Date posted: 07/06/2022 5 min read

How to give yourself 15% more time in your workday

Putting effort in the right place at the right time will allow you to take control of your daily to-do list and achieve more

In Brief

  • Productivity expert Donna McGeorge shares her knowledge to help streamline your day to give yourself 15% more time.
  • As a nation Australian’s work 3.2 billion hours a year of unpaid overtime and 3.8 million of us don’t take lunch breaks.
  • Taking some simple steps will create a steady pace allowing you to breathe and feel in control of your day.

If you had been asked in 2019 what you would do with an extra day every week, how would you have answered? You might have responded that you’d spend more time with your kids, read, take-up a hobby, exercise. Or maybe you would have just said you’d catch-up on sleep.

I don’t think you would have said you would fill the saved time with more emails and meetings. And yet in 2020 and 2021, when many of us were working from home, we got our commute time (up to 10 hours per week) ‘refunded’, we perpetuated our already hectic lifestyles. Instead of recognising the time refund as a gift, we simply absorbed it back into our busy, out-of- control, overwhelmed lives.

In Australia we work 3.2 billion hours a year in unpaid overtime, we have 146 million days of accrued annual leave and 3.8 million of us don’t take lunch breaks. We are addicted to being busy and it’s preventing us from getting the rest we need to perform at our best. This is what leads to burnout. Here are a few simple ways to help overcome it.

1. Wipe the mind

Write down everything you have on your mind right now. This is not a to-do list but a brain dump. List everything from: replace batteries in smoke detectors, research your next holiday to prepare a client presentation. Writing things down produces a sense of relief. It’s like a weight is lifted from your shoulders and it creates a sense of relaxation and control.

2. Book a meeting with yourself

How do you feel when a meeting is cancelled? If you’re like most people you probably feel relieved because you have a whole hour to get some work done. Rather than being at the mercy of someone else, schedule a one-hour meeting with yourself every day. This ‘me hour’ allows you to focus on what is important to you.

3. Defrag your day

For many of us, our workdays always feel busy but are not productive. You may not consider yourself a multitasker, but you may be a project jumper. Jumping from task to task in an effort to keep chipping away at your never-ending to-do list. Batch your similar work together so you can maintain focus. Bundling these activities together frees up time later in the day.

Donna McGeorgePictured: Donna McGeorge

“For many of us, our workdays always feel busy but are not productive.”
Donna McGeorge

4. Blocking out meetings

Avoid scheduling meetings before 10am and after 3pm. This protects your most productive and mentally alert time in the morning, and the time in the afternoon you should use to wrap things up so you can get away from work at a decent hour.

5. The 15% rule

If you do these things, you will refund yourself a 15% buffer, sustaining your performance over time. This might seem arbitrary, or too little, and in many ways it’s more about what happens in our heads than watching the clock.

Strive to feel as though you are performing at a steady pace, always with this tiny bit of room to breathe, not as though you are constantly catching up or struggling. You will feel in control instead of overwhelmed and exhausted from pushing yourself (or those around you) too far.

Read more:

6 ways to stay productive while working from home

Working remotely has its challenges, especially if the kids are home, too. Stay productive and avoid burnout with these tips.

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