Writing this title made me think of the sharp butter advert a few years ago, with the strap line, “good, better, butter”. People often ask help from life coaches in relation to time management. Basically it comes down to planning every day carefully and building “buffers” or as James Clear, writer of “Atomic habits” put it, “margins of safety”, which in terms of time, simply means allowing for more time than you think something would take: I know that I am not so great with directions, so in order to feel calm and show up relaxed and in the right frame of mind at an appointment with a client in town, I allow myself an extra 15 minutes to get to my destination.
Planning each activity every day sounds like a “shlep”, but once you are in a good routine with ample buffers around each activity, your day will “work” like a well-oiled machine and will become automatic and almost effortless. You will feel less stressed, which will help you to function optimally and you will never be forced to operate in “crisis mode”.
Writing six things down in order of importance that you want to accomplish the next day, last thing every night, will help you to order things in your head and literally give you a “head start” for the next day. When you put into words and sentences what you need to do the following day, you will feel psychologically more in control as well. Not to forget the satisfaction as you tick off your to do list and the feel the good reward of the sense of accomplishment that accompanies it. Listing tasks also takes the threat out of work or tasks still to accomplish-you know that what does not get done today will be first on your to-do list for tomorrow.
None of us can remember all that needs to be done every day, so five minutes spent every night or at the end of the work day can literally save you hours of unproductive time, wasted on trying to decide what to do next. You will tend to arrange your day logically and schedule things to fit in to your day that follows the most easiest path for you to follow. We were programmed since the stone age to conserve energy and follow the path of least resistance. I, for example, have to see at least three clients in town every second week. I live about 25km out of town and thus try to schedule all three of those clients’ appointments for the same day with a buffer of half an hour at least in between every appointment. I also know that traffic home after three out of Cape Town is hectic, so I always try to schedule my last appointment for 13h00, so that I give myself a buffer of thirty minutes to avoid getting stuck in out-bound traffic.
Another way of creating a buffer, is to schedule an appointment in your diary or digital planner as soon as you make it. This way you don’t end up forgetting it so easily and the burden of remembering to note it done while thinking of a thousand other things that need to be done, vanishes. I also always follow up with a quick confirmation email after jotting the appointment down and I send my clients a friendly whatsapp on the morning of the scheduled meeting. This way I prevent having to drive into town just to find out the client has forgotten all about our appointment or wasting my time at my home office, waiting for a client that does not show.
Creating buffers are just as important when running a house hold. If you find preparing dinner every day a burden, use part of a weekend day to do bulk shopping and shop ingredients that feature in your menu for the following week. You can also pre-prepare meals and freeze them. This way you will end up with more time to relax after work and have more balance every day and you will be less tempted to go out or get take outs and eat healthier and save money.
It all boils down to long term planning and preperation. I for one do not believe in luck. In fact, I once read a definition of luck that states that luck = preperation + opportunity. If someone buys a car for a bargain price, it is not luck but planning: That person saved up for a car and searched all the right places where cars are advertised or asked around for where to buy cars at a good price, thus they made preperations by getting the money together and looked in the right places to find the opportunity.
In South Africa, as every where, it is essential to create safety buffers. We fit our cars out with alarms and trackers, insure them and park them in lock up garages with alarms. When driving put your bag on the passenger side on the floor to prevent it from being snatched during a smash and grab incident.
You can look at every area and aspect in your life and build in buffers to prevent crisis and to thrive instead of just survive. The secret is all in being proactive and to plan for all eventualities. Just make sure that you keep your systems in place- the other day I took my desk planner to the spare room, since the dinner table doubles as my “office desk” and clean forgot a skype appointment the next day with a client! That is why it is best to allocate certain spaces for specific tasks- if you do not have a shortage of space like me- even then you need to recreate the space for the next task immediately after it has been used for another purpose to avoid calamity.
I would love to hear how you create buffers in different areas of your life to make it run more smoothly. Please scroll down and leave a comment.