You're running around like the proverbial chicken with your head cut off, right? Running to catch the train to work, rushing through lunch. (An hour? More like five minutes.) And then running home to change before a date or make sure your kids get dinner before bedtime.
As it turns out, this problem is less of a modern epidemic than we think. According to this CNN article, people have more leisure time than they've ever had before–we're guessing it has something to do with all of our gadgets—so the issue comes down to time management. That makes sense considering the housewife scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees 100 years ago also had 24 hours to her day, just like the working woman cleaning with a Swiffer WetJet. Take heart knowing you're not the only one going through it or who ever has. Help is on the way.
We've condensed some of the best advice about how to manage your time, so you can get the time you need for yourself, in the face of your obligations. Peace of mind is right around the corner!
Define your situation and your wants
Take your vague fantasies out of the realm of possibility into reality by writing down how you're actually spending your days. Take a week to diary your activities so you can figure out where there are pockets of time you may not be taking advantage of, you might be surprised to find them. That hour of Facebook time in the morning might be better spent exercising or meditating. This will also help you come up with a solid plan. Write down ways in which you would like to be able to relax during free time. Playing tennis? Reading a book? Maintaining a Bonsai garden?
Make a (short) list
It's important to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Time management experts suggest a daily to-do list that includes only three main activities. Once you get those done, consider the rest of your time yours. List one of those "you" free time activities at least once per week. Writing it down helps you keep it in mind, to actually do it.
Limiting yourself to three activities can sound easier said than done, especially when you have a family. That's why it's important to delegate. Can you afford a weekly housekeeper? Are your kids old enough to start pitching in with chores? Certainly your partner is. Don't be afraid to organize household chores and delegate them. The same goes at work. Is there an intern you're not utilizing or an admin assistant?
Studies have shown that we tend to fill up all the time we allot to our tasks. For example, if you have six hours to get a project done, you'll spend six hours doing it, when it could be done in three. Give yourself shortened deadlines, breaking up bigger tasks into smaller ones with short breaks in between. Many people claim this is the way to accomplis things faster over all and with less stress.
Use your leisure time as an incentive
No matter how hard we try, there are days when our obligations feel overwhelming, leading us to procrastinate, wasting precious you time. This is when you pull out your list and focus on that free time you scheduled in for you. Use it as a reward for powering through your work right now. You might find you'll be less inclined to check Twitter for 30 minutes when you know that 30 minutes is going to be spent later on in a nice, hot, relaxing bath or with your Bonsai trees.
Revisit what time to yourself means
Chances are you're already spending some time with yourself, you're just not seeing it that way. In addition to taking advantage of spare time for more meaningful activities, you can reduce stress by seeing your schedule in a new light. Do you grocery shop on your own? Do you commute to work by yourself? You can make these times more enjoyable by listening to your favorite music or a book on tape while you do it. Or you can just take a minute to appreciate not being surrounded by anyone immediately asking you to do something for them.
Follow these time-saving tips
Of course all of these methods are solid ways to change your life on a long term basis, which is the ultimate goal. But what can you do right now to eliminate time inefficiencies?
- Consider some prelim cleanup while you're making dinner, avoiding having to clean the entire kitchen once the eating is done.
- Post a piece of paper on the fridge, committing everyone to write down when they've used the last of a food item, so you have a running grocery list.
- Wake up earlier. Successful people swear by this. Some people wake up as early as 5 a.m. But you'll be surprised how much getting out of bed just 20 minutes earlier can help.
- Give everyone in your household a designated basket for mail, keys, etc. This saves the chore of sifting through a pile of random mail we tend to do on weekly basis.
- Plan your outfit and pack your bag the night before so it's ready in the morning.
- Commit yourself to checking (at least personal) email only twice per day: at noon and 4:00.
- Go through and unsubscribe from distracting newsletter emails that aren't important for you to read.
- Review your to-do list for the next day the evening before.
Do you have any time saving tips you'd like to share? Feel free to leave them in comments!