“I am on the go the whole time”. 

How often do you feel this way and hear it repeated by stressed friends or colleagues? Many of us do not feel in control of our time: we’re constantly juggling so many balls in the air, desperately trying not to let any of them drop; barely having space for any new ones that pop up. It can seem impossible to regain control and balance our priorities in the way we would choose.

There is a simple approach that I use to manage my time, called the “80:20 Rule”. This involves proactively scheduling roughly 80 percent of your daily tasks; leaving 20 percent of your time unplanned. This buffer allows us to roll with the unexpected or spontaneous tasks, interactions and opportunities that crop up.

Have you ever been interrupted by someone when you’re busily working through your “to do” list, only to find you get a creative energy burst from the conversation? This is where the magic of “the 20 percent” comes into play. It is very beneficial to allow ourselves time to run with these situations, as they can spark great ideas and outcomes that may not arise without this freedom. We know that so many “ah-ha” moments and brilliant innovations come out of the blue, when we’re not focusing on anything in particular or are doing something unrelated. It’s when our minds are relaxed that the creative side of the brain is activated. We shouldn’t lose these valuable opportunities on the endless treadmill of productivity, always pushing to get things done and being busy for the sake of being busy.

Of course, it’s important to not allow ourselves to become too distracted from our “80 percent” planned tasks, but ensure we use the buffer time wisely. I build in an allocation of space for emails, messages and water cooler chats with colleagues, while being mindful and ensuring that these organic activities don’t creep into the rest of my time. 

As a leader, it can be extremely gratifying to not appear busy all the time and be open to spontaneity. Engaging in what I call “fire starter” chats lets others know we are approachable and in touch with what’s going on day-to-day, however minor it may seem. It can open up opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

It’s an art and especially through these times, many leaders have more to do than ever. But we must not end up in the trap of robotically getting things done without allowing time for the energy-enhancing situations that can provide so much value.

Image Credit: ilham Wicaksono 


Matthew Chapman

Matt’s passion for wellness has driven every aspect of his life. He started, and has grown, ChapmanCG into the world’s premier HR search company, which he founded and has kept completely virtual since 2008. His passion around HR and the future of work has fuelled his desire to invest in HR technology concepts and also to co-create the Thrive HR Exchange.

He is currently in training as a Founding Participant in the epic Snowman Race in Bhutan. He is a finisher of six 250 km desert ultramarathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

Matt now resides at Parihoa, his seaside farm in New Zealand, where he is attuned to virtual working and manages his global business interests from here. He is a Singapore Citizen and counts Singapore as his other base.

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