The rush of hope and energy that springtime brings can extend to the workplace, but any grand plans to build your business or develop your career will fall flat if there’s no time in your day to look ahead and consider opportunities. Here are a few tips to create the space you need to move in the right direction.

Words: Alexandra Dalton

If you currently feel you’ve not got a moment to spare, follow these three simple steps to help you de-clutter your life and make space for big, creative bursts of productivity.

1. Carry out a time audit

To be able to manage your time better in the future, first you need a ruthlessly honest account of how you currently use your time. 

Note in detail what you get up to over the course of a week.  This will mean capturing precisely what you did during each half hour of every working day.  Even if you were side-tracked by personal issues, got stuck on a fiddly job, or caved in to the temptation of social media, record EVERYTHING.  Airbrushing your activities won’t help you tackle time management.

2. Buy back time

Now it’s time to make some brutal decisions. Look back on your week, take a thick red pen and aim to strike out 20 to 30% of your activities. To help you focus use these four ‘D’s’:

Delete What could you have gotten rid of from your diary altogether? Are you brave enough to say no?

Defer What could have waited until later? It’s easy to rush to action too soon; tasks can change or even disappear after we’ve invested time in them.

Diminish Did you take too much time over some tasks? Be firm with yourself.

Delegate Are you taking on tasks that could be passed on? Time spent teaching others how to take on responsibilities will reap rewards.

It might be worth getting a friend or colleague to really challenge you to make some tough decisions here. To clear space you need to be ruthless.

3. Don’t lose focus

With your fresh approach, your diary should become clearer, so don’t let unnecessary distractions fill the gaps. Emails, chatty colleagues, phone calls, biscuit breaks and social media might feel like they’re only stealing moments but they can destroy your concentration. One study from the University of California revealed it takes about 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after you’ve been interrupted.
To work efficiently, try these tips:

Allocate specific time slots for checking and responding to emails, that way quick queries won’t tempt you to break away from what you’re doing.

There are many ways to deter colleagues from stopping by for a quick chat. Try wearing headphones; a red/green flag system to indicate when you’re available to talk; working in a quiet corner away from your desk; or formally diarising ‘do not disturb’ time.

There’s plenty of digital help available to help you focus. Here are just a few apps to consider:

SelfControl can block apps and websites that steal your attention.

Boomerang lets you take control of when you send and receive an email message.

Tomighty is a desktop timer that helps you focus for a specific, optimal period.

With an uncluttered diary and mind you can find time for professional growth – good luck!