There always seems to be so much to do, and I am constantly looking at ways of being more productive. Many of the clients I have worked with have wanted help with doing more in less time. That is essentially what increased productivity is. Instead of busyness with much to show at the end of the day, somehow we have to find ways of getting things done in the same time that everyone else has been given. And all this without the ‘overwhelm’ that often accompanies a to-do list as long as one’s arm.

I am all for time management but I think if you stopped there you will still find yourself chasing your tail most of the time. So instead I am going for time mastery. One could argue that this is just a play on words – time management or time mastery. Perhaps, but I beg to differ. Sometimes all it takes is a change in vocabulary and a paradigm shift occurs in one’s mind that completely changes your approach to a concept and ultimately the way you handle that concept.

One dictionary defines management as ‘the control or organization of something’, where as mastery is ‘complete control of something, extremely skilled at it’ (Cambridge dictionaries online). Slight difference, would you agree? But is time mastery possible or is it just a myth? In this day of information overload, fast paced living and evolving technology, can you really get to the place where you feel like you are in control of all the things you need to achieve. A place where you have mastered the art of being productive yet not pressured at the same time? I believe you I can.

It starts with a change in mind-set. Mastery over time is not about getting through a to-do list that keeps getting longer the more things you tick off it. You’ll never master your time that way.   Instead Time Mastery means you recognise that making conscious and informed decisions about what you do with the 24 hours you have in every day is the first step to gaining mastery over your time. Instead of constantly feeling like you are being stretched to maximum capacity and beyond you aim to get the end of your day knowing that you have been intentional about what you have spent your time on and that you have been productive where it mattered most. It is about having a measure of control over your day that leaves you feeling fulfilled and accomplished at the same time.

Successful people have discovered how to win at this game of increased productivity without increased stress. It doesn’t happen overnight, you have to constantly work at it. Old habits die hard, and it will take some time for you to get rid of ineffective ways of working in order to embrace more helpful practices. You’ve heard the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’. Smart work does not replace hard work, but it certainly replaces hard work that is ineffective and unproductive. Over the years with my own work and through working with other business owners and managers, I have learned a few things and I ‘d like to share them with you.

Here are some of the things I have learned about mastering your time:

  1. Take some time at the start of your day or week to plan what you will spend your time on. After some experimenting you will find out which one works better for you – daily or weekly planning. It may seem like you are wasting the time you are taking to do the planning but you’ll find out that in the end you actually save time. There are smart phone apps out there that make this planning easier and you can carry it around with you.
  2. Learn how to prioritise. Some things can wait while others can’t. Some things are more important than others. Learn to make the distinction. Steven Covey’s time management matrix is a helpful tool to use for this exercise until you can easily make the distinction yourself.
  3. Be realistic about your expectation of what you can accomplish. Nothing overwhelms you as quickly as having a million things to do in one hour and suddenly realising half way through that there is no way you can do all that in the time you have allowed.
  4. Be flexible. Unexpected challenges will come your way and will necessitate a change of plans. Have the attitude, ‘its not the end of the world’ and get back on track as soon as you can.
  5. Recognise time stealers and be ruthless about getting them off your schedule or at the very least reducing the time you spend on them. These include social media, mindless TV watching, time spent with friends or family who drain your energy and enthusiasm.
  6. Schedule in downtime regularly. This not only refreshes and re-energises you, but also takes away that feeling of not being in control of your life.
  7. Make time at the end of the day or at least week to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t. Don’t spend too much time beating yourself down if you have made mistakes. Learn from them and do things differently next time.
  8. And finally, reward yourself! When you have had an extremely busy period, once you become less busy, pat yourself on the back and say, ‘well done for getting through in one piece’. Then reward yourself with something. It could be anything from an item you’ve always wanted, to a trip to the movies to even a holiday. The thought of the reward will keep you going on particularly challenging days.

These are some actions that you can take right away. Let me know how you get on, I would love to hear from you.