Time management and finding the balance with productivity and health

Q: I’m having a tough time finding the right balance in my days during Covid-19, when I’m working from home. I seem to be constantly worried that I am not getting enough done, not to mention not getting enough of the right stuff done. I thought my time management skills were good, but I’ve lost faith in them. I’m all over the shop. I can’t ever switch off and I feel less productive than I ever did. Any suggestions? (DC, email).

A: Time management has been a buzz phrase in every job and industry for decades, but we have never really considered the whole question of time quite so deeply as we have been forced to in our new reality, writes Ines Gonzales, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Over the last few months the available time has changed. Some people appear to have more hours for work. They are no longer commuting or wasting time on lengthy business trips for just a few hours of actual business.

For others, the available time has shrunk – a fulltime job plus home schooling has a very powerful impact on available time.

And many are struggling. The fact that we feel we are lacking productivity or efficiency can have a detrimental impact on our overall health.

How might you find some more balance, DC? How can you manage your time to meet your need for productivity and your equally important requirement for health, fulfilment and a sense of achievement?

Here are a few strategies that may help – they are simple, a kind of ‘back to basics’ manifesto, but sometimes we need to simplify things:

1. Mentally scan your day. What are you doing and when? When are you wasting time (e.g. social media or checking your emails 50 times a day)? Can you take steps to reduce the wastage by limiting social media usage, taking some apps off your phone and declaring hours or – perish the thought – entire days when you don’t look at social media at all. Apart from consuming an inordinate amount of our time, the content on social media can have a negative impact on our mood as we go off down all sorts of rabbit holes.

2. Do you know when you are more efficient? Is it early morning? Or late afternoon? Try to assign different tasks based on your levels of energy, tackling the bigger or more complex blocks of work when you are at your best, and doing the easier, more routine stuff when you are not as perky.

3. Divide your day in time blocks (e.g. family time, replying to mails or Zoom calls) and stick to them. Try to build a daily habit around this – you will find it takes a lot of the uncertainty out of your day. Build habits that work for you. This can time and tweaking, but it’s worth it.

4. Prioritise yourself to be able to deal with it all. Schedule time to do nothing at all or an activity you enjoy. Do not feel guilty by doing this. Find small rewards and celebrate this additional time you may have with friends and family. You need this time to be able to do all the rest – you are not a machine. You have to regenerate and renew yourself. You have to ‘sharpen the saw’ as the saying goes.

Great advice in our Just the Job column every week in the paper!

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