Does your life move steadily forward at a comfortable pace? Probably not. One week I’ll have tons of free time and the next I’ll have tons of client work, personal projects to finish and half a dozen places to go. Trying to find a way to make things work when your calendar is bursting at the seams can be a challenge, but personally I’d be bored to death if every day/week/month was the same. How’s that for looking for a positive in everything? Today I want to share a few ways that keep me sane when there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get what I need done.
Prioritize your tasks
While it seems like everything you do is important, chances are you can pretty easily name the tasks that absolutely must get done and the tasks you would like to do get done. Whether it’s mentally or written on the back of an old Chipotle receipt try to pull out your top 3-5 tasks that need to get done and then, once those are done, move on.
Wake up an hour earlier
My general wake up time is just before 8am because that’s when my husband leaves for work and I usually can’t pull myself out of the warmth of the bed until he’s gone. Isn’t that silly? But when I get up early, even just an hour earlier, I am so motivated and impressed with the things I can knock off my list by noon. My very first foster puppy, Belle, was not a fan of her crate for several weeks so we woke up at about 5am everyday. It was so early that it was still dark out when I would let her out and then we would come inside and I would get 2-3 hours of completely focused work in before Blaine would even wake up. It was amazing and honestly? I didn’t feel much more tired than I did getting up later.
Go to bed an hour later
This won’t work for everyone, but it definitely works for me when the time is right. I think a lot of creatives work really well at night. Most nights I’m ready for bed by 9 or 10, but if I get the energy to stay up until 1am it’s usually because I am on a roll. If you’ve got the creative juices flowing and can afford to lose a few extra hours of sleep I say go for it! There’s nothing like going to bed completely exhausted and knowing you were extremely productive!
As obvious as this sounds, take a moment to brainstorm a bit and you might be able to shave some time off of different tasks. I’m the ultimate multitasker, to a point where sometimes I do it too much and boil over a pot of water on the stove while I’m swiffering in the other room and then get distracted by something that needs to be put away. But if you do it right multitasking can be such a time saver. For example, most mornings I wake up, throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, turn on a podcast and speed clean for at least 20 minutes (or until the podcast is over). That means I’m cleaning, learning/getting inspired and moving my body (I count it as exercise to an extent) all at once.
Re-evaluate regular activities
Do you really need to spend 20 minutes on facebook as soon as you wake up in the morning? I quit facebook (mostly) and I’ve found that not only do I have more time, my mind is more clear. Think about the things you currently fit into your day. You only have 24 hours and many of those hours are spent sleeping. Try cutting out a few things by asking “is this something I truly enjoy or that is moving me towards one of my goals?” If not, try dumping it for a week and see how you feel.
Set a timer
One of my favorite methods of gaining more time is just setting a timer. It’s such a simple way for me to get focused and increase my productivity drastically. I tend to work much more efficiently knowing I have 35 minutes to work on a project than if I just start with no end-time in mind.
This is so hard for me. In general I like to think of myself as relatively laid back, but when it comes to things I need to get done I have so much trouble delegating! Whether it’s asking your kids to take out the trash or hiring someone to do some design work for your website, it may seem like something you can do quickly, but even delegating a few small tasks each day can free up your time and your mind because it’s one less thing you’re reminding yourself to do all day. (Shameless plug: if you need design or blog help, let’s talk!)
Hit pause and do what’s distracting you
Sometimes you’re doing your best to work or finish a task and your mind keeps drifting. Whether it’s the dirty dishes in the sink that you can see out of the corner of your eye or the fact that you know an episode of Parenthood is on your DVR. If you can’t focus you’re not working efficiently and in some cases it might be better to stop what you’re doing and come back to it when you can focus.
Be ok with not doing it all today
For me, this is one of my biggest struggles. At the beginning of each week I have a general feel for the work I have to schedule out for the week ahead. But somehow Monday’s are always insanely stressful, Tuesdays are a little better and then the three days after are usually quite easy in comparison. Make sure you’re only prioritizing things that need to be done today and not trying to complete a weeks worth of tasks in one day. Not only will you fail, but you will feel terrible for failing and that will carry on to the next day and so on. Remove the expectation and focus on a realistic amount of things to get done each day.
Hopefully these will help you as much as they’ve helped me! I’m not an expert on time management and productivity, but with several years of owning businesses and the past two years of being a freelancer has taught me a lot.