How often have you felt like you never have enough time to accomplish all of the things you want to do in a day? Between working my real job, working on this blog, and dealing with regular life stuff, I so often feel like I want to stretch those 24 hours into more time to get it all done.
While I can’t make magic and add time to our days, I can share with you some of the best time management tricks I have found to allow for you to fit as much as you can into just 24 hours.
(1) Actually TRY and Get Enough Sleep
I know it sounds counterproductive. How are you supposed to find MORE time in your day when your sleeping? But if you start of the day sluggish and a complete mess because you barely slept the night before – that won’t help anything. Plus, not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of other problems. So really, it’s in everyone’s best interest to get the right amount.
(2) Get Up Earlier
First, I know this sounds counterproductive to the first tip, but the key to that is to go to bed earlier (don’t hate me! You can DVR those shows you love). Plus I know that everyone HATES this piece of advice. However, I have honestly found it helps. I used to consider myself a night owl and I loved working late into the night, watching a tv show and then curling into bed. And while I felt great in the evening, my mornings were a bumpy ride on the struggle bus. There’s a reason that some of the top CEOs get up bright and early and the next tip explains why.
(3) While You’re Up Before Everyone, Get The Big Shit Done
When you get up before the morning news, or your roommates/family/spouse, etc., you not only get that extra time to yourself, you also get peace and quiet. Furthermore, you get time when you aren’t already worn down by the rest of the day. If you tackle the biggest and hardest things first, you will do so when you are alert and at your best. This also helps you spend the rest of the day feeling accomplished and opens you up to having more time later in the day for smaller tasks (without the pressure of the big project/idea looming over your head). Plus, it allows you to find time in your afternoon and evening to take care of yourself (which we will talk more about later).
(4) Schedule General Chunks of Your Day
I used to be the person that scheduled practically down to each and every minute of each day. And while, from the outside, it may have looked great, on the inside, I was freaking out if things didn’t get accomplished in that order or if something had to be pushed back.
Obviously something like an appointment or a meeting, you absolutely should schedule to the hour (at least, I hope you will!). But for something like a side project or blog, setting aside a chunk of time and then reviewing what it is you can accomplish in that time, allows you to focus on being productive instead of worrying about accomplishing that exact item on your schedule.
(5) Do Basic Human Things During Your Day
Again, this may sound like a time waster, but it is very helpful to take a second and go get a glass of water, or take a quick walk around the office, just to give you a moment to step away and clear your head. Don’t work during your lunch break. Never taking a moment to yourself will cause you to reach 4pm and feel like you just can’t go on anymore. At that point, you are so burned out, you can barely function. So instead, take time to just breathe. (And you can even use that time to meditate!)
(6) Turn Off Email Notifications
I have found this to be one of the best things I have ever done. I know that it is important to be on top of your emails and to respond to them in a reasonable manner. However, that does not mean you have to respond RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Unless you think there is a chance that shit will be hitting the fan about something, or you are POTUS or one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you can go ahead and turn off those notifications on your phone.
The reason this is helpful, is because most of us feel compelled to respond to an email right away when we see that little box pop up or that little number on our phone. This has the effect of breaking your focus on your task at hand and keeps you from devoting your full concentration to it. It also causes your mind to ping from one thing to something (potentially) completely different. This makes it harder to jump back into whatever it was you were doing before you responded to the email. If you do need to regularly check your email for work – you can do so. But to do it efficiently, you need to set aside a time each hour to do it, and then focus on your other tasks for the rest of the time. I have been using this trick lately, and I have found I am so much more productive when I can sit down and really focus before taking time to answer emails.
(7) Unclutter & Organize
Regardless of whether you are a super neat freak like myself (hello, OCPD), or you feel like you couldn’t care less, studies have shown that surrounding yourself with clutter actually adds stress to your life. And seriously, who needs stress? Finding what works best for you to unclutter can be a learning process, but it is worth it.
I have found that I need everything in plain sight. If it goes in a drawer, or in something unlabeled, then I am liable to forget that it’s there or that I even have it (looking at you, massive amounts of staples). Everything needs to either be in a clear container, stacked on a shelf, or in a box with a label. Now, whenever I need something, I can just turn and see where things are and quickly access them. Even if I have a “stack” of papers in a corner of my desk – they are labeled so that I can get to what I need to ASAP.
You can find your own method to your own madness, but taking the time to organize and unclutter will allow you the brain space to accomplish more in your day.
(8) Don’t Be Pushed Around
I don’t mean this in a physical sense (although, definitely don’t allow that either!), but in terms of the time bullies that you meet at the office and at home. When you are on the clock or supposed to be working, your time is for your work. But when it is your lunch hour or you are off for the day or it’s the weekend (or whatever days you have off in your job), hold firm that that time is YOURS. People will push you as far as they know that they can go. If you let someone push you into working through your lunch, or answering emails at all hours of the night, then they will do it again. You have to push back and say (politely) that your time outside of the office is your own.
The same also goes for when you are at home. Don’t get suckered into doing another bake sale if you don’t have the time for it. You CAN actually say no to things (shocking, I know). As women, we are taught to be nice and it is best to always be friendly. We don’t want to be seen as rude to someone or feel that we’re letting someone down.
But in the end, you have to focus on what is best for you and your family. And if that means turning something down so you can have more hours to spend on your hobby or spouse or kids, than that is the best solution for everyone.
(9) Use a Time Tracker
If you are really wondering where your time is going, using a time tracker like Toggl is an excellent solution. It is super easy to use, and I have it set up on the side of my screen so I can enter in each item I’m doing as I do it. Even if something happens and I’m not near my computer, I can just write it down and enter it later.
An added benefit (at least to me) is that this app FORCES me to singletask. I am the queen of trying to multitask (which #6 shows is bad for the brain) and I hate to sit still and focus on one thing at a time (I know, what a huge shock, right?!).
Many studies have come out lately showing that multi-tasking can be hurtful to you and your overall productivity. The Toggl app requires me to single task because it only allows for me to track my time on only one thing at a time. So if I want it to be accurate, I can only focus on one task at a time. This has forced me to stop jumping around to 209385935853 things and in the end, I have become much more efficient and productive!
(10) Plan An Afternoon Pick Me Up Every Day
Everyone needs a break around that 2-4pm time frame. So make sure you take one! Even if it’s just having a yummy snack (hello, Skinny Pop – my latest snack obsession) or going to grab a coffee, having a little something to look forward to during that afternoon slump makes you able to focus more, both before and after your mini-break. If you worked straight through the whole afternoon, it would draaaaag on and seem never ending. This is why many of us sometimes fall down the time warp of social media around 3pm. You can stave that impulse off at the pass and be more productive by having your little moment of happiness each afternoon.
(11) Don’t Get Sucked Down the Phone Call Rabbit Hole
This has more to do with personal phone calls than work ones. Obviously, if your boss calls, you should probably pick up! But setting aside specific times when you tell your family and friends that you are free for calls makes it easier to schedule your time more productively. I love chatting with my mom or my best friend Maggie, but I know that whenever I do, those won’t be 10 minute calls. So I purposely text them and set aside a specific time. That way, the call doesn’t interrupt the flow of my work, and I still get the pick me up from gabbing with someone special to me.
(12) Surround Yourself With Inspiration
This depends on where you work, but having motivational prints or desk cards can really help keep you focused and on track. I have framed pieces on my desk saying things like, “She believed she could, so she did”, “We’re all a little bit stronger than we think we are” [quoted from the amazing Robin Roberts], “Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset” and “Don’t quit your day dream” just to name a few. Whenever I want to give up or give in to checking Facebook, or get tired or bored, I look at these and they motivate me to keep going. Sometimes, all we need is that little push that the hustle is worth it.
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(13) Understand That Shit Happens
But seriously though – something comes up or shit hits the fan. All of your best laid plans can sometimes not be enough and something may happen that skews your entire schedule for the day. Instead of freaking out (is that just me that does that?) or feeling like a failure for not getting everything done (me, again), you just have to remember that sometimes life gets in the way and that is ok. It doesn’t mean you failed. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just merely how things go sometimes, and you just have to dust yourself off and start fresh the next day.
(14) Make a List At The End of Each Work Day
This tip is one that I can’t remember where I read it (probably The Muse, because that’s where I found so many amazing tips), but it changed my whole workday once I implemented it. At the end each work day, make a list of the top few things you need to accomplish right off the bat when you get in the next day. This helps keep you uber efficient, because instead of wasting time the next morning thinking about what all you need to get done that day, you can spend that time diving right in and getting the important things handled. This sets you up to feel accomplished and on top of things, which allows for even further productivity throughout the rest of the day.
(15) Actually Wind Down At the End of the Day
Instead of just pouring yourself into bed, so physically and mentally exhausted, you can’t function – try instead to take even 15 minutes and read a book, flip through a magazine, or even just sit there and relax for a bit. Doing each of these will give you a small moment to actually decompress, so you don’t spend your night tossing and turning, trying to deal with your subconscious while you sleep.
So there you have it! 15 tips to help you hack your time and stretch it as far as you can. Know of any other tips I missed? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @colorcodedlife.
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Until next time, my loves (and come back Wednesday to find out who won the giveaway from last Monday!)