If you're anything like me, you've thought on more than one occasion, "Man, if I could have just a few more minutes/hours in the day..."
But, alas, we're all stuck with the same 24 hours - no more, no less.
And in that time, we're asked to cram so much – work, kids, spouses, friends, family, volunteering, errands. It can feel like we're already packed to the max, without a spare second for anything else.
Which is why, when we introduce the idea of "building capacity" during our trainings – and that things like exercise, eating well, meditation and showing appreciation (among others) are a must if you're truly going to thrive – people tend to look at us like we've grown a second head.
"Exercise? Meditate? WHEN?! There's only 24 hours in a day – and I'm already so busy!"
And, boy, do I get it.
But, lately, something funny has been happening. Whenever I hear the "only 24 hours in a day" mantra, by brain gets filled with a phrase that I saw on a coffee mug once:
That's right. "You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce."
Not a big Beyonce fan? Yeah, me either (sorry, fellow Millennials). Doesn't matter, though – pick someone else that has accomplished great things and who you respect; the lesson remains the same: me, you, my dad, the mailman, Beyonce, the Queen of England – we ALL only have 24 hours in a day.
So instead of being a Negative Nancy that says, "I only have 24 hours in a day; there's only so much I can do," let's instead start saying, "There are lots of people out there changing the world one 24-hour day at the time – what can I learn from them?"
In my mind, the first lesson to learn is this: we must start making better use of our day. We should be spending time on things that are meaningful, fulfilling and worthwhile to us – and letting go of the things that aren't.
Now I'm not saying you can't relax – believe me, I am a MASTER Netflix binger – or that you won't have to drop something you're doing to put out someone else's fire every now and again. That's going to happen. But to truly take back control of our time, we have to start making a concerted effort to understand how we're using our minutes and hours – and make different choices if we don't like what we see.
Below are some of my favorite tips for finding more time. Not every single one is going to work for you and/or your family situation, but maybe finding just one will be enough.
1. Audit Your Day
Whenever we suggest that people incorporate meditation, exercise or weekly date night into their schedule, we inevitably hear, "I don't have time for that." And I get it. We're all busy. But how much of your time is taken up by things that appear busy, but in actuality, are just a waste of time?
To find more time, try getting a better handle on how you're spending it currently. Take a day or two and track your activities – right down to the five- and ten-minute blocks. How often are you checking email? How many hours of Netflix are you bingeing each night? How many trips to the coffee pot or vending machine did you make? How often did you scroll through Facebook? How late did you roll out of bed?
Chances are, there's at least a little time here or there that you could be using more wisely. I'd challenge you to find 30-60 minutes each day that could be used more productively and earmark it for something else useful.
I know, I know. Prioritizing is so much easier in theory than it is in practice. After all, my priorities aren't always the same as my boss's, coworker's, kid's, spouse's, family's, etc. – and sometimes what I want to focus on falls to the wayside. We all face that struggle in some way, shape or form.
But there's another school of thought out there to consider: if you're feeling "too busy" or "overwhelmed," it may be because you're not prioritizing very well.
So take it one day at a time, one big rock at a time. What is one thing you want to get done today? That thing that would make you say, "Even if the rest of my schedule gets blown to hell, I will feel good if this one thing gets accomplished." It might be at home, at work, with a community group you're part of – doesn't matter. Just start small.
Once you're routinely checking off that one big rock daily, increase it to two or three big rocks. You'll find that as your capacity to execute improves, it will be easier and easier to accomplish more big rocks in the same 24 hours.
3. Sort Your To-Do List by Time Required
This was a suggested "time hack" that came up in a coaching call a few weeks ago, and I think other to-do list makers out there might appreciate it.
It's pretty common that we find ourselves with tiny blocks of time here and there throughout the day. Five minutes in between meetings. Ten minutes waiting for soccer practice to get over. And it's easy to let those chunks get wasted because it feels like they're not big enough to accomplish much with. In reality, though, those blocks could be a little more useful if you plan ahead.
Consider expanding your to-do list by adding how much time is required to complete each task. Have a batch of five-, ten-, fifteen- and twenty-minute tasks (or whatever time blocks work best for you), in addition to those tasks that require 30 minutes or more. Then, when you find yourself with five minutes, instead of running to the vending machine, shoot off a quick and easy email or take out the trash or put away that pile of clothes that's been sitting on the couch for three days (oh, is it just me that does that?!).
Small chunks of time don't have to be wasted – they just need to be accounted for ahead of time.
4. Group Tasks That Take Up Too Much Scattered Time (and Turn of Notifications!)
Email. Facebook. I'm looking at you.
How much of your day is wasted checking email or social media here and there, and losing your place in something more important because you're distracted by a notification? If you're like me, probably too much.
Turn off the notifications and assign yourself certain times to check email/social media. Maybe you only visit your inbox at 9:00, 1:00 and 4:00. Answer as many emails as you can, file those that don't need a response or forward them to someone who's better equipped to handle the request. Ditto with social media – maybe you only check it over lunch.
We let too many of these things control our attention – and it's time to take that power back.
(PS – Tim Ferriss goes much more in-depth on this strategy of time management in his book "The Four-Hour Work Week." If that's something that interests you, I'd definitely recommend checking it out!)
5. Delegate or Outsource
I am just as guilty as the next person of believing that I must be the one to do certain things. I must write our blog posts. I must pay the bills at home. I must be the one to take the dog to the vet. But you know what?
That just isn't true.
Many of us, whether we choose to believe it or not, have the ability to delegate or outsource tasks that are a) taking up too much of our time and are menial, or b) better done by someone else.
I can delegate certain blog posts to other people on my team. I can ask my husband to run the dog to the vet. I can set up autopay on my bills. Any or all of those would help me put more time in my day.
On the same note, there are things in my life that – in order to get more time in my day or use it in a way that's more valuable to me – I am willing to pay to outsource. For example, I really hate cleaning my house. I'd rather use that time on the weekends to go with my husband to the farmer's market, or visit my family, or travel. So, every now and again, I pay to have someone take over house-cleaning duties for the week (and, let's face it, they're probably better at it than me anyways). Other possible areas of outsourcing to consider include:
- Getting a dog-walker
- Hiring a lawn service
- Paying a babysitter so you can go out on date night
- Having the dealership come and pick your car up for repairs
- Hiring a part-time accountant or assistant to help with your small-business logistics
Outsourcing may or may not be available to you based on your financial situation, but it might be – and it's worth considering based on your priorities.
An Additional thought on outsourcing – Your Time is Worth Something
For many of us, it's very easy to say, "I'll just do it myself, since it's cheaper." Whether it's home repairs/renovations, doing your taxes, or cleaning the house, we often default to taking it on ourselves instead of outsourcing it as a way to save money. Before you do it, though, I would encourage you to ask this question:
"What is my time worth?"
Too frequently, we say it's "cheaper" to do somemthing on our own without considering the opportunity costs. What are you giving up? It might be that you're simply giving up time that is better spent doing something else (e.g., quality time with family). But it might also mean that you're spending time on a job that could be done faster (and potentially at a higher caliber) than you could do it.
Now, I'm not saying don't do things on your own – if you're a DIYer, more power to you! What I'm suggesting is only that you remember that your time is worth something – so make sure the return you're getting on that investment is worth it.
Alright, we've talked about lots of ways to find more time in your day. Now what?
Fill it with something meaningful! Meditation, exercise, healthy eating, date night, playing games with your kids, going for a walk – all of these (and many others) will make it even easier to expand your mental and physical capacity for success.
Being "busy" isn't an explanation – it's an excuse. And when you start thinking of it that way, you open the door to all sorts of possibilities.