Blog post

How to manage our time effectively

In the second of our HPUxLeigh blog series, following the build-up to Leigh Timmis' World Record attempt to cycle across mainland Europe in June, Dr Philip Clarke, Lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby Online Learning, talks about time management in the first phase of the psychological support he has given Leigh.

By Dr Philip Clarke - 30 April 2018

When Leigh first approached the Human Performance Unit to support him in this challenge, it was clear that although he had already cycled around the world, this was the first time he would be taking part in an event of this nature. As we are pushing Leigh to the limits of his physical capabilities, we need to make sure we are being effective with every hour of the day. Therefore, my first role was to ensure that Leigh would be able to manage the lifestyle changes that would occur when training began.

In one of the early sessions Leigh and I completed, we conducted a performance profile outlining the key personal qualities necessary to achieve success in this type of endurance event. From this, we identified his strengths and weaknesses. It was clear that time management and juggling training like an elite-level athlete were things that Leigh felt he would need support with.

To put this into perspective, Leigh needed to fit the following into his day: training, food preparation, eating, travelling to facilities, work, emails, physio, meetings with the support team and meetings with potential sponsors for the event. As I am sure you would all agree, there are a lot of commitments here - and this does not include downtime, socialising with family and friends and finally sleep. It was important that we maximised how productive Leigh was with his time throughout each day.

Here are some of the strategies we used with Leigh that you can implement into your daily routines to make you more efficient and effective with your time:

Tip 1: Be where your feet are

The main principle for this tip is to be fully immersed in the current situation. For some people, it is very easy when juggling lots of things for your focus to shift between all these tasks, which can mean that you find it difficult to have any downtime, or that you may be there in body but not in mind.

When you're in a team meeting, you need to be fully in that meeting so you don't miss any key points or messages. If you are with family, be with your family and don't let your head wander to things related to your work.

People who can do this effectively tend to be happier and more productive, and can be more creative. So if you find your mind wandering to a task unrelated to the situation you are in, make a note of it and come back to it when it's more appropriate. This will help you switch off. This tactic can be applied to any situation.

Tip 2: Be the best at things that require no talent

A lot of skills don't require talent but require discipline. Being punctual, well-presented and prepared require no talent but do require effort. This is something that everybody can invest in. To get the best out of yourself and your performance, focus on things that are in your control, require no natural talent, but need effort to perform.

For example, plan to always arrive on time and plan for travel time when preparing for meetings or training. If a meeting is at 2pm, plan to arrive at 1:50pm to start. Arriving at 2pm would mean you only really get settled into the meeting at 2:05pm. This will help you become more efficient and effective with how you use your time and your overall performance.

Tip 3: Understand your ropes

Self-awareness is such an important skill for individuals to develop, as it allows you to see how much you are trying to achieve in your time and whether this is feasible and realistic. Imagine all the things that are pulling on your time at the moment (relevant and irrelevant) and note down what they are.

These things represent ropes around your centre that are pulling you in different directions. Once you note them all down, you can highlight how big and thick these ropes are. The size and thickness of the rope represents how much time they take. Once completed, you can prioritise which ropes you need to focus on and which ones you could do with cutting loose.

Tip 4: Traffic lights

When planning your time, have one document that has all your commitments in it, such as a diary or your phone, so you don't have to rely on memory or having multiple documents. When putting things in your diary, put in red those things that are immovable and can't change and in green those things that are movable. Should anything unexpected come up, you will be able to see what can be moved around more easily. Also, be sure to plan for travel time and allocate realistic timeframes to complete each task. This means that you can complete it in that time and not carry it through to your next meeting. (This will help with Tip 2 as well.)

Tip 5: Find shortcuts

Find ways to multi-task and shortcuts in the way you work by completing two tasks at once. For example, when travelling to work, is it possible to complete some tasks off your to-do list? In Leigh's case, we coupled his food preparation with family time so he could use his time more effectively. Think about where you can make shortcuts in your day and try these out.

Visit the blog regularly to read more about how Dr Philip Clarke and Dr Mark Faghy are preparing Leigh for his World Record attempt in June. Search HPUxLeigh to follow.

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About the author

Dr Philip Clarke
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Clarke's area of expertise is in performance under pressure and the psychological predictors and mechanisms that are associated, specifically for 'choking' and 'the yips' within sport.

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