We all get the same amount of time in a day. We only have 24 hours. That's the glass half empty perspective. It sounds sort of negative. We always have 24 hours! That's the glass half full perspective. It sounds much more positive, right? Many people frequently complain about being too busy. Busy busy busy. I have said it myself as well! Life is busy. But, it's ONLY as busy with as much as we willingly allow in our day, week, month, year... Everyone has different priorities on what they value spending time on so the argument that I commonly hear, "I wish I weren't so busy. I can't fit as much into my day as you" isn't truly valid. It just simply means that that particular person has their own priorities that may not match another's. So why does it sound like complaining without a willingness to seek change? How can one make better use of their time to accomplish more in the SAME 24 hours that we are each thankfully allotted every day?
I think most people may not even realize that they can or want to change. They simply feel that this is their life, it's normal to be busy without accomplishing everything they want to do, and do not see a way to improve it. However, it really is quite simple! It takes some planning and multi-tasking, but it can be accomplished. P-L-A-N-N-I-N-G I know the thought of that sends shivers down many people's spines. But, that's what it takes! Keep a calendar handy, y'all. Things are getting real. In fact, I keep two calendars: paper and iPhone. I need to see it with my eyes to truly remember it, but like the reminders on my phone as well as the easy access to always having my phone with me.
I frequently hear from friends that I am one of the busiest persons they know sprinkled in with the occasional, "How do you have time to do that?" or "I wish I had time to do that" or "Don't tell my (insert boyfriend or husband) that you do those things for the loved one because I don't want him to expect that from me". I AM NOT saying that as a bragging point AT ALL, but merely to express that I have heard this over and over again these past four + years or so. Because of that, I feel like I should share how I accomplish what I accomplish which may be considered helpful tips for someone. That being said, I will use the disclaimer that I do not have children and I live by myself so understand that those two things alone can be a major game changer compared to a mama running her household with children and possibly a career, etc.
What's good for one person may not ever work for another's life, but just in case here's 14 ideas to consider on how to increase productivity in your day based on how I operate in mine.
14 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Day:
- WAKE UP! Wake up, wake up, wake up. You can get soooo much done in the mornings. Less than four years ago I thought I would never, ever wake up early before work. Ever. My mode of operation at that time was to wake up with just enough time to maybe make a cup of coffee on my way out the door and frequently had a wet up-do (bun). Then, my company at the time's building opened a gym inside of the building on December 1, 2011. After a couple of weeks working out after work, my friend/coworker asked me to join her in the mornings. I said NO WAY! I did not think I could wake up early and certainly did not want to cart my stuff to the gym to shower there. Noooo way! Well, I caved to her pursuit. After the 2nd time working out in the morning I was hooked. My evening was FREE! I had more energy. I didn't battle the afternoon energy slump which frequently caused me to talk myself out going to the gym or the easy excuse of leaving the office late. I had time to run errands, cook dinner, go to events with my friends, whatever I wanted! WAKE UP! Start by setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier, or an hour earlier. I promise within a week you will be used to it. I promise. This alone changed my life.
- QUIET TIME (or rather, personal time) is critical to allow yourself each day. Even if you are opposed to working out, you can use this new free time in the morning for other things including quiet time with God, reading, household chores that may need to get done, anything that betters YOUR day. DO NOT work on work stuff. This is your reward time. You will feel better for the entire day by giving yourself this time before it gets essentially stolen from you when your day gets off track and your evening to-do list goes awry. I've recently started making the shift (to not hit snooze) to wake up at 4 AM to allow myself 30 minutes of reading time. I also get in to work 45 minutes earlier than needed to allow myself quiet time at work to get personal things done as well as get a jump start on work emails so my transition into the day is smooth.
- WORK OUT IN THE MORNING if you can. Just do it. See #1 above. It changed my life. Working out improves your mood, boosts endorphin's, and obviously improves your health. If the morning workout cannot work for your schedule then make the concerted effort to keep a strict schedule to include working out after work. If you can, work out at lunch. Just get it done! I wake up no later than 4:20 AM to get to the gym by 5 AM. I used to wake up at 4:45 to 5 AM to work out on my own but I have shifted to earlier to take 5 AM classes. After 4 years of this though, I hardly flinch when my alarm goes off in the morning. My mind starts racing with thoughts and my to-do lists and I get up and get motoring. Get yourself a work out buddy to hold you accountable to show up! You can work with each other to make sure you both are awake in the morning's too. It helps! I am also an exception in that I can read while I run on the treadmill. It is a gift. It is a blessing. It is magic. If you can't read and run, or read and walk - you might be able to Pinterest and walk on an incline... I had a year + battle of health issues and 5 surgeries (3 of which were not planned) that hindered my work outs. But, I found motivation to keep moving when I could (with Dr.'s consent) by walking on an incline and Pinterest'ing or reading!
- START YOUR LAUNDRY before leaving for the gym, or before getting in to the shower. I know that by the time I get back or shortly after getting out of the shower that the washing will be done. Then I can transfer the load to the dryer while I finish getting ready. Done and done! If I have laundry to do when I get home from work then I start the washing immediately so that it can run while I do other things, and transfer it to the dryer before I start cooking or leave for dinner.
- LISTEN TO PODCASTS OR AUDIO BOOKS while you get ready in the morning. This is an uplifting way for me to start the day because I listen to Christian podcasts from my favorite pastors. I'm learning about the word of God, I'm receiving a positive message for the day, and it has the power to change any bad mood I may have into one of thankfulness. If you enjoy reading but find you don't have time, download an audio book! This can be educational or fictional, but either way you will enjoy it all the while you're getting ready for work. Obviously, listening to the news can be your thing too, it's helpful and productive because it will save you time from reading the stories online later and you can use that time for other things like ordering groceries! (See below.) My podcast list currently: Joyce Meyer, Marriage Today, Love & Respect, Breakaway Ministries, and Hope City.
- MAKE TO-DO LISTS and then organize them based on priority and logistics. Knock out the important ones of course, but factoring in where the stores are located and their opening hours will help you structure which places you go to first. I do this every week. And if I have a lot of errands to do on a weekend, I look at what time each store opens so that I can stagger the stores to go to each one right when they open so that I do not have to fight traffic, parking, or crowds. I am an online shopper at heart, so those three things are major deterrents for me. Especially with the holidays fast approaching, we can best utilize our time this way. It is not uncommon for me to be at the Galleria (mall) the minute they open so that I am out of there before it gets crowded and you cannot find parking. Have I mentioned you need to WAKE UP?? Anyway, making to-do lists help you stay organized while giving you a sense of accomplishment as you cross them off of your list.
- SCHEDULE everything. Plan. I cannot emphasize this enough. PLAN! This is how I get so much done. I plan. I am a planner to an annoying degree. But it helps me structure my life to get the most done, know when* I will get it done, and know when* I have free time for the impending mental break I always need as an introvert. I need down time. A lot. Scheduling also gives you highlights to look forward to instead of feeling aimless because you don't have plans or anything to do. You do! And you will!
- SHOP ONLINE as much as you can. I love to shop, but 99% time I love to shop online. I do this here and there throughout the day. I do not devote time sitting down to aimlessly scroll websites. This is why most of my shopping is accomplished during the week and I rarely look at the advertisement emails over the weekend. I have a filter set up to SORT those emails automatically into a folder based on store names or the word "sale" so that I don't even see them in my inbox on my phone. Clever. ;) Shopping online reduces the amount of time it takes to drive somewhere, meander around a store, try things on, wait in line, then drive home. Yes, there are risks to shopping online as sizing can be off, but you'll know your size from your regular vendors, you can read reviews about the item, and most stores offer free returns or the ability to return to the store in person. If I shop in person, I never try on clothes anyway. I hate to try on clothes. I wait until I get home. Online shopping allows me to knock out buying gifts (and Christmas lists) FAST! You can search sites like Retail Me Not for discount codes if the site doesn't already offer one. If you're signed up for your favorite stores' email advertisements you can easily watch for a great sale.
- GROCERY SHOP ONLINE if you can economically afford it and if your local area offers it. There are sites now like Instacart that are ridiculously easy to use either on the computer or through the app. Finding the items you need is a breeze, it saves your previously purchased items for easier repurchase section next time, the shoppers text you if they have questions about items or need to substitute an item, and then they deliver to your door. I grocery shop walking to and from my car at work. I grocery shop at work. I grocery shop from home. Then I set a delivery date and time. SAY WHAT? So easy. I struggled to allow myself to use this service at first, and I used to love going to HEB at the crack of dawn on a Sunday with a cup of coffee to mosey around the store. But, you know what? My time is precious. And at the end of the day each time I've used it, I have been able to justify the delivery fee + gratuity cost by being productive in other ways with my time. It saves me a solid hour or more at the store once you factor in drive time. I love it. You can check it out here and if it asks for a referral code you can give them mine RBRITTAIN22 (I get a credit for sharing).
- DO NOT TURN ON THE TV! Yes, I said it. Blasphemous, I know. I used to watch TV in my former life. I remember it well, and I enjoyed winding down with my favorite shows. I also remember well how I wasn't doing anything else with my time. Over the years, I have gotten to where I literally do not watch TV. I sometimes turn it on just for background noise, but I truly do not sit down to watch TV. I am not saying you shouldn't reward yourself with some escapism in the evening. We all do it in some form or another. And perhaps one day I'll find something worth watching. But in the mean time, do not turn on your TV until everything else you needed to do is done. It is a major distraction and dwindles down your time after work. The next thing you know you've sat there for 2 hours and you need to get ready for bed. What did you get done after work? Nothing. Be careful with your time so you get things accomplished instead of sitting around that black hole with an alluring and flickering bright screen. This is where Podcasts help me too. I put them on and then keep moving. I try not to sit much because as soon as I stop I'll want to take a nap. And a long nap at that!
- MAKE A DINNER CALENDAR for the week. This also helps you pre-plan for groceries and which items can be used for more than one meal. Now, I do not do this in my current life, but when I was married in a former life I made a dinner calendar every weekend for the week to come. This helped so much because every night or morning I knew what meat to take out of the freezer or what meat needed to be kept in the refrigerator and used. It meant we ate healthier with pre-planned meals. It meant cooking the night of was easy and already thought out. But, you don't have to be super rigid. If you decide you don't feel like cooking and want to go out to eat, shift your scheduled night of cooking to the nights you pre-planned to eat out. We used to plan for 4-5 home cooked dinners and 2-3 nights eating out at a restaurant. It worked and we had less wasted food. When you're chopping up onions for one meal, you can go ahead and pre-cut more for the meal you're planning for the next evening. If you're not using up a whole vegetable/item in one meal, you know you can use the rest of it in the next meal. Save yourself some time this way! There are a bunch of free templates you can use like this one from TipJunkie or this one from The Project Girl. There's a bunch out there so just find what appeals to you and get planning! See? You need to PLAN!
- PLAN YOUR COOKING TIMES properly so that you start the item that takes the longest to COOK first. While it's cooking you can prepare the item that takes the second longest to cook and so on... This is how I manage to (sometimes) make what seems like a more extravagant meal. I know how to stagger the cooking times properly to get it all done at the same time. It works. =) You can find examples of this in my previous posts.
- STRAIGHTEN UP YOUR PLACE BEFORE YOU LEAVE & MAKE YOUR BED even if you hate the idea of it. Yes, you will mess it up when you get back into bed that evening. That's not the point. Spending one minute to make your bed changes your whole mindset/mood when you return to a tidy home AND it discourages you from hopping right back into bed as soon as you walk through the door (my own personal problem). I literally cannot leave my bed unmade even though I know it's just me who will see it. I pick my clothes up off the floor, I hang my towel up to dry, I put away dirty dishes, I straighten couch pillows, I empty the trash if needed...and then I leave for work. I literally have tried to leave on multiple occasions with any one of the above out of place and couldn't. I go right back inside and spend 2 minutes to straighten up my apartment. I know it takes just a few minutes, I won't be late to work because of it, and when I get home my mind is at ease. I feel less stressed. A tidy home is an inviting home. An untidy home creates an untidy mind and mood...meaning stress. Get it done in the morning and you will have less to do in the evening (before you turn on that darn TV!).
- RELAX and take it easy on yourself. This is important. It has taken me years to become less rigid with my planning and keeping my schedule in tact. I am by no means perfect so I still have struggles occasionally when I do not accomplish my to-do's. But, you know you cares whether or not you crossed everything off of your list? NO ONE. That's right. So, if you're feeling extremely tired one day and need to rest, then REST. If you feel discouraged and down one day, then REST. If you feel anxious and overwhelmed with too much to do, focus on what is time sensitive only and then REST. If you feel physically exhausted one day with no energy for the gym, REST. Enjoying life is critical as well as accomplishing day-to-day goals. Be patient with yourself and always find time for you to rest your heart, body, and mind.
I pray these suggestions are helpful to you and potentially generate additional ideas for you on how you can better manage your time. If you liked this post then please share with your family and friends! I'd love to hear any suggestions YOU might have on how you accomplish things as well. I'm always looking for new methods to organize the chaos I call life.