There are those who recommend we set an hour a day to step back from our busy schedules.
I would really wish that could be true. We all could use an hour a day to reflect on what we’ve achieved, organise our thoughts, develop ideas, and plan.
Experience, however, shows it can’t happen for most of us. Many who commute to work already spend so much time going to and from their jobs. If so-called time management experts suggest that the time while commuting is an opportunity for reflection, it is likely they haven’t undergone the daily hustle of riding public transport or the necessity of attention while driving through traffic.
We wake to immediately get ready for our day and we sleep at the latest hour possible so we can maximise time with our families or to do that very last task we want to finish.
There is really not much we could allocate in terms of time to retreat and regroup.
If we want to get a handle on things, a daily allocation of an hour for ourselves is not the answer. It is right we should assess and plan our tasks but we need not a continuous full hour to do it. Instead, we should dynamically assess and plan in short intervals throughout our day.
We won’t need more than five (5) minutes when we wake up at the start of our day to see what we will do in the next one hour or so. One to two hours later, we would have another five to maybe at most ten (10) minutes to see what comes next for our day. We can arrive at our workplace at the start of our daily work shift and do a quick mental review of the one or two tasks we will do.
We should only look at most three (3) tasks at a time. Not more. Else we overwhelm ourselves.
We can do these 5- to-10-minute intervals of planning every two to three hours during the day.
We should be ready for interruptions and disruptions. Interruptions are those things that vie for our attention. It’s the bosses asking (which is really telling) us to do another task they deem urgent. It’s our spouses who call us and ask us to pass by the supermarket after work to buy a dozen eggs. It’s the friends who text asking us to chat with them for a few minutes online.
Interruptions may deserve an initial response: No. But it’s nice to include a reason.
No, boss, but I’m finishing the other tasks you assigned me the other day.
No, dearest spouse, but you can make a full list of grocery items so that I can schedule going to the supermarket later in the week and buy all what we need in one go.
No, friend, I’m not available for an online chat today, how about we text and meet next weekend?
Unfortunately, many who interrupt us won’t take No for an answer. When this happens, we may cede but we can still work our schedule to minimise the interruption.
Okay, boss, I’ll get on your request right away. But in reality, I’ll do it later.
Yes, dear, I’ll pass by the supermarket after work. But I’ll pass by the convenience store instead which is on the way and get in and out fast.
Okay, pal, let’s talk now online if it’s really urgent. But I’ll end the conversation after 15 minutes.
Disruptions are those things that force us to stop what we’re doing and demand our attention before we can resume what we were doing.
We either challenge the source of a disruption or sidestep it. In most cases it is wise to do the latter as disruptions can be just too difficult to overcome (e.g., natural disasters, traffic, angry boss).
We end up not doing as we planned when we encounter disruption and the best way to get back on track is to re-evaluate and re-schedule what we couldn’t finish. It would be best to take a short break to collect our thoughts and plan what we’re going to do for the rest of the day.
Disruptions are products of adversities. And because adversities are hard to anticipate, the disruptions they bring are practically unavoidable. We get hit, we roll with the punches, we pick ourselves up, and we get back on track.
We can never get the hour we want in a day because we will get our share of interruptions and disruptions. We can say No to interruptions or negotiate with the ones who are doing the interrupting. Disruptions, however, are unavoidable and they wreck our schedules. The bright side to any setback from interruptions or disruptions is we can always bounce back.
When we set our minds to what we want to do, we can get it done whatever life throws at us.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
– Vince Lombardi