I’m currently on holiday in Ghana and being here is making me think about time management. Not because nothing ever runs on time and not because it takes a long time to do anything, especially on the home broadband connection, but because of changes in the way I’m doing things. A holiday is a great time to change habits because you’re in a different environment and I’ve been determined to try to switch off and relax a bit – in fact my main intention each day is to ‘relax and go with the flow’. We’re staying in my parents’ house and so I feel more at ease and comfortable than I would in a hotel, which is a good start. However, the temptation to keep looking at social media and emails is still very strong.
Now I know that all it takes is willpower, but the problem with willpower is that the more of it you need to use, the less effective it gets. I’m trying not to go berserk food and drink wise, that takes willpower; I’m trying to resist talking for my daughter, that takes willpower; I’m trying not to check emails and social media, the willpower is waning significantly. So, I’ve needed to find other ways to reduce the temptation that won’t draw on willpower.
I could focus on the reasons why I want to reduce my email and social media habit. I’m on holiday, I should be relaxing; I want to be present and experience this time with my parents and daughter (and other family who live here); I don’t want to be drawn into work when I’m supposed to be off and relaxing etc. These are all perfectly valid reasons to reduce my habit and certainly help to strengthen the resolve a little but it’s all too easy, in a quiet moment, to pick up my phone and, before I know it, half an hour has gone by and I’m drawn back into work or into the rabbit hole that is social media.
And isn’t this the same at work? You have something to do but an email comes in or you just check social media and before you know it time has gone, and you haven’t achieved what you set out to do? You then feel frustrated and stressed, start to do your work and then get distracted again and so it goes.
On my holiday I’ve pinched a time management tool from my mother. I don’t know if she recognises it as a time management tool, but it is.
My mother doesn’t carry her phone around with her. She has it if she’s out of the house, but it stays in her handbag, not in her hand. In the house it’s invariably in another room to where she is; so much so that if I want to speak to her when we’re in the UK, I usually call the home phone rather than her mobile. She also doesn’t have certain apps like Facebook set up on her phone – but I’m not going that far, after all this is 2018!
However, I have left my mobile phone in my room for most of the time when I’m in my parents’ house. This has lead to a couple of things:
Checking my phone is a deliberate action. I have to make an effort to go to my room and look at my phone.
I actually forget about my phone and everything on it because it’s not in constant view/reach to remind me.
I have had to answer a couple of work emails, but I then put the phone down and walked away and the issues didn’t follow me; they stayed with the phone.
I’m also reading a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Coincidentally, just after I made this time management discovery, I read a section of the book that talks about how to change and introduce new habits. He recommends making the things you don’t want to do harder, at least 20 seconds harder, and the things you want to do much easier with little decision making required to do them. Keeping the phone in my room makes it about 20 seconds harder/longer to get access to it.
So, my Ghana learned time management tip of the week is to dump your mobile devices. Put them out of sight and out of reach. Make it harder for you to get to them. If you work at a desk don’t have your email and social media open on your computer all the time; put some blocks in the way to make it just that little bit harder and more time consuming. Then allocate defined time when you will check them, perhaps 10 minutes every hour, or 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes after lunch (yes, take a lunch break) and 30 minutes before you finish in the evening. When you get home, put them away. If you want some downtime on social media, pick a defined time then put mobile devices away outside of these times. You will be amazed at how much time this will give you and how much freer you will feel as you become untethered. I wish you luck, time and freedom – let me know how you get on.