You can never get your time back. As a matter of fact, time is called the one big equalizer because it doesn’t matter if you are the President of the United States or the janitor, we all abide by the same clock.
It’s true that the pace of life accelerates as we get older. We have so much more to do than when we were teenagers hanging out all day during the summer. As adults we are even more away of the fact that there is NEVER enough time. In fact, I can’t recall a single person ever saying to me, “I wish I had less time.”
If you are like me you no doubt have lists of things you must do, things you want to do, places you want to go, people you want to meet, and a whole lifetime worth of ideas to keep yourself busy. But what do you do when you can’t even accomplish the must-do’s. When it just feels like you are always out of time.
Here are 7 ways to feel like you have more time.
1. Stop saying, “I never have enough time”
I love the quote from Karol K. Truman that says, “The words we use, use us” in her book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. So if you keep saying you never have enough time your brain will search for confirmation that you indeed never have enough time. It’s called the Confirmation Bias. So if you want to feel like you have more time, start by saying, “I always have enough time for the things that are most important to me.” Then start to notice how much easier it is to get done the things that are important.
2. Identify your boulders, pebbles, and sand
I first heard this story from Stephen Covey. It’s perfect for all you high-achievers out there. Imagine this…I’ve got a large glass container and first I fill it with a dozen fist sized rocks that fill the container to the very top. Is the container full?
Nope, now I will fill the container with pebbles. And just for good measure I jiggle it around so the pebbles make their way around the boulders. Is the container full? Nope, now I fill the container with sand. As the sand fills in all the spaces, do you think the container is full?
You are probably on to me. There is still room. Next comes the water. Now, what do you think the point of this is? You might think it’s to show that there is always room to fit more in, but you’d be wrong.
The point is that if you don’t put in your big boulders first, you’ll never get them all done. So take time each day to figure out what’s important to you. Ideally do this before you go to bed the night before. You’ll sleep better knowing you have all the most important things scheduled in your calendar.
3. Document where your time goes
Just like we can forget how many extra calories we end up eating throughout the day if we don’t track our meals, the same is true of time. Just try this little experiment. For three full days, ideally two workdays and one weekend, write down how you spend every 30 minutes of your day. This may seem extreme but you will often be surprised at how much time is spent on things we don’t value.
I know a Vice President who is always at work at least 10 hours a day. He used to say that he never gets anything done because he spends so much time chatting with people. For you it might be watching TV, reading the entire magazine when you are only interested in a few articles, hanging out at the gym after you’re done working out. Whatever it is, you can plug the leaky holes where time just seems to fall into never, never land, once you know where you are spending your time.
4. Time Block Daily
If you want to get a lot done you need to practice working without interruptions. It’s very hard to slash through your to-do list if you start one thing, move to something else, and then eventually return to the original project. Each time we shift gears it requires more brain power to get back in the right frame of mind. This is why I suggest you practice time blocking.
Let’s start with daily. Each day you want to have at least three 50 minute blocks of time where you can focus on the three most important things you need to get done that day. If the project will take more than 50 minutes simply get up, take a 10-minute break and then come back to the project. When you do this can tackle a lot more, in less time.
5. Time Block Weekly
Now let’s talk about weekly scheduling. Let’s face it, there are tasks that you have to do that just suck up a lot of time. Going through the mail (both physical and email), cleaning the house, driving the kids around, etc. Plan to have two days a week where you tackle these projects that require less brain power. This will allow you to be super focused and productive when you schedule your three power days. The other two days of the week should be down time for you to simply enjoy family time or “me-time.” We need time to recover from the hustle and bustle of the week.
6. Train others how to best work with you
When you are juggling a lot you need to outline for others the best way to get a response from you or to get on your calendar. You can start by teaching people your preferred method to responding to requests for your time. Maybe you are better when you get an email outlining the event, time commitment expected from you, and reason why you need to attend. Maybe you want your team to put everything they need you to do on a sticky note every morning and put it on the fridge. Regardless of how you like to organize your life you want to train people the best way to give you the information you need to create your schedule.
The other thing you want to do is to get your family and coworkers using your calendar. When you are juggling a lot you need everyone on your team to be using the same calendar to schedule your time. Assuming you don’t have a personal assistant you can still be successful using this approach. Simply provide access to your calendar for those people that need it. You can do this in all major email providers like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and more.
7. Master the mindset
When your days are incredibly busy it can feel like your head also becomes overly busy, thinking about all the things you need to get done. You need to master staying in the present if you want to manage your time. There is nothing like jumping from one activity to the next, not really appreciating the importance of that activity.
Practice staying present by setting an intention for each event on your calendar. How do you want to feel when you start the activity and how do you want to feel when you are done? Let this guide your attitude as you attend to your schedule. You’ll be surprised how much more engaged you can be when you know how you want to feel while juggling your schedule.
Let us know which time-saving trick resonated with you the most! What are your current strategies for creating more time in your life?