I wrote an article last month in my newsletter about how to take back your time. Although I wrote it in conjunction with Take Back Your Time Day (the 24th of October), it was only shared with my newsletter subscribers and a couple of other readers. I thought I’d go ahead and post it for the new Get Simplifized readers (and for my current subscribers…because we could all use a refresher when it comes to taking back our time and being more productive)!
The truth of the matter is, we are busier than ever these days and Take Back Your Time Day doesn’t happen in a day. It takes effort and daily discipline. But believe me, once you start to focus your efforts and free yourself of distractions, you will feel more empowered, confident and motivated.
So, here we go…here are some tips for you to reclaim your day and take back your time:
1. Determine your goals and priorities in life. Most of your efforts should be geared to achieving your goals and priorities. Really think about the things you have to do as opposed to things you think you have to do. A lot of to do’s are not necessarily things we have to do. Often times the lines are blurred because we overcommit or feel obligated to things that aren’t in line with our goals and rob us of valuable time. See more on this in item #6.
2. Get your daily to-do’s under control. We put way too much on our daily to do lists. I recommend having no more than 3-5. You can maintain a master to-do list but only pick 3-5 items that you are committed to getting done in one day. When you finish them and have time for something else, refer to the master list and tackle something else. This is more reasonable…and motivating!
3. Prioritize your to-do’s. This works hand-in-hand with #2 above. Either number your to-do’s or list them in order of importance, tackling the number one or top priority first. Ask yourself: “If there’s only one thing I can get done today, what should it be?” There’s your number one priority.
4. Determine when you are most productive and use that time to get things done. For years I thought I was the most productive first thing in the morning…WRONG! Sure, I’m a morning person and I like to wake up early, but I like to reserve my mornings for working out, checking emails, and updating my calendar…basically getting warmed up for the rest of the day. I found that I’m usually most productive between 10:00-3:00pm. So, this is the time I’ve reserved for getting focused projects done. Try to figure out the time your are most focused and productive and reserve it to focus on your goals, priorities and important projects rather than menial tasks and errands.
5. Don’t procrastinate! Procrastination gets in the way of progress and causes undue stress in our lives. Get yourself in the right mentality and force yourself to get things done. Check out my post for more tips on how to combat procrastination.
6. Don’t overcommit. Try not to sign yourself up for more than you can handle. Be realistic about the time you have for work, your family and extracurricular activities. It’s ok to say NO.
7. Batch tasks…try taking care of two or more things during the same timeframe (not to be confused with multi-tasking and trying to do more than one thing at a time). For example, scrub your tub just before or after you take a shower; if you need to go upstairs, do a quick search around the first floor to gather things that need to go upstairs too; do two or more errands in the same trip/timeframe as opposed to taking separate trips.
8. Share tasks at work and home…or delegate. Ask spouses, children and coworkers to help out with yard work, laundry, cooking, chores and tasks at work.
9. Check email only a couple of times a day. Don’t get sucked into the internet! You don’t have to check your email every time you get something in your inbox or hear a ding on your phone. It’s hard to do this. It’s really hard, but once you get in the habit you will be more productive. If you can’t get into the habit of checking email only once or twice a day, at the very least, try not to check it when you are focusing on an important project…or when you know you are checking your email as an excuse to procrastinate.
10. When working on an important task turn off all distractions like the television, voicemail, email or text alerts. In line with # 9 above, this will help you stay focused and more productive.
11. Cut down your television viewing. The average amount of time we spend watching television is 20 hours a week. A week!!! We waste countless hours watching television that has nothing to do with achieving our goals and priorities. Sure, television is nice…but save it for your relaxation time after you’ve committed to getting your important tasks done first.
12. Use your electronic calendar to keep track of multiple schedules and send you appointment alerts either to your email or mobile phone. My favorite is Google Calendar. For every event you plug into your calendar, you can have the option of receiving an email notification, text notification…or both (but a word of caution…the SMS/text message will count against your allotted minutes in your cell phone plan). Anyhoos…Google Calendar is also great because you can create multiple calendars and share them with friends, family and coworkers…no more missed payments, meetings or pediatric appointments for your kids! Click here for a quick video on how to set up multiple calendars.
13. Develop routines and stick to them. See my posts on morning, nighttime, and family routines. They can make a HUGE difference in managing your time and ensuring you are ready for the day without being stressed out.
14. Develop a backwards time schedule to make sure you complete a project or arrive on time to work or an appointment. Start with your “completion” time in mind and plan backwards to ensure you meet your timelines. Be sure to be realistic about how long the preceding tasks take.
15. Hold yourself accountable with important tasks by giving them a suspense date. Is there a task you need to do like, setting up dental appointments for the kids, getting an oil change or ordering gifts but you keep putting it off? Well, instead of putting it off, deal with it and plug in a date and time on your calendar of when you can and will accomplish that task. Then keep the appointment and don’t bump it off the calendar unless you absolutely have to.
16. Be prepared for making phone calls. Before picking up your phone, make a list of things you need to talk about and questions you need to ask. That way, you won’t waste time calling someone back because your forgot to ask an important question. I even do this when I call my relatives if I have a lot of things to tell them.
17. Reward yourself!!! Stay focused on your priorities, get your important tasks done, then treat yourself to some fun stuff. It’s extremely gratifying not only when you complete your daily to-do’s but then get to chill and do something fun or relaxing.
I challenge you to adopt one, two, or several of these ways to manage and take back your time. Sure it takes effort and some discipline, but by focusing on your priorities and limiting distractions, you’ll soon find that you will be living a more productive and balanced life.
Do you have any other tips for being productive? I always love hearing about new ways to organize and simplify your life!