Many of us feel extremely busy, sometimes seriously wondering where our time gets eaten that by the time we're ready to shut down for the day and have nothing to show for it. Last year, I made a concerted effort to be more mindful how I used my time and make note of how I was spending it.
Since my chronotype favors morning hours as my most productive, I make it a point to work on material that requires the most mental bandwidth first. My morning routine includes writing in my journal and at the end of each day, I plot out my next day in my planner.
Still, I felt like I could find even more free time but wasn't sure where to look so when a fellow writer recommended Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam, calling it a "game changer," I decided to check it out. Sure enough, putting her recommendation to the test, I found at least another hour each day. AN HOUR.
"Time discipline is time freedom," Vanderkam writes in her book. To see where you're spending your time, she advocates time logs. You can't make changes to how you spend your time if you don't know how you're currently spending your time. Only after having a clear sense of what you're doing with your time can you approach your time in an objective way.
Vanderkam recommends you break out your day in 30-minute increments but my friend breaks her out in 15-minute increments and because we're both in the same line of work, I chose the same approach. Also, it's easier to recapture 15 minutes than an hour, I thought. Probably not surprising, most of the time I was wasting was within those 15-minute increments.
After I wrapped up a project, I rewarded myself with a social media break. Except my breaks were rarely ever just 15 minutes. Rather, my 15-minute break often extended to a 30-minute time suck. If I was able to log off Twitter quickly, my mind had to re-adjust to the next task at hand, which often took a solid 10 to 15-minutes anyway so any time savings by being off social media was being wasted having to muster the mental strength to focus again.
The time log exercise was eye-opening, frustrating and exciting. Like those who keep daily logs of their food intake, forcing myself to log my time showed me exactly what I was feeding my brain. Instead of taking a break on social media throughout the day, I now restrict it to the afternoon when I'm slowly shutting down for the day. When I need a mental break between projects, I'll power up my Headspace app and meditate, even if it's for just five minutes. Letting my brain take a break feels good and it takes less time to ramp up and prepare for the next project with a clear head.