Friday, September 23, 2011

Life & Style: How to Max Out Your Time Each Day

Each day can sometimes feel like a race to beat the clock. The laundry is piled up and waiting to be folded, dinner needs to be cooked, the floor is waiting to be cleaned, and the counters are filthy. And free time? Well, for some of you, that may not really exist. Yet. Some years ago, I read "I Don't Know How She Does It" by Allison Pearson (this was just made into a movie). Each day, we all have loads to do and only 24 hours. I hope from the tips I'm going to share below, you'll learn how I do what I do and not go crazy, and more importantly, have hope that you can achieve a state of happiness and accomplishment.

Free time is as important as busy time. Busy time is great for getting things done - chores, cooking, family time, etc. But free time is when you cultivate yourself and allow yourself to be fully prepared and present during those busy times. I feel the need to insert here that I am not a parent of anyone other than a darling cat who can take basically care of himself. However, we all have lives and things to do, and I believe my suggestions here can be used for kid and non-kid households as well. I would encourage all of you to fit these tips and tricks to your lifestyle as you see best.

The best ways I've found to max out the time of the day is to: a. multitask, b. set goals and c. set your schedule.

I do not have time to sit and watch TV, and even if I did, that's not a good way to spend my time. Instead, I watch TV while I work from home, I watch TV while I blog, I watch TV while I cook/clean, etc. Jason enjoys listening to books while he works around the house, drives in the car and works.

You literally need to take advantage of every second you have. Think of those moments in life where you're doing only one thing at a time - eating, for example. Do you need to focus entirely on eating? The latest issue of Whole Living (10/11) suggests that at times, it's better to monotask - to fully focus on one task. Eating may be one of those times. If you're eating and say, reading, you may not be paying enough attention to what you're putting in your mouth and overeat. This is easily fixable by putting a specific portion on your plate and keeping the containers housing the food away from the space you're at. Mealtime can be a great time to spend moments with your family, or if you're eating alone or if you and your spouse/family are not big talkers while eating, read your devotionals for that day. Browse a magazine. Surf the internet. Watch TV. Anytime you find yourself doing only one thing, ask if you can pair that activity with something else. If not, focus fully on that one task to move along as quickly as possible, but if you can do that task and complete another at the same time, all the better.

But you're not going to know what to pair the activity with if you don't know what you need/want to get done! This is where goals come in. I've started sharing my goals here every Sunday as part of the Life & Style series. Click here to view my goals for this week.

Having goals and writing them down (it's extremely important to write them down to hold yourself accountable) has been incredibly important in raising my productivity. Jason has noticed how many more projects have been completed and how much more reading/alone/fun time I've been able to fit in. We've spent more time together than we have in the past - and I'm doing more around the house and on my own than I did before. If you have a list of activities to do, each second is less likely to be wasted.

Setting your schedule can be something like setting goals for each specific day, but I find it particularly useful to set an hour-by-hour schedule. Each hour or half hour of the day, I know what I'm supposed to be doing. This helps me stay on track and hold myself accountable. It also is a sort of fun challenge to see how far you can get ahead - the faster you work and get ahead, the more time you can have for playtime later!

One key to the success of making each second count is knowing that there's hope - for some activities, like organizing the food pantry, these will have to be done time and time again as they become slowly disorganized over time. But something like refinishing a bench will only need to be done once. Some weeks are slower than others for me, and I find those weeks to be particularly refreshing and only could have been slower because of my busier times.

Here's my last and greatest thought. I know so many people - colleagues, friends, acquantices, family members - who say yes to everything that is asked of them. Invited to the movies with a friend? Asked to bring a dish to a party? Invited to a wedding/baby shower? I say no to others so I can yes to myself.

That's right - I tell other people NO. No, I will not come to the movies with you. No, I will not make food to bring to your house. No, I will not attend your shower. No, I will not do whatever it is you're asking me to do that I think I should say yes to because I'm stupid and think I have to say yes.

Instead: Yes, I will spend time alone. Yes, I will spend time with my husband. Yes, I will enjoy a nap.

Prioritize. If spending time with friends means you don't get time with your husband and you'd rather have time with your husband, skip the friends! Choose what you want and need and then make sure that what you're actually doing is a reflection of what you want and need. No one is going to look out for you except for you (well and God, but that's another story for another day).

There's only 24 hours in the day, and there's always much more work than that that could be done. By setting a schedule, making a goals list, multi-tasking and priotizing, your days can be smoother and more productive.

Share with us: What are your best tips for maxing out your time? How do you get it all done?

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