Over the years of observing people straddle a job and home, I observed that the ones who “perfected” work-life balance were good time managers. Hence my first focus in this series is time management.
So which bucket are you in? Do you manage time or does time manage you? Do you often feel that there are not enough hours in a day? Or are you someone who marches through the day like clock-work?
No matter where you are on the spectrum, everyone could use tips to improve time management with a view to having happy stakeholders at the end of the line.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) works with your unconscious mind – how you process life through the five senses and store these experiences. In terms of time storage and management, NLP recognises that people broadly fall into two categories - Through Time and In Time.
We use the metaphor of a timeline which is a series of memories stored in a line. For Through Time people, time is stored external to their body. They see their time line in front of them.
They love lists and schedules, are highly organised and dislike others being late. They complete tasks on time or even early and get impatient if things are delayed. All this because they are able to see the next appointment coming up.
For In Time people, time is stored internally and the time is always NOW. They live from moment to moment. They are present. They hate lists or to be controlled by schedules or routine.
Such people struggle with being on time for meetings, keeping up with deadlines or even being punctual to work every morning. They tend to start tasks in the hope that they are able to multi-task but end up not completing everything.
Tips for improving time management are only a temporary fix. They need something more, to help them manage time efficiently in the long run. What would help them more would be NLP coaching to help them adjust their timeline.
NLP coaching would help identify a preference for time sorting and then adjust it so that the person is able to do both – change depending on the context they are in. At one of my NLP practitioner courses, a participant who struggled with time management, discovered she was an In Time person.
It was a huge light bulb moment for her as it explained why she was so stressed working in the corporate setting which is a Through Time environment. Once she learned how to cross between In Time and Through time, life became so much easier.
A combination of the two would allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds: utilise time to the fullest at work and forget about time when you’re on holiday. This one adjustment also leads to behavioural flexibility and work life balance becomes far more manageable.
In any case, I invite you to practise the following six tips for improving time management and see where you stand:-
Always plan what you need to do for the day. In fact, you can make it more effective by setting 15 minutes aside every evening to plan for the following day.
Make your plan about the big picture and a list of accompanying tasks that require action. Don’t get too carried away and take hours. Remember, it’s about improving time management, not making the perfect plan.
Go through your list of tasks and rank the importance of each one in relation to your goals. This ensures that your tasks are aligned to your goals. The completion of each task should take you closer to your goals.
Assess resources - manpower, time, funds needed to complete each task and prioritise.
Knowing when to delegate shows strength and maturity. It frees up time for the tasks which need your skills and personal touch. It’s an indication of good self-management skills and has major positive impact on work-life balance. Freeing up time is a freeing experience.
4. Overcome Procrastination
Procrastination is enemy number one to improving time management. Reaching for more snacks and doing trivial things before starting a task, are unhealthy signs you may recognise.
Overcoming procrastination demonstrates strong self-management skills and these are easily picked up through an NLP for self-management course.
5. Do an Audit
Do an audit of how you spend time at the office. Is managing emails taking up most of your time? Are you attending too many unproductive meetings? Do you entertain everyone who stops by to chat?
Do you say no when there’s too much on your plate? Are you taking too many long lunches or attending to personal matters during work hours?
6. Start Early
This tip for improving time management is the best leverage to give yourself a head start. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying it can be to wake up an hour earlier on week days.
Going over your plan for the day, having a leisurely breakfast or beating the rush hour traffic to get into the office early, are some ways to give yourself a good start to the day.
If you’re working from home you’ll enjoy peace and quiet before the rest of the household wakes up. Imagine starting the day relaxed and in control instead of rushing frantic.
Of course, this means an early to bed night too. It might take some practise if you’re not an early riser but the benefits far outweigh that extra hour of snoozing.
Whatever tips for improving time management you follow, it’s best to first identify your behaviour pattern in relation to time. This way you will not be self-sabotaging despite your best efforts.
Time management is closely linked to work-life balance and productivity. It is also one of the most important self-management skills you could cultivate.
Investing in time and effort to learn NLP for self-management or NLP for improving effectiveness would go a long way towards permanently changing your patterns with time, not only at work but in your personal life.
Just imagine being in control of time and managing work-life balance comfortably. All else stems from this base. It is a feeling second to none. You are now in charge!
Sylvia is a qualified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Trainer. She started her business in Sydney and is now based in Singapore.