From the Blog

How many times have you said “If only I had more time, I’d …”?

Many of us have come to say this on a fairly regular basis, as our lives become more and more cluttered with things to do. Life seems to be getting faster, fuller, and more frustrating and we seem to be striving to make sense out of how it all got so out of control and what we can do to reclaim some balance in our life. Whether you work full-time outside of the home, are a stay-at-home mom, or are just trying to work out some of the ‘kinks’ in your time-starved day, this article is for you. Here you can find some ways to get off the time-robbing rollercoaster that is your life and put the brakes on, so you can find more time in your day and better enjoy the ride!

Set priorities. Not everything has to be done ‘right now’ and some things probably don’t need to get done at all. Figure out the things that are important to you and get those things done first. The other extraneous things on your to-do list can get done if time allows, or you may choose to even cross them off your list because you realize there are better things to do with your time!

Delegate responsibilities. This works in both the office and at home. You don’t need to do everything yourself and very often it is better if you don’t. In the workplace, clearly define what you expect from a task and give explicit directions that can be followed. At home, teach your children (and spouse!) how to do things for themselves and give them specific responsibilities. Delegating to others not only frees up time for you, but makes others more independent, confident and productive, too.

Learn to say” no”. This one sometimes takes some getting used to, but once you start saying “no” to the things that don’t rank high up on your priority list, you’ll find you have more time in your day to do what you want. The first few times, it’s natural to feel bad about not doing everything that’s asked of you, but you’ll soon see that people will learn to ask others and you will have more joy in your life if you’re not doing tasks out of a sense of obligation, but rather out of an inner desire to be more involved in those things that add meaning to your life.

Define ‘me’ time and stick to it. If you’re not happy, then you become less productive. When you set your list of priorities, be sure to include time for yourself to do the things you want to do. If exercise is a must in your day, factor it into your schedule just like you would a business meeting or one of the kids’ activities. If you unwind by reading a book in a comfy chair, then make sure that you don’t use that time to pay bills or return phone calls. Having time set aside in your day to do what makes you happy is as important as all the other tasks on your to-do list.

Get organized. Although many people claim to not have enough time in their day to get organized, the truth is that usually the more organized you are, the less time you waste. If you know where everything is, then you don’t spend time searching for things or redoing things that might have already been done. If your ‘stuff’ is in its place and your task list is organized, you will be a much more efficient person and will find it easier to find extra time in your day.

Create a schedule or to-do list. Know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. Prioritize your to-do list to get the most important tasks done first. Set up your schedule to combine appointments or errands in similar locations, to avoid wasting extra travel time (and gas!). Rather than running an errand or two each day, try to designate one day to run all errands together.

Plan difficult tasks when you are most alert. If you’re a morning person, tackle your most difficult tasks as your day begins. Work better at night? Start off slow and save the energy drainers for the time when you function best.

Don’t procrastinate. The more you put off tasks, the more stress it adds to your life because you know the tasks are just sitting over your head and piling up. Very often, you’ll find that when you get things done right away and don’t put them off, you can knock them off more quickly than you expect. This also avoids other responsibilities getting in the way of you completing your tasks at all.

Don’t strive for perfection. Don’t obsess about doing everything perfectly. Just do the best you can and move on. There are lots of things that need to get done in your life and being perfect all the time doesn’t leave you much time to stop and smell the roses!

Rethink your routine or work method. If you find that no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to find enough time in your day to get things done or to have a little extra time left over to enjoy what you love, then it may be time to rethink your routine or work method to see what’s not working for you. Maybe you need to change things up a bit and see if you become more productive or more efficient. You may find this works, or that by doing this you are able to delete things from your to-do list that are not really that important. Another thing to consider is how you work best. Are you a good multi-tasker or do you work best by focusing on just one thing at a time until it’s completed before moving on? Once you know how you operate best, you’ll be able to focus better on finding the most efficient method for getting things done.

Cut out distractions. When it’s time to get down to business, try to cut out as many distractions as possible, whether you’re at the office or at home. Try not to answer the phone unless absolutely necessary. Let the phone go to voice mail and return calls at a more convenient time. Close the door so that people are less likely to interrupt what you’re doing. Do not spend extraneous time checking emails or surfing the net. Designate certain times during the day to read and respond to emails. You will save a lot of time simply by not responding to every email as it comes into your inbox. Only allow yourself a few minutes to go online after a task is complete. The internet is very often a ‘big black hole’ that is a huge time drain. When possible (and if you’re strong enough!), disconnect altogether while you complete any tasks at hand. It’ll all be there when you return to it, and you will save precious time!

Some of these time-saving tips take awhile to become habits, because we are so used to doing things a certain way. But you will find that even with little changes, you will begin to find more time in your day to do the things that you want to do, and it will all be worth it in the end!

Andrea Spenser is a regular contributor to www.shortcutsleuth.com [http://www.shortcutsleuth.com], where she writes about ways to save time [http://www.shortcutsleuth.com], money, energy, and just basically your sanity!