Have you ever looked at a successful person and asked yourself “How are they able to get so much done?” Although we all have the same 24 hours, 1440 minutes and 86,400 seconds in a day, many of us spend over 15 hours of it in wasted, unplanned and unproductive time. The most successful people know how much time they have and schedule their tasks to create a finished product based on a deadline or goal. We are often forced to incorporate such discipline at work or school but don’t see the benefit in carrying the process into the our personal and leisure lives.
Like many Americans I work a traditional 8 hour schedule which includes a drive commute of about 30 minutes one way. As a single mom, I have to also take my son to school, prepare meals after work, assist with homework, chauffeur him to his activities, maintain a clean house, laundry and replenish food and supplies. My life is really no different from the average mom except for how I use my time. Eight hours of sleep have long been over for me and my body is trained to function on less, more like 6 hours. Here are my tips for cultivating more time to productivity rather than waste.
1.- Plan your Month, Week & Day– Using a planner is a useful and effective way to stay abreast of how your time is under utilized. I have a Month- at-a-glance calendar which I put all important activities like bills, events, birthdays, deadlines and goals. On a weekly calendar that is broken up by days I can then assign each of those activities in detail. Review your tasks by the day on the night before so it is the last impression on your brain before falling asleep. You will be more likely to accomplish those things once awake because your brain has already received the message that they need to be done.
2-Plan Your Decisions Ahead of Time- The less decisions you have to make when you initially wake up the more time you have to actually get something accomplished. Planning to exercise before work or school? Have your clothes laid out by your bed so you can jump right into them and head to the gym (or pack your gym bag the night before and place it in your car). Decide what you will wear for the day ahead of time, taking care of any ironing or matching needs the night before. If you know there won’t be left overs available to take for lunch, allow yourself additional time to stop and pick up a prepared sandwich, salad or fruit bowl rather than waiting to get to work and have to make yet another decision.
3.- Checks & Balance When using a calendar it doesn’t do much good to write down the information if you aren’t going to check off tasks as complete or move the task to the next day in preparation for completing it. Monitor how well you keep up with your tasks and adjust as needed. Some days you simply won’t be able to do as much as others. Create balance even in your schedule.
4- Get up an hour to two hours earlier This is especially helpful in handling things around the house that typically would remain for Saturday mornings like laundry, meal preparations, or cleaning. I have deemed this extra time to building ME while my kids are still asleep. I use it for devotional time, physical workouts or self-development.
5- Multi-task as often as possible Busy people rarely take the time to read. If that is a challenge get audio books or connect your Bluetooth to listen in while you drive/ride to work, walk on treadmill or elliptical or schedule it as your “LUNCH”. Assist your kids with homework while you cook, wash dishes or fold laundry. Instead of just watching your weekly favorite TV episode, prepare your meals for the week and cut out your coupons during the commercials. Now you’re saving time and money!
6- Use those “useless minutes” to begin and finish a simple task– If you work in an environment that offers scheduled breaks and lunches instead of menial conversations in the break room, update your social medial platforms and once completed don’t look at them again after you get off. Use your drive times for phone calls so you aren’t distracted once you arrive home (follow your cities cellphone while driving laws), I have all calls on Bluetooth.
7- Schedule ALL Computer Time- The Whole World seems to be active on multiple social media platforms but if you aren’t careful they can easily consume your day. Schedule a specific amount of time and stick too it, this includes personal email. If it is most important that you make a certain number of post, then do those first before reading what others have posted on your feed. I decide on my pictures for Instagram and post during my breaks to prevent wasted time.
8. Its Time to PLAY- As important as it is to be a responsible adult, you should always make time for play. Doing things that you love and enjoy will build your energy and keep you healthy. The more you laugh the more you keep illness away from you. I have a weekly class that I schedule for myself and a weekend activity that I schedule with my children. This is also a great way to ensure that your family and loved ones are a priority and know it by your behavior.
9- Be OKAY with saying “NO”– When you learn to schedule your time, you will quickly find out how much of it you have available. Don’t feel bad if you have to tell someone “NO” because you are unable to fulfill a request because your schedule won’t allow it. Don’t even put energy into an explanation.
10- Be Realistic Yet Flexible – This process is designed to assist in managing your time, not taking over your life. Be certain that the expectations you set for yourself are both realistic and allow room for flexibility. Nothing in life is perfect, but making the necessary decisions ahead of time to complete tasks as they are scheduled should make your life smoother and more productive.