Declutter Your Calendar and Free Up Time
How often do you find yourself wishing you could free up time to do the things you really want? We get so caught up in the day-to-day that we forget to enjoy living our lives. It’s time to start taking control of our schedules. Do you want to lose another day to busy-ness, or do you want to treasure the way you spend your time?
Here are 16 ways to free up time for living your life.
1. Identify Priorities
Make sure you’re clear on what’s really important to you and allocate your time and energy proportionally. Here are some tips for setting priorities.
2. Turn off the TV
The average American spends 5 hours a day in front of the TV. If you’re taking the time to read this post I’m going to go out on a limb and assume your TV-viewing time is below the national average. However, most people watch some TV and it can be a real time-suck. If you need a break, try going for a walk or doing some light reading instead of turning on the TV.
3. Minimize Your Space
Free up time by having less stuff and keeping what you do have where it belongs. Less stuff means less stuff to take care of. Less to buy, clean, repair, organize, and less to overwhelm your home or work environment. Check out this simple guide to decluttering your space.
There are so many tasks that can be automated for you:
- Social media with tools like Hootsuite and Buffer
- Email with tools like MailChimp and MailerLite
- Meal prep with delivery services, like those listed here
- Errands with grocery delivery and other errand services
- Cleaning with housekeeping services
- Bill auto-pay through your bank
- You get the idea
5. Audit Your Time
Take a couple days to write down everything you do, when, and how long it takes you. You will likely find you’re spending way too much time on things that aren’t important to you. You can also use tools like RescueTime to log your computer activity and send you a report. Automated time audit!
6. Do the Little Things When You Think of Them
If something is going to take you just a couple minutes to get done, don’t add it to your to-do list or tell your spouse, “Don’t let me forget to send that check.” Just get it done now.
7. Turn off Email and Social Media Notifications
Nothing is more distracting than your phone beeping at you every couple minutes or your email notification incessantly popping up in the corner of your monitor. Turn off the notifications, and schedule in an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to catch up on your communications. I recommend starting with email in case you get pulled into the web of Facebook. Allow yourself to get sucked in if you must, but when the hour’s up put it away and move on to whatever’s next on your schedule.
8. Get Away from All Distractions
If turning off notifications doesn’t keep you from checking your phone all the time, move it to another room. If you have a chatty co-worker, listen to headphones (or pretend you are). I used to work at my kitchen table, where I could see my to-do pile, the TV, the dishes in the dish rack, my tea drawer, snack drawer, and other things that would call to me as a distraction. Now, I sit facing a window with nothing beckoning me as an excuse for procrastination.
9. Combine Thinking Activities with Physical Activities
I am not normally an advocate for multitasking, but occasionally it makes sense. For example, when listening to a recorded meeting or a webinar that doesn’t require note-taking, I often do household chores like sweeping the floor and folding laundry. These activities don’t require any thought, so I feel that whatever I’m listening to gets nearly full attention. That said, what I won’t do is listen while on my daily walks. There’s just something to be said for letting the mind wander when the body is in constant motion.
10. Incorporate Little Efficiencies in Every Activity
Look for ways you can save a few minutes here and there. For example, pre-sorting silverware as it goes into the dishwasher and putting things away as you move from one room to the next. I always buy clothes that go with everything else I own so I don’t have to spend time putting together outfits.
11. Get Enough Sleep
You might think you’re getting more done by staying up late and getting up early, but you’re likely less productive than you would be if you got a full night’s sleep. Not to mention the time lost when you catch the flu because your lack of sleep lowered your immune system or all those doctor appointments for your future hypertension. If you’re waking to an alarm clock every day, you aren’t getting enough sleep.
12. Say No
You’ve no doubt heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. It’ important to learn to say no to things you don’t want to spend your time on. Practice coming up with ways to say no that you’re comfortable with. For example:
“I’d love to take that on but I just don’t think I can give it the attention it deserves”
“Sure, I can do that thing but I’m also doing this thing and can’t do both. Which would you prefer I work on?”
13. Don’t be a Martyr
If you’re taking on projects just so someone else won’t have to, knock it off. If you’re worried that someone you care about is taking on too much, be a role-model instead of a martyr. Show them how you take control of your own calendar and help them brainstorm how they can do the same.
14. Have a To-do List but Keep it Short
Have two or three must-dos in a day and do them first thing. That way, you feel accomplished and every other task is just a bonus. AND if you feel like blowing off those bonus tasks every once in a while, no harm done because the important things are taken care of.
15. Slow Down
“Why would slowing down help me free up time,” you ask? Because it allows us the opportunity to take a step back and gain some perspective. So often we assign a high level of importance to things that really just aren’t. Here’s some tips for slowing your roll.
16. Set a Schedule and Stick To It
Step one: schedule everything. Step two: follow the schedule.
There are so many ways to free up time. Try one or two that stuck out and give it a shot. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re trying to keep up with busy work that isn’t all that important in the big picture. Or, is important but can be done more efficiently.
This post is part of a series following the 100-day gong practice developed by Pedram Shojai for The Art of Stopping Time. If you would like to read other posts in the series, click here. If you would like to receive emails following the series from the beginning, click here.