BY JUNE D. BELL
“HOW WE spend our days is, of course,
how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard
wrote. It’s a question worth asking: Ho w do
we spend our days?
Many of us can’t say for sure. We
worked, ate, slept, texted, commuted and
tidied up, and another day was gone. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians said time
management was their biggest organizational challenge, according to a ;;;; survey commissioned by Professional
Organizers in Canada.
Yet some people seem unfazed by the
clock’s relentless march and somehow
wring great satisfaction and productivity
from their days. Their secret is setting and
safeguarding their priorities and vigilantly
managing their precious hours.
Time, says Brian Joe, CEO and
co-founder of data analytics provider
Apption, based in Ottawa, “is a key asset
that’s in short supply.” The Costco member
starts his day listing three business objectives and two personal ones. He then
schedules time for each.
Protect your priorities
Creating a schedule that reflects and
protects your priorities enhances produc-
tivity, says Clare Kumar, an executive pro-
ductivity coach in Toronto. “I firmly
believe that in your day you need periods of
focused, uninterrupted time when creativ-
ity and problem-solving are at their best,”
People who take a proactive approach
to time management are better equipped
to control their day because they aren’t at
the mercy of tiny but persistent interrup-
tions from social media, email and phone
calls. Kumar, a Costco member, urges her
clients to silence all alerts. “You’re not
going to forget to check your email, so why
do you need reminders?” she says. “You
need reminders only for things you’re
likely to forget.”
Trying to concentrate in a space that’s
noisy or chaotic is a recipe for distress.
Kumar advises workers in open-plan
offices to don headphones or relocate to
empty conference rooms. “Cultivating the
right environment will foster focus,” she
says. “That starts with self-permission to
If you must remain on-site, use ear-
plugs to block ambient noise and tape a
“;; ;;; ;;;;;;;” sign by your desk. Tuck
your phone in a drawer. Should the inter-
net beckon, try Cold Turkey (getcoldtur
key.com) or SelfControl (selfcontrolapp.
com), two apps that temporarily block
access to tempting, time-wasting sites.
Keep your focus
Tackle tasks that demand the most
concentration and creativity when you feel
most clear-headed. That’s usually first
thing in the morning, says Kevin Kruse, a
Philadelphia-area business consultant and
author of ;; Secrets Successful People
Know About Time Management (The
Kruse Group, ;;;;). Don’t squander those
precious hours on social media or email,
says Kruse, who culled productivity tips
from entrepreneurs, straight-A students
and pro athletes.
Joe recommends delegating as much
as possible. That allows his team to manage tasks and frees him to focus on the big
picture. “I try not to put myself in the critical path of any deliverable,” he says.
“That’s why you have employees, right?”
Safeguarding leisure time is a counter-intuitive but vital strategy for improving
productivity. Kumar suggests punctuating
;;- to ;;-minute blocks of work with
breaks to stretch, rehydrate, chat or eat.
Joe says he reaps daylong clarity from ;;
minutes of morning meditation—and an
occasional quick afternoon nap to boost
his energy and alertness. C
June D. Bell ( junebell.com) somehow always
manages to ;nd time to do a crossword
puzzle or take a yoga class.
TIPS TO BEAT THE CLOCK
THERE’S NO shortage of apps to help
you track and manage your time and
work. Try these.
• Ideal for solopreneurs and
small-business owners, Todoist (todo
ist.com) lets users create tasks and set
due dates, assign them to employees,
track progress and incorporate feedback and notes.
• Trello ( trello.com) uses a virtual
“bulletin board” to help keep groups or
individuals on track.
• Kevin Kruse’s Millionaire’s Day
co/1page) pulls big-picture goals, morning rituals, food, water and exercise
into a single, colourful page.
• A cube timer ( datexx.com/
collections/timers) can help you focus
on a task—or a nap—for between five
minutes to an hour.
• Unroll.me (unroll.me) declutters
your in-box by bundling daily subscription emails into a single email.—JB
Time after time