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Time to change
  1. Adrian Nelson-Pratt

Abstract

Adrian Nelson-Pratt explains how an understanding of the way in which you are spending your time makes it possible to claw back wasted hours and secure a better balance in your life.

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Adrian Nelson-Pratt is a vet and an accredited performance coach

There’s no magical recipe for having it all, but an acute awareness of how you spend your time is central to balancing or integrating your life and your work. Once you have that understanding, you can take steps to better manage your commitments – and your wellbeing.

Strategy 1 – balance your bubble

For each of the activities in your day, break down the time taken into progressively smaller chunks. So for work, capture how long each activity takes, from leaving the front door to getting home. This could include commuting, consultations, surgery, paperwork, work-related conversations, lunch and breaks. You can use a best estimate of time or you could use tools such as Screen Time on Apple devices or time tracking apps like Toggl to actually measure activities.

Identify the two most time consuming and two least time consuming activities. Could the longest time be reduced? Are the shortest times adequate?

Consider the things you want to prioritise. What needs more or less attention and time?

Consider the things you want to prioritise. What needs more or less attention and time?

Strategy 2 – grow your bubble (relatively)

Once you have assessed the precise ways in which you are spending your time, you can start managing the activities that are wasting precious minutes in your day. Start with microsteps; tiny course corrections that are too small to fail, add up over time and generate new habits without requiring masses of willpower and self-control.

This might include:

Applying first principles. Does it pay, is it fun, is it useful to me, or do I learn from it? If not, delete it. Do away with, for instance, spending time on other people’s dramas or worrying about outcomes you can’t control.

Setting boundaries with technology. Turn push notifications off, use the do not disturb function, and don’t sleep in the same room as your mobile phone.

Setting boundaries with people. Say no, be kind to yourself and try not to worry about what people think about you. They probably think about you less than you imagine.

For each of the activities in your day, break them down into smaller chunks and work out how long you spend on each one – ‘work’ may look something like this

Outsourcing tasks. Is there anything you might be able to have someone else do? Could you afford to hire a cleaner so you don’t have to worry about housework, for instance, or have your shopping delivered to you rather than going to the supermarket?

Establishing a work threshold. Declare an end to your day even if there are unfinished items on your to do list and find a way to signpost to yourself that you’re home, by changing from work into ‘home’ clothes for instance. This is an important step in psychologically disengaging from work.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you decide to balance or integrate work and life. Understanding where your time goes and actively managing it will make a tangible difference to your wellbeing.

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