By Karen Meager and John McLachlan, co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training

Most of us have felt overwhelmed by our work and home life commitments at some point or other, and as life gets busier, we have more access than ever to resources and technologies that can save us time – so why do we still have so little of it? Here are the five steps to managing your time better.

Understand that time is a Life Resource

Our three main resources in life are time, money and health, which make up the central components that affect our success in life. However, people tend to focus more on one than the others, causing an imbalance, and a focus on money is a common trap that people fall into. But time is the only really finite of these three resources – we can’t make the day any longer than it is – and it is also closely linked to our health. The healthier and more energetic we are, the more we can do with our time. Becoming aware of how you use these three resources is an important step in taking control of time.

Work with your natural time sorts

Take a while to notice how you make your time work best for you, and begin to plan your life around it, to achieve maximum efficiency in your routine. Time management techniques are all well and good, but it is adapting them to our own needs and styles that sees them take off. So plan to undertake the most challenging of tasks when you know your energy levels will be high; try to do less of the things you find particularly draining; identify activities that energise you and do them more often. Becoming better at managing time doesn’t require you to completely transform your life, but simply to adopt simple ideas and work them in.

Create healthy routines or habits

Habits are formed to help us to things more efficiently, and bad habits tend to be very efficient, just not terribly healthy. Work towards creating positive habits that help you make the most of your time. For instance, if you find yourself rushing around a lot in the mornings, have a work wardrobe ready on standby to save you time, or pre-prepare your breakfasts in the evenings so you can grab them and go in the morning. Make a weekly meal plan or cook in batches and freeze portions to make for quicker meal prep times. Try to apply this principle to all the things that need doing but are far from enjoyable, in order to minimise the chores, and make the most of your energetic peaks.

Communicate your Time Boundaries

In the workplace, the main cause of wasted time is overly talkative colleagues, so it is important that you curb the time you spend with people and allocate it wisely. If you are in the habit of making yourself available to others, explore ways that you can give off the opposite signals. Avoid eye contact with a person, and use other body language to communicate that you are busy. This doesn’t mean being unkind or rude, but simply taking more control over where and on whom you spend your time. Good communicators still find the time to associate with their colleagues, but they do so in a manner that makes sure all priorities are taken care of first. If you’re the sort of person that says ‘yes’ to everything and it causes you overload, take steps to whittle down the amount of things you agree to. If you feel uncomfortable coming straight out with a ‘no’, say you’ll give it some thought and get back to them.

Taking control of your time takes conscious effort to start off with, but it is all about forming positive habits. You might find it helpful to stop and ask yourself why you are doing things, and consider the responses you give. Do you see any patterns emerging? This sort of reflection will see you forming an awareness of your own habits, which is the first step to altering them. Take small but significant steps towards better use of time, from saying ‘no’ every now and then, to making sure you leave the office on time and don’t find reasons to work late. As you make these habits more regular in your life, they will be easier to carry on.