I think William Penn summed it up the best when he said: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worse.”
Sometimes our life is spinning so quickly we don’t know how we will fit it all in. Soccer practice, piano lessons, book club, homework, orthodontist appointments, debate team, and the list goes on. The crazy thing is, my kids are grown, so my list of things-to-do has changed, but my time is still my most closely monitored commodity.
Productive time management is the combination of intelligent planning, focus, and recognition of your priorities. The great news is how we use our time can be improved.
To help you out, I’ve come up with ten ways you can quickly add time to your day. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, simply focus on one change at a time to make a massive impact in your life.
1 | Prioritize Your Life, Then Make a To-do List
Living with intention means planning your day instead of managing our life through your to-do list. I know how the list of things to do can stack up. Instead of letting it get you overwhelmed try thinking of your day in a new way.
Do you know what you’re trying to achieve? What are your priorities? What is your Why? You need to figure those out before you start writing a to-do list. Once you know your priorities, you can focus on planning your to-do list accordingly.
2 | Segment Your Time
Use the Pomodoro Technique. I used this with my kids when trying to get them motivated to complete a task, but the concept works just as well for creating more time in our day. The idea is to take a timer (it can be a simple egg timer or one on your phone or computer). Figure out how much time you want or have to spend on a given task. Then start the timer and work to finish before the timer goes off.
The most common question I get about this method is “how do I know how long the task will take?” The answer is you get to decide. If you only have 30 minutes to clean out the refrigerator then only take 30 minutes. Studies have shown you will take as much time as you have to complete a task. If there are no time constraints, you will take more time.
If you have a large project, break it down into smaller pieces and use the timer to keep you on track. It is recommended to go in 25-minute increments before taking a break. Play with it and find a system to work best for you.
3 | Eliminate Distractions
This includes the phone, email notifications, smart watches and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Shut everything down and focus on one thing at a time.
I love the new screen time controls on phones. It makes it so much easier to remember — STOP! This is focus time!
All the beeping, vibrating, and dings send our brain in so many different directions. Just remember a focused effort is so much productive than an interrupted or multitasking one.
4 | Eat your Frog First
Sounds awful I know! I’ve learned if I do the most dreaded task first, it makes the rest of the day run so much more smoothly. Whether it’s cleaning the toilets, making the phone call to reject someone’s offer, or telling someone their services are no longer needed.
Whatever it is, just do it! Get it done and move on. You’ll feel better and your day will be brighter.
5 | Morning Routine
Having a morning routine sets you up for an awesome day. A collection of 5-6 habits/tasks you complete. Meditation, stretch, run, journal, green juice……repeat. It wipes out indecision and procrastination. Aim to achieve these every single day.
Want to learn more about morning routines? Check out my post here about how to become a morning person.
6 | Spend Time Preparing for the Next Day
When we get going a hundred miles an hour, it is hard to slow down and plan. I’m much more productive if I can put a plan together for the day. What MUST happen tomorrow? What can you do ahead of time to make things run more smoothly? Even taking time to think through the day can help you get a better grip on your plan.
If you know you have to go to the gym, get the gym clothes out. Prepare lunches, collect homework, pack backpacks – all of the things that might send you scrambling in the morning – try to get them ready the night before. Set time aside for your morning routine to set you up for an awesome day.
7 | Meal Planning
Plan out your meals. I was so much better about this when our kids were little. I would categorize our meals by days of the week. I then took all of our family favorites and grouped them into their category. Once I had all my categories, I could easily assign a meal to every night of the month. Here is an example of how it looked.
Once a week I would have a bulk cook-up. For instance, I would cook two Lasagnes and freeze one for later in the month. It doesn’t take a lot more time or effort to double a recipe and save one for later. After a few weeks, you will create a nice supply of ready-made meals waiting for you to simply take out to defrost in the morning and pop in the oven for dinner.
8 | Learn to Say No to the Things You Don’t Want or Love
Stop wasting your time doing things that you are not enjoying. If you don’t like the book you are reading, put it down. Don’t force your way through it. I have to add – this is not meant to be or sound selfish. But if how you spend your time is not rewarding or fulfilling it might be good to evaluate what you are saying yes to.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” -Michael Altshuler
9 | Use Your Spare Time Wisely
On a recent trip, we took a commuter train from the airport rather than renting a car. I pulled out my list of podcasts for our hour long ride and was able to take notes on my phone while I listened.
Another way I get my audiobooks or podcasts in is to listen while running errands. We all have what seems to be wasted time while driving. Whether you commute, play the role of mom taxi or are just busy running around, time in the car can be more meaningful when we find ways to be productive. (Bonus: Listening to podcasts is an excellent way to get inspired or learn new skills.)
10 | Learn how to ask for help
This can be a game changer if you are one of those people who think they should manage everything by themselves. Ask for help. You may be surprised how much more you can get done when someone’s pitching in. It doesn’t make you any less of a person – just wiser.
These are just ten ways to add hours onto your already busy day. Don’t be the person who always says they don’t have enough time.
“Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time,” is like saying I don’t want to.” -Lao Tzu
You can make more time, you just need to know where your priorities lay and work your life around them. Be the person who nails it.