4 ways to use your time more effectively

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —November 18, 2006
Filed in Insight

Wherever I go I hear the same thing, “I’d love to do it, but we just don’t have enough time.”

‘It’ is anything they know is important, and could make a difference, but they are totally overwhelmed with their current tasks. The thought of something else is just too much.

So why is there such a lack of time? Here are my top 7 reasons:

  1. Someone else sets your agenda and fills you schedule with tasks
  2. You don’t know what to say ‘no’ to
  3. We can do so many things these days, so we do
  4. We want to keep an eye on everything because the world is complex and changing and we are constantly distracted
  5. Our physical workspaces encourage distractions
  6. We are more connected than ever and technology keeps the channels open
  7. Being generalists we tackle new things over and over and never are really proficient

These suggestions will help you wrest control of you time.

  1. Learn a task management method like Getting Things Done. I’d recommend getting David Allen’s book of the same name and put it into practice. Better still, get your organisation to invest in a GTD training program (addresses issues 1 and 3).
  2. Understand your priorities and work out how your work fits in to the big picture. If it doesn’t fit in to either the big picture or your priorities then say ‘no’ (issue 2)
  3. Get into a community of practice and learn how to work smarter from your peers and with your peers that already do it. Rather than try and keep up with all the changes in your discipline, share the workload. Social book-marking is one possible tool (issues 4 & 7)
  4. Periodically close down the communication channels. Turn off the mobile, Skype, email and then find a cafe where you can work anonymously. You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done (issues 5 & 6).

Obviously this is not a comprehensive assessment of the why there is such a lack of time in organisations and what to do about it (I just don’t have the time ). But what advice would you give to someone who seems to be flat out like a lizard drinking?

[Thanks to Nancy White for a conversation this morning about this issue]

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Luis Suarez says:

    Great weblog post, Shawn ! I have thoroughly enjoyed it as I feel very identified with some of the different reasons you have put together and, even better, all of the different suggestions that you folks have come up with. I must say that one of them has been relevant to me to help me manage my time a whole lot better over the course of the years: The Power of Saying “No!” and feel good about it. Check out that particular link for some further thoughts around this topic of time management.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I’m a recent convert to GTD and while it is a challenge to set up and maintain I think it’s well worth it. Something else I find I ask myself regularly is “What is the best use of my time right now?” Often we get distracted by minor tasks that can be set aside and asking this question forces me to look at what I’m working on and consider if there is something else I would be better off doing.

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