Being realistic about time and the time you have

A couple of months ago I was working with a client to get a grip on their workload.

We were going over their calendar and tasks to ensure that the next couple of weeks were prioritised effectively. It quickly became clear to me that they were overloading their week. The maths just didn’t add up.

Practical

So I asked some gentle questions about the deadlines my client had given themself and if they seemed practical. We also pulled up some data from previous weeks and we were able to estimate just how long my client needed to allocate for one of the bigger tasks. I also asked my client about their need for reactive time. If something came up, where was that going to fit?

Reality

The aim wasn’t to overwhelm my client by making it seem impossible to get everything on their list done but to change their perspective. I wanted my client to be realistic about what they could do with the time that they had available.

There’s this tendency among us humans (and I’m totally guilty of this too) to believe that eight hours of work time equals eight hours of time to get things done. However, studies show that at best, people have around three hours of truly productive time a day. Think about your own week, there are meetings, email processing, calls, breaks, and interruptions. Doesn’t take long to see that there isn’t much time left over for knocking things off our list.

This goes for outside of work hours too. Most people have roughly five hours between putting their tools down and going to sleep. Sounds like a good chunk of time until you take out commutes, workouts, socialising, cooking, dishes, shopping, cleaning up, laundry, brushing teeth, washing faces…

Tools

So what to do? Work with reality. There’s no point overloading yourself daily. Instead, implement the 4 Ds – delete, diminish, delay or delegate – and focus on your Top Three for the day. Feel good about having got those things done. Rather than lamenting over what’s left over.

In a more recent session with the client I mentioned earlier, they demonstrated just how much of a perspective shift they had had. They shared with me the following: 

“I think I’ll move this task to another week because I’ve got this big stressful presentation coming up. It’s so good to say ‘okay, presentation preparation takes 20 hours. That’s going to take me 20 hours’. Allocating that time in the calendar means that I don’t feel that constant stress that I SHOULD be working on it. Because I know I have dedicated time for it. And when it’s not time to be doing work on it, I don’t even think about it because I’ve got 20 hours in the calendar for it which I know it needs. It’s fantastic!”

So be kind to yourself. Be realistic with yourself. Plan your weeks from a realistic lens. Not from a place of wishful thinking. That will only triple overwhelm you and prevent you from getting what you can done, done.

If this resonates, book a quick call with moi!

Talk soon,

Christie

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