The new year is always a great opportunity to start fresh, with a new set of goals. This often means we want to accomplish more. So to increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goals this year, it’s a good start to free up some time in your weekly schedule and to make sure you’re productive.
Optimizing my time was actually one of my priorities in 2017. With everything I wanted to accomplish, it was clear that I had to become more effective with time management in my life. I had also realized that the tighter my schedule, the more I would feel overwhelmed and sometimes even frustrated for not being able to do more. I would often think of my friends who have kids and work full-time (I don’t have kids), wondering “How do they do it?!” So I know all you hero working moms out there must be thinking, “Welcome to the club!”.
I decided to gradually integrate new ways to improve the way I manage my time and agenda. As you’ll see, it’s the build up of many small things that you learn to do differently that will bring noticeable change.
How to Free Up Time in Your Schedule
- Prioritize the task that is most important at the moment. We often have a list of tasks that we feel are important to accomplish. However, among these tasks and TO DOs, there are always some that can be pushed back to another day. Constantly select THE task that is a must — in every little thing you do. You’ll get to the rest later. You’ll develop the habit of juggling priorities. I’ve accepted that this is the way it goes and I simply try to be zen about it.
- Plan ahead. Break your goals into tasks and break the bigger tasks into smaller tasks. Each week, plan the smaller tasks you want to get done. When tasks are written down, we tend to take it more seriously. You’ll also find some satisfaction in being able to put a check mark on a task once it’s completed. I have my goals written down in my smart phone so I can have constant access to my list and may readjust my planning whenever necessary.
- Stop reading the news (or watching the news on TV). I picked up this advice when I read Timothy Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek (a bestseller, yet somewhat controversial). It sounded weird at first, but this little change made me gain at least 30 minutes a day, if not more. And I noticed that I was not missing much. Try it and you’ll see, if something huge is happening in the news world, you’ll learn about it anyway from the people around you (at the office or at home).
- Find the right tool to manage your lists. I use a mix of my Notes and Calendar on my smart phone. There are also tools and apps that exist. Find what works for you.
- Learn to say no. I found this piece of advice here, apparently coming from Warren Buffet as being the secret to keeping your schedule empty — simply by learning to say no to requests. Don’t we often tend to say yes too quickly? And then regret it because we realize we are out of time to do the things that are more important to us? Makes a whole lot of sense to learn to politely say no more often.
- Don’t spend your time on social media. I’m sure you’ve experienced, as I have, how time can fly quickly when you spend it on social media. It is crazy! Is it really worth it? You’ll gain precious time by breaking this habit.
- Small stuff – like choosing to leave a message on voicemail instead of having a phone conversation. When you can avoid having a person-to-person call by leaving a detailed message, you easily save a few minutes. Multiply that by a few phone calls and you’ll have gained a considerable amount of time. This advice comes from Richard Carlson’s book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work. This trick may seem trivial at first but in fact you’ll possibly gain more time than you think at the end of the day.
How to Boost Your Productivity
- Exercise. Exercise boosts your energy level and makes you feel good. Personally, I realized in 2017 that by not finding time for exercise, I was getting frustrated. Always feeling disappointed in myself. For I knew I was sacrificing something important (my health) even though I was focusing on a project that holds dear to me. Last fall I decided it had to become a priority. So I did find a way — I’m now exercising at lunch time and am doing a brisk walk when commuting to work. You too can find a way to make it happen in your schedule!
- Get enough quality sleep. There’s no way around it. For me it became clear in the past few months that a lack of sleep was having a domino effect on the rest of my life. Find out the minimum number of hours your body requires in order to perform well and stick with it.
- Place most important tasks in the morning. Most people are more productive in the morning. So it makes sense to focus on our most important and urgent work during that time of day and to keep lighter tasks for the afternoon.
- Focus on the present. If you make the effort and concentrate on ‘being in the now’, you’ll think more clearly. By concentrating on one task at a time, you’ll be more efficient and will probably reduce your anxiety level because you’ll notice you’re accomplishing more this way.
- Beware of multitasking. While working on a task, do not get distracted by answering the phone that’s ringing. Nor by looking at your phone every 5 minutes to see if new messages have come in.
- Keep some free time in your schedule to disconnect. Make sure you keep a couple blocks of 30 minutes for yourself each day. To have time to relax, think, exercise, meditate — do whatever pleases you. You’ll be more productive when you go back to your tasks.
I hope these tricks will help you achieve your goals in 2018. May this year be filled with amazing projects and success for each and everyone of you!
Any other tricks or tools you would add to this list? What are the little things you do differently that make you more productive? Let me know below!