If you’re like most people, you’re stretched thin. You have a job that takes up more time than ever before; and a personal life with many demands on your attention. And now, unlike previously, we have the ability to accomplish tasks through technology—smartphones, laptops, and tablets. However, sometimes it can feel like there’s just no time in the day to enjoy these advances. So how do you make room for everything that matters? Here are my top eight tips:
Figure out what’s important
The first step in managing your time is to figure out what’s important. Set goals and priorities for yourself, and then schedule time for those matters. When you have a clear idea of what’s most important to you, it becomes much easier to make choices about how you spend your time each day.
Of course, there are many different kinds of goal—from career to family life—so it can feel overwhelming when trying to prioritize everything at once. However, if you focus on one or two areas at a time (for example, health), this will be easier than trying to tackle everything at once. Once you’ve decided what’s most important in your life right now, including this goal in each week’s schedule (and don’t forget the personal), together with other scheduled activities like exercise or vacation days.
Determine how you’re spending your time now
Use a time-tracking app or calendar to track how you spend your time for a week, writing down everything you do (if possible). For example Housework − 15 minutes; emails − 45 minutes; lunch with coworkers − 1 hour; afternoon meeting − 2 hours, etc.
Compare this to previous weeks (or months) and see whether there are any patterns emerging in terms of where your biggest time sucks arise—the more data points the better!
Eliminate unnecessary tasks
Eliminate tasks that don’t matter− those you have to do but don’t enjoy, or aren’t good at.
Eliminate tasks that you’re not good at because they take too much time and energy. Instead, delegate them to someone else who is better equipped than you are; or hire someone to do them for you so they are seen to immediately (more on this later).
Outsource or delegate the tasks you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at
One of the best ways of making time for the things that matter is to outsource or delegate tasks you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at.
Outsourcing can be done virtually, in person, online, and through apps—all from the comfort of your home! You can hire someone to do any number of things for you, including:
- Going grocery shopping (for a small fee)
- Organizing your schedule and calendar (for a small fee)
- Taking care of household chores like cleaning, laundry, and yard work (for a small fee)
Batch tasks for efficiency
There’s a good chance that there are tasks you do on a regular basis that can be grouped together. If you’re chronically late for meetings, for example, try scheduling such meetings earlier in the day so they don’t interfere with your other priorities. If you find yourself waiting in line at the grocery store multiple times per week, make a habit of pre-writing meal plans and shopping lists. Once a month when it’s time to go food shopping, you will have everything ready to go. You might also consider starting your workday earlier. Alternatively, you could try staying up later to complete tasks before bedtime. This would be especially so if those tasks could get in the way of something else important later in the day. You may simply be thinking that going to bed at 9:00 pm sounds better than continuing to work until midnight.
Hire people to help you with your personal life, too
If you’re looking to take on more, hire someone to help you with your personal life. The options are limitless: a real estate agent, a dog walker, a housekeeper—the possibilities are endless. You can even hire an assistant who will take care of your social media presence and other administrative tasks!
How much would this cost?
It depends on what level of service you desire. For example, if you want a professional organizer for just one day per week to come in and rid you of all items cluttering up your home (which we do recommend), the cost would be around $100 per hour for four hours ($400 total). If, instead, you need someone who will be working with you weekly or monthly throughout the year—for instance, organizing everything from closets and drawers down through financial paperwork at work—this will likely run somewhere between $40-$60 per hour, depending on how many hours they work each day (and whether they have any experience).
Schedule time for everything, including sleep and relaxation time
Another important item to go on your calendar is sleep. The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, most people actually get less than that. Sleep deprivation has a huge impact on our health and well-being, so it’s important to schedule time for it!
Also schedule time for relaxation.
When you have a busy schedule filled with work and other obligations, keeping up with all these commitments can be very stressful. Relaxation helps to return balance to your life by giving your body the opportunity to recover from the stressors of daily life; taking 10 minutes or even just 5 minutes at the end of each day (or when you can) will make a huge difference to how much energy and mental focus you have left at the end of each day. When bedtime comes around again tomorrow night, maybe you will then be able to have some restful sleep. This will be better than waking up feeling in need of an IV drip full of caffeine, with your immediate concerns on all those deadlines piled up.
Grab all the tech help you can find
One of the most important things you can do to keep your schedule on track is to use technology. A calendar app and a task manager will help you plan your time; while an assistant or virtual assistant can act as your own personal secretary.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have enough rest so that you have maximum energy for everything else (see “How to Stay Productive throughout the Day”). There are apps for tracking how long it’s been since your last break, or when it was time for bed last night, so these things won’t be forgotten!
If there are tasks that require concentration, using a timer might come in handy. Many people have trouble focusing on their work with interruptions coming from phone calls or texts from friends; however, with a timer in place, those distractions won’t impact work.
There are more options than ever before to help you get things done
In the past, you couldn’t outsource many of these tasks because they required face-to-face interaction. Now you can use technology to make it easy and affordable to delegate or outsource tasks with just a few clicks.
Virtual assistants are paid by the hour, so their services are usually much less expensive than hiring an in-house employee. Think about how much time you could save by not having to schedule meetings, answer emails yourself, manage your calendar, and more. It might be worth paying someone else $5 per hour for these services when this is a more efficient way of managing tasks! Plus, virtual assistants are always available when needed—even at night or on weekends!
If you’re looking for another way of increasing your productivity this year, try using Google Calendar or Google Keep for keeping track of your appointments and tasks. These tools make it easy to see everything that needs doing at one glance: users can color code events according to their importance level.
Managing tasks isn’t just a problem for people with very demanding jobs. Even if you work at home and make your own hours, there’s still plenty of work that needs doing. You may not have kids or other responsibilities. Nevertheless, it’s easy to become bogged down by chores and errands that take time away from what we really care about. This includes spending time with loved ones or doing something entertaining. So how do we make sure we’re spending our time on what matters most? Well, like anything else in life, there are no shortcuts or easy fixes. Notwithstanding, there are some key steps you can take before making any changes so that your time management will be sustainable long-term: know exactly what’s important to you; figure out where your current priorities lie; eliminate unnecessary tasks; outsource or delegate anything else not enjoyable or within your skill set. Next up on our list is batching tasks together whenever possible (instead of putting off until tomorrow what could easily be done today). Lastly: hire people to help with chores around the house!