The Real Way to be More Productive

Globally renowned American motivational speaker and author, Dr. Stephen R. Covey said: “Time management is really a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage time but to manage ourselves.”

Every human on Planet Earth is gifted with 24 hours a day. This time is sufficient for us to earn livelihood, leisure and rest, if utilized properly. Unfortunately, most people complain they do not have sufficient time to perform a certain tasks.

This unmanageability of time does not emerge from what is on our schedule. Rather, it depends upon how we manage ourselves, as Dr. Covey rightly conveys. Most of us spend time on fruitless pursuits rather than focusing on something that helps develop our career or enriches our personal lives.

The 24- Hour Rule

Generally, we split these 24 hours into three equal parts. One portion of eight hours is dedicated for work, another for sleep and relaxation and the third, for leisure, entertainment and personal affairs.

Time wasted cannot be earned back, as the ancient adage goes. Therefore, we must examine ways and means to reflect upon how we spent the last three hours and ways to make every minute more productive.

Last 3 Hours at Work

Every employer assigns a fixed and realistic target for employees to achieve. This has to be completed during the eight hours you spend at work.

So, how did you spend the last three hours at work? Here are some indicators that can assist you to analyze your time so you can boost productivity.

  • Calculate how much time you spent during the last three hours sending emails, answering phone calls, and talking about work related issues with colleagues or your boss.
  • Figure out how much time from these three hours brought you closer to achieving your target.
  • Find out what activities you performed during the last three hours that proved unproductive. This can also include meeting with your boss or colleagues.
  • Identify which functions performed during the last three hours could have been avoided and how much time could you have saved.
  • Ask yourself, how you would have utilized the extra time gained by avoiding unproductive activity during the last three hours.

Understandably, not all activities such as reading and responding to emails, discussing work with your colleagues or meetings can be shunned.

Yet, you can curtail some time spent on these functions wherever possible. Draw a list of areas where it is possible to save time and work towards achieving and exceeding your productivity.

Eliminate Distractions at Work

Another great way to boost productivity during every three hour time span is by keeping away from distractions at work.

The biggest distraction nowadays comes through ubiquitous smart-phones. Frequent buzzes, clicks and other sounds from apps tend to distract you from work.

Keep your smart-phone on ‘silent’ mode while switching off vibration alerts, too. You can always receive work-related and emergency calls on an office landline.

Defining Productivity

Productivity is usually defined as your work output that benefits the employer. True. However, achieving targets does not truly define productivity.

Acquiring newer skills vital for your job and career as well as helping colleagues achieve their targets also matters and can be considered as productivity.

Further, efforts exerted towards living a happy personal life also counts as productivity. You can utilize the three-hour yardstick to measure productivity outside work too.

Last 3 Hours off Work

“You define what is important you by what you dedicate your time to,” said an anonymous writer. Your personal life as an individual and with family is equally or more important than work.

Other than eight-hour work schedules, you also need time to prepare for the day and travel. This eats into the eight hours that you would otherwise get for personal development.

On average, a working woman or man gets about four to six hours of leisure time off work. Meaning, you have to exert extra effort to make the best of this time span.

Here we look at the how to make best use of every three hours you spend with yourself, family and friends.

  • The biggest culprit towards enjoying a healthy personal, social, spiritual and family life is your commute. Hence, find out how much time you spend on traveling between home and work daily.
  • Find how much time you allot daily for personal development, on activities including self introspection, reading, physical wellbeing including jogging, Yoga and exercising in any span of three hours off work.
  • Look at areas where you can best utilize time to enhance bonding with family.
  • Identify what consumes your maximum time after work. This includes clubs, bars, TV, movies and online shopping, among others.
  • Get an insight into your social life after work for every three hours. Meaning, how useful is time spent with your social circle. Though friendships are extremely vital, engaging in gossip and small talk is sheer waste of precious time.

Unless you are lucky to get a work from home job, as per your own schedule, commuting is essential. Often, driving between work and home consumes more time than using public transport.

Understandably, using mass transit systems does not offer the same comfort as your own vehicle. Yet, out of three hours spent daily while preparing and getting to work, identify areas where you can actually steal time for personal development.

Commuting can prove stressful and prove detrimental to physical wellbeing as well as your personal life. It is essential to get rid of such stress before it adversely impacts your family and social life.

Productivity rests on personal wellbeing and health. Examine your three hours before and after work and make time to indulge in activities that promote physical and mental fitness. Remember, physical and mental health are intricately linked to work productivity.

Quality time spent with family also boosts your productivity. Hence, it is vital to know how much time we allotted to bonding with family during every three hours off work. The same principle holds good for healthy friendships as well as balanced spiritual life.

Why Three Hours?

A typical working day consists of eight hours. Of these, about an hour is allotted for meals and coffee/smoking breaks – leaving seven hours. Another 30 minutes is lost as employees arriving from home settle down and review their work for the day.

Yet another half hour is spent on summarizing work completed and preparing to leave. This leaves only six hours for active work. The same holds true for off-work hours, if you deduct time taken for commutes and activities such as shopping for essentials on way home.

Looking at how you spent the last three hours helps you assess whether you are on the right track to achieve your targets and career or business goals midway during the day.

By the same corollary, a review of three hours spent off work lets you know where you need to allot some extra time for a happier and fulfilling personal life.

Montessori classrooms utilize the three-hour work cycle for children. It is based upon various dynamics of human personality including enthusiasm, attention span and productive activity, among others. The same principle holds good for adults, too.

In Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, optimal use of time can be achieved only if we manage ourselves. Enthusiasm, attention span and quality of time matter at work and off-work.

The best way to assess how fruitful your day has been in both these spheres is by finding out how much of your time was wasted and indentifying areas where loss of time can be stemmed. Additionally, it also involves making time work for you.

Ancient Indian philosophy states, time is mankind’s biggest enemy. It continues to work against us.

Nobody can stop time. However, we can channel it for optimum productivity through some introspection. This can be done by analyzing every three hours we spend while awake.