Over the past 18 months I have been challenged with the question from clients about time management. This discipline seems far more difficult than when we were all working from the office. Our ability to manage time has been significantly thwarted since the start of the pandemic and associated lockdowns. With zooms from home, kids doing home schooling, a loss of personal flexibility, diminished travel and so on, the feedback I have is that people are fatigued, have lowered frustration tolerance and feeling unproductive. Significantly, their ability to manage time in the traditional way (ie when in the office/not in the office) has not existed for some time.
What has happening is that our time is not really our own. It is confused with what is work, what is home, environmental settings (who works from their dining table or bedroom?). Often people are working late at night or early morning. Zoom or MS Teams requires an exertion of concentration that is difficult to sustain. When we do want downtime, we realise there are too many factors which intervene, such as cleaning, shopping, keeping the kids focussed on school and so on.
Even with lockdown ending here in Victoria, it seems what was once our time is not our own anymore. It is like someone or something has stolen it. So how do we get it back? Here are a few tips I think may help.
- Accept that your working day will be different from what it was – and might continue to change.
- Determine the times you feel you have more energy/less energy. Morning, afternoon, evening?
- If you believe you are more energetic in the morning plan to do more
- Look for best times to relax when you have less energy. By relaxing I don’t necessarily mean doing no work at all – but it may mean doing less demanding work.
- Find time to ‘do nothing’ or to take charge of time and do what you want to do. These moments may only take 3 minutes. These short breaks I call ‘micro-moments’. A micro-moment is when you can take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and lean back in your chair, go for a quick 100m walk. It does not need to be much.
The critical thing as we emerge from lockdown is to slowly adjust. It is like being slowly exposed to light after being in the dark for a long time. Our eyes don’t work properly straight away. Do not rush, do not take anything for granted. Things will not return to how they were pre pandemic, but you can be a far better time manager than ever before.