As a psychotherapist and executive coach, I find that time is so often the topic of conversation in my office. "I feel like I never have enough time in my day," "Where does time go?" and, "I feel like I don't have time for myself." These concerns from clients have become commonplace, but fortunately, people are starting to do something about it. They're taking charge and reclaiming their time.
Corporate America is also recognizing the importance of having a work-life balance and 'me' time. One such organization is Safeco Insurance Company, a division of Liberty Mutual Insurance, with whom I recently teamed up with to address this issue. They've launched the #MY60 Challenge which helps to raise peoples' awareness of the importance of protecting and leveraging their time to be able to do more of what makes them happy. The goal is to help people reclaim 60 minutes a day over the next 60 days. Although it might sound at first like a daunting or even impossible task, I assure: It is possible.
I know this because the tips I offer below have helped busy executives who work 60 hours a week, mothers and fathers who feel they never have enough time, and professionals and students who are stretched way too thin. They reclaim these minutes by prioritizing and by knowing what's truly important. They know how to say no to certain things and yes to other things. And they know how to maximize the time that they do have and not dwell on time that they don't have.
Here's how you can optimize your time now:
1. Create a detailed log of how you spend your time.
Do this for one week. Many people are entirely unaware of what they do hour to hour and where the day goes. This simple exercise of noting what you're doing each hour can have a huge impact. One recent client told me how she spent 15 minutes every morning trying to decide what to wear each day. That's almost two hours a week she spent deciding how to dress. Another client told me how he spent almost an hour a day in one sitting reading sports scores even though his intention was to just "check them quickly." Track your time and know where you're spending it.
2. Determine which tasks and activities are vital and which are optional.
Structure other tasks around those that are vital. Schedule your day by doing the important tasks first. This is when you are freshest and most energetic. So often the less important tasks get in the way of other things that need to be done. For many this is a distraction. It's easier to do the things that aren't as important. Fear leads to procrastination and ends up keeping us stagnant.
3. Get up 15 minutes earlier than you normally do.
This will provide you with an extra 75 minutes in your work week. Many of my clients who are business leaders talk about how they maximize their mornings and see it as a time to respond to emails without the distraction of telephone calls or they use it to do their daily workout.
4. Schedule Internet use.
So often people lose their sense of time when they are online. Given the sensory overload, people are drawn into cyberspace and rarely can stick to just their intended task. Think about how many times you went online to read the news or check the weather and ended up staying online much longer reading other articles. Or perhaps you're like so many of my clients whose intention is to check sports scores quickly, yet they spend 7 hours a week doing that. Similarly, log out of email and social media accounts. Staying connected to these accounts will only distract you and waste time, especially when you're on a deadline or working on an important project. Schedule time to use the Internet and your social media sites.
At the beginning of your week, schedule what you need to do with a "to-do" list. Likewise, at the end of your work day, plan the next day.
6. Keep your expectations in check.
Are these expectations reasonable or unreasonable? For example, are you trying to go to the gym, get the kids ready for school, do laundry, and walk the dog all before 9:00am? Make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew.
7. Change your thinking.
"I'm so busy" and "I don't have time for anything" are negative comments that are sure to keep you feeling overwhelmed. You might think instead, "I will make good use of the time that I do have" or "I can only do so much in one day and I will make sure I accomplish what is reasonable and important today".
8. Group your errands in one place.
For example, if you know you're going to be downtown for an appointment and you know you go to a grocery store in that area, then consolidate the trips into one.
9. Keep your surroundings clean and organized.
A cluttered desk will distract you as will a messy home. By keeping things in order you'll keep information organized in your head and minimize the possibility of losing items and having to spend time looking for them.
10. Join a movement.
By having the support of like-minded people your goal might feel easier to achieve and you'll feel motivated and inspired. For helpful tips and support, go to Safeco.com/MY60 to take the challenge. Here you'll find tips and learn ways that you can get started now leveraging more of your time.