Five Simple Tips to Add Hours to Your Day

by Vicki Voisin, ACP

The concept of time is both interesting and frustrating. There are 24 hours in every day, no more, no less. There is no way to beg, steal or borrow time. It cannot be saved or stretched or squeezed. Time is the same, day in and day out: it doesn’t get any shorter, it doesn’t get any longer.

Many people foolishly believe they can manage their time. This is impossible because time cannot be managed. All you can manage is the way you spend your time.

If you begin every day with a ‘to do’ list so long that you always run out of day before you run out of list, you need to take a step back and give some thought to how you can better manage the way you spend your time. Here are five simple tips that will help you add more time to your day:

Determine what is important and what is not. Is your first inclination to take on additional responsibilities and then just scramble to get more done in the time you have? How can that possibly work? A day is still twenty-four hours long, no matter how much you have to do. Time organization is not about getting more done in less time. It is about doing fewer things of greater importance in the time you have. You have to decide which things are important and which are not. Then eliminate the less important. Yes, this meansdeleting one obligation before you take on another.

Eliminate the ‘leaks’ in your day. Leaks are the distractions that sneak in and gobble up time that needs to be spent on those things you’ve decided are important. E-mail is one of the biggest distractions. Other examples are unnecessary meetings, telephone calls, cruising the Internet, and that co-worker who stops by your office with a question that will take “just a minute.” Quick…stop the leaks! The ‘Do Not Disturb’ button and ‘Caller ID’ program are there for a reason. Be sure to use them. Instead of checking e-mail as it comes in all day long, schedule a certain time for reading and responding to e-mail. When someone wants ‘just a minute’ of your time, tell them that you have something important you are working on but you will get back with them later in the day. Every time you are interrupted or distracted, you are taken off task and it takes precious minutes to get back on course.

Have a home for everything. You waste precious time when you have to search for something that is lost. The items that travel with you wherever you go (your keys, cell phone, BlackBerry, purse, brief case, etc.) must be put in the same place every time, both at home and at work. If you do this, you will always know where they are when it’s time to go. It is also a good idea to staple papers together, rather than use paper clips. This avoids losing documents when the paper clips become tangled. Never place large things on top of small things. I can almost guarantee that if you place a file on top of your daily planner, you will waste valuable time searching for that planner. The key is to eliminate the need to be looking for anything.

Learn to say no. It’s not always easy to say ‘No.’ Often a request catches you off guard or you just hate to turn down someone you like and respect. Other times you may be confronted by people you just can’t refuse, such as a boss or co-worker. Remember, though, that saying ‘No’ to one thing allows you to say ‘Yes’ to something else. You do not need to offer excuses. Your time is yours and yours alone to spend how you want to spend it.

Take advantage of small bits of time. It is amazing what you can accomplish in five, ten or even fifteen minutes. Instead of wasting those small pockets of time, use them to make a phone call, write a memo, straighten your desk, etc. You can also approach this from a different angle. If you have a large project you need to work on but don’t feel you have the time to tackle the whole thing, start working on it for just a few minutes at a time. My personal favorite is a fifteen minute chunk of time. If you do this again and again, your project will be done before you know it.

Your challenge: Never forget that time is life! Time cannot be reversed or replaced. If you waste your time, you waste your life. If you master your time, you will make the most of every minute, every hour and every day. The minutes you save will add up to more hours in your day. Grab a legal pad and write down all the things that take up your time every day. Include absolutely every activity. Once this is done, check off the things that you can eliminate. Make a commitment to get rid of the things that eat up major amounts of your day but are not important to you. Remember, instead of doing more things, choose to do more important things. How can you save minutes that will add up to more hours in yourday?

©2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at www.paralegalmentor.com .