We have so many demands on our time -- in all aspects of our lives. In a world crammed with multiple distractions, we're being pulled in every direction; having to squeeze so much more into 24 hours.
It's no coincidence that while we're increasingly time-poor, the pace of life has increased dramatically. Look around you and the chances are you'll see people switching between emails, web browsers, phones, apps, newspapers and magazines - the list goes on. And that's just at work! At home, we face further demands on our time, from caring for elderly relatives, to childcare commitments, home admin and personal finance.
Add to this the frenetic pace of today's world - news is 'instant', delivered in 140 characters and in a seemingly never-ending stream. You've no doubt thought to yourself, "Stop the world, I want to get off"! While you can't stop the world from turning, there are some pretty straight-forward ways to give yourself more time. It starts by saying "no".
- Say no to 'busy work'. There's always too much to do, so it's important to accept that you can't do everything. We all go through stages of feeling overwhelmed. So my advice is to focus on the tasks at hand, and target opportunities that have the potential to deliver the highest impact - in other words, do the right things, and do them right.
- Start the day with a reasonable 'to do' list. Prioritise tasks, set deadlines and be realistic about what you can achieve in your day.
- A problem shared is a problem halved. If 'dividing and conquering' will help complete a task, then share the load. Developing delegation skills not only improves efficiency, but is also an important way to empower and engage others.
- Avoid distractions. Switch off email alerts; turn your mobile phone to silent; close your office door or take work to a quiet area or meeting room. Clearly flagging to colleagues when you're "offline" is key.
- Can't see the woods for the trees? When you're feeling particularly stretched, it's easy to lose sight of what should take priority. Sometimes getting away from your desk, taking stock of the situation, and re-setting your thoughts provides immense clarity. That could mean popping out for a tea or coffee; having 30 minutes in the gym; or simply walking round the block.
- Stop being busy for the sake of being busy. Some people work late or put in face or desk-time to simply try to prove that they are keen and hardworking. This doesn't always translate as being productive. Maintain a focused approach on your 'to do' list and when you've achieved what you'd committed to for that day, feel confident to leave work at a respectable hour to enjoy personal time, knowing that you're well on top of work demands.
Making a few small changes, and saying "no" can feel quite liberating. It'll also free up time and allow you to say "yes" to things you previously never made time for. In the book, Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, author Rick Hanson writes this: "Say yes to your needs. Yes to the need for more time to yourself... Say yes to actions."
Neeha Khurana is International head of Talent at Bank of America Merrill Lynch