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Home / News & Opportunities / Blog / June 2017 / ELIZABETH DAVIS - SHORT ON TIME? BE SMART ABOUT WHERE YOU SPEND IT

Date: 12/06/2017

Has anything frustrated you today? How much time have you spent thinking about it? How much of your precious energy have you directed towards it? 

Before thinking about it makes your blood begin to boil again, take a moment to reflect on “it”.
Ask yourself “Is this actually something I can influence?”

If you answer “Yes”, great. But then ask yourself –“How much time and energy will I need to invest to influence it. Moreover, do I have that time to spare?

The diagram demonstrates this, we can all be guilty of spending a lot of precious time in that orange outer circle agonising over – things that when it comes down to it, we have no control or influence over whatsoever.
Alternatively, in the green circle we can spend hours, days and months on things that at best we can influence – this means it can still be a waste of time. Because when it comes down to it, we cannot control it and all our efforts may come to nothing. As well as the frustration we feel when we get to the end of a day and believe we have achieved nothing our brains are only really productive when we are doing one thing at a time. So allowing your brain to “wander off” – to spend time and energy being frustrated about something that you can’t control or influence - means it is likely to be at the expense of delivering something exceptional that is absolutely within your control.

If you only had 1 hour what could you do in it that would add real value or bring real pleasure? If you only have that burst of energy once, where do you want to direct it?

It’s not uncommon to spend that hour venting about an unreasonable boss, the structure of the company or an inefficient process. But if you only had one hour would you really want to spend it on something that won’t make a jot of difference? Really? What could you achieve instead if you found the courage to spend 10 minutes of that hour having a conversation you have been avoiding? Or actually got around to getting a job out of the way that has been bugging you for ages. Or just went for a walk in the sunshine?
Try our “Tea Break Trick” – we call it the “Deliberate Half Hour”

Go and get a cuppa. Decide you will stop your brain from dwelling initially for just 10 minutes.
Time yourself. Deliberately do something you have been putting off instead for those 10 minutes. Check the time.

If you manage it, decide to spend a second 10 minute “block” on another task that you can control. Have you still managed to stop dwelling on other things you can’t control? Great!  In the final 10 minute block of your “Deliberate Half Hour” do something for 10 minutes that you would consider a small reward, something which may not be a productive part of your working day but which rewards the positive – it might feel like a “waste” but scientifically it is much better for you than “wasting time” by focusing on what you can’t control.  

Clients tell us this is a great way to feel energised and take back control of unproductive thinking.
A final thought. Researchers at Harvard Business School found that people who stopped work 15 minutes early and reflected on how they had spent their time that day were 24% more productive as a result. That’s right! Those doing 15 minutes less work got more done. This has been scientifically proven to be the case whether you reflect alone or talk to your colleagues/team. The message here is whatever you do to think about your thinking will work. But you have to force yourself to do it!

So the next time you catch yourself feeling frustrated and unproductive, don’t plough on. Stop. Grab a cup of tea. Think about your spheres of influence. And direct your energy towards deliberate choices you can control.

If you would like more information email us at or visit our website at

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Elizabeth Davis


I understand the needs of management in the public and private sector and have also for many years sat on executive committees in the Not for Profit sector in the areas of education and domestic violence. Most recently I have used my experience to assist me as an Independent Foster panel member, however in all these areas the ability to be able to ask the difficult question remains the same. Success comes from having an understanding of the science that dictates how our brains work and how this impacts on business development. This in turn leads to better quality thinking which delivers tangible results. Find out more

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