.
Push Back and Stick To Your Limits
The easiest way to reclaim your time is to push back when people try to push tasks on to you. Let’s face it, there are people who are more than happy to let you do their work for them. Don’t allow this to happen. “Sorry Joe, I just don’t have time to do that”.
I am a big advocate of one company, one team. This does not mean you should take on work from others just because they know you will do it for the overall good. Push back and reclaim that time.
The hardest part will be to stick to the limits you have set. Drive and ambition are one thing, stressed out with no time to do anything but work is another. You must set aside time for your family and for yourself. A lot of research shows that in fact you are less productive the more time you spend doing work.
Set up time rules and stick to them.
- Rule 1: I will work xx hours per week.
- Rule 2: I will set aside xx hours per week for my family and myself.
- Rule 3: I will not do work that is not part of the primary function of my job.
- Rule 4: I will not do the work others should be doing. Delegate and push back.
- Rule 5: I know my limits and will not exceed them.
Time is the most valuable asset you have and how you manage will keep your work from taking over your life. First set a limit on how many hours per week you will devote to work and stick to it. Then log what you do for a week and how much time you spend doing it. Then create a tasks list breaking them down by clear priorities.
Once you have these three elements to time management be ruthless with cutting your tasks. Your time and energy should be focused on the tasks that are part of your primary job. Delegate other tasks, cut tasks that are not going to hurt to eliminate, and push back when people try to add more tasks to you.
We all are ambitious and want to do our jobs well. However we can not let it consume most of our time, nor should it require most of our time. Odds are when you look at how you spend your time at work and cut tasks you will find more time to focus on your primary job, your family and yourself.
Want to read more on time management? Improve Your Time Management in Easy Three Steps