By: Summer Brons
Although I [usually] consider myself a relatively productive individual, blog posts and articles with tips for being even more efficient always seem to be some of my favorites. It’s interesting to see how others balance their busy schedules and find small ways to get ahead. Thus, I thought it might be fun to share a few tactics I try to implement for myself:
Prepare for the day ahead. I find that my weekday mornings go much smoother when I’ve taken a few minutes out of the previous evening to get myself on the right track to start the day.
I can waste more time than anyone I know staring at a closet full of clothes, completely incapable of choosing an outfit. I also excel at getting dressed, hating everything I’m wearing and then changing clothes 12 times before I finally settle on something I’m still not thrilled with. If I force myself to choose an outfit the evening before, I know exactly what I’m slipping into after my shower and can get on with my morning.
The same goes for packing a lunch before heading to bed. Not only am I saving money and gas by taking food to work with me, if I’ve prepped it the night before, I can simply snag it from the fridge and head out the door once I’m ready to leave. This is far more efficient than scurrying around the kitchen trying to put together a reasonable meal before work in between bites of breakfast, making coffee and letting the dog out.
Make a to-do list. I know, I know, people have sworn by to-do lists for years. I’m unfortunately not one of those people. I’ll occasionally scribble out a list with lofty ambitions of accomplishing everything I’ve deemed worthy of committing to chicken scratch, keeping a pen close at hand so I can smugly cross one task off a time … and rarely find this fantasy as my end result. I’ll either abandon the list once I’m busy enough that I don’t have the time nor inclination to refer to it anymore, or I’ll forget about it entirely. But when I do actually write a coherent to-do list and stick to it? The results are pretty amazing.
If you want to be super detailed, organize your to-do list into multiple categories so you have an outline of exactly which tasks are absolute necessities, and others that won’t start any fires if they’re pushed off to tomorrow’s list. You can make a list for your entire day and a separate one for your workday once you get to the office. By day, I work in project management and if I didn’t have a legal pad next to me at all times, I’d be lost.
Decide on your non-negotiables. Work is obviously a non-negotiable for your day. Anything that requires you to be there at a particular time is probably going to be something you can’t exactly reschedule without repercussions, but you can use this concept to your advantage to squeeze extra time out of your day.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear people complaining about how they just “don’t have time” to workout. I completely understand that sometimes the day just slips away and suddenly the plan to run five miles was lost somewhere between happy hour and laundry, but if you treat your workout as an obligation instead of an option, you’ll be surprised where you can find extra time. Waking up one hour earlier (or staying up one hour later, depending on the hours you keep) can offer just enough time to get your heart rate up and burn a few calories.
The same can be said for anything else that you know you really SHOULD be doing, but often don’t. Whether referring to your creative endeavors, a repair project around the house, even just a few quiet minutes alone to read a novel – consider it a must-do instead of a “If I have time, I’ll try to get to it.”
Quit putting everything off. Procrastinating is fantastically easy to do, which is probably why so many of us do it. But instead of repeating myself, for this tip I’m going to refer you to my last LMC blog post, “Changing With the Leaves.” In short: stop saying you’ll change your ways “next week” or “starting in December,” and just do it right now. You’ll be surprised how quickly a change can take effect when you decide to act on it rather than just think about it.
I’m certainly not saying that I do all of these things without fail, but they are a few of my favorites to keep in mind when I’m looking for ways to get things done. What are a few of your own techniques for managing your time?