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Time Management 3

Have you ever sat waiting for a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment? Do you travel to work on public transport? Have people ever arrived late for a meeting with you? Do you find yourself with 10 to 15 minutes to spare between appointments?

All these are examples of transition time, or ‘dead’ time; the odd bits of time between everything you do. These bits of valuable time are often squandered by hanging about.

To use transition time effectively you need to know when yours usually occur. Sit down with your time log from previously and see where the bits of time occur in the day. Add up these times – you’ll be surprised how much they total.

Some examples of ‘dead’ time are: journey to and from work; between arriving at work and starting work; between meetings; waiting for people. There are probably a few more you can identify by looking at your own routine.

Transition time is not for dealing with the main work of the day. That requires your full attention for long periods. It is useful however for the smaller tasks while can pile up such as responding to letters or reading.

All kinds of short projects can be fitted into transition time. You could maybe do some of the following:

  • Make phone calls, send texts or e-mails
  • Write rough drafts of letters
  • Write office memos
  • Catch up on reading
  • Outline business plans
  • Think – ideas are important
  • Listen to information CDs
  • Make appointments
  • Take a nap.
  • Do a mind map

Several studies have found that multitasking can actually result in us wasting around 30% of our time, depending on what we’re trying to do.

It can be hard to identify when you’re multitasking. But there are a few key indicators you can look for:

a)   If you have several pages or tabs open on your computer, then you’re probably multitasking. The same goes for your desk – if you have several file folders or papers out that you’re working on, you might well be multitasking.

b)   Multitasking is more likely when you’re working on a project or task you’re not excited about. For instance, creating a spreadsheet analysis might be an unwelcome task, so you might frequently check your email or do some research on a new assignment in order to lessen the pain of the current task.

c)   Frequent interruptions can also cause you to multitask. For instance, you might be writing your department’s budget when a colleague comes into your office with a question for you. You then carry on trying to tinker with the budget as you answer their question.

One of the biggest problems with multitasking is that it can lower the quality of our work. When we try to do two things or more things at once, and the result is that we do everything less well than if we focused properly on each task in turn.

When we switch tasks, our minds must reorient to cope with the new information. If we do this rapidly, like when we’re multitasking, we simply can’t devote our full concentration and focus to every switch. So, the quality of our work suffers.

Another major downside to multitasking is the effect it has on our stress levels. Dealing with multiple things at once makes us feel overwhelmed, drained and frazzled.

Here are some tactics:

  • Don’t take calls when you have booked time to do something
  •  Switch your email off for blocks of the day
  • Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door