Rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy, young, old — we all have the same number of hours a week.
What we choose to do with those hours will determine the life we lead. Work, family, friends, sleep, eating, relaxing and chores all have to fit into these set number of hours.
Along with the meaning of life; how best to spend the time you have available to you is one of the great philosophical questions of the ages. The answer to this question can vary from “Live for the Moment” to the ” Number your Days.” (The idea here is to count the number of days you have and to realize how short is the time you have left).
Many books and articles have been written on ways to manage your time, be more effective, get more things done, etc, etc, etc. I have read many of these books and tried many of the tactics.
I have started/stopped/failed/gave up/and started again.
I don’t know that I have anything NEW to add to the discussion. Yet, how we handle those 168 hours will have a HUGE impact on our ability to reach our dreams or even attempt to start the journey.
Here are some of my favorite bits of wisdom on the subject:
Consider managing your energy and not your time.
- Think about the time of day when you are most on task, have the most creative energy. Plan your day to take advantage of those “high impact times”. For example, I am most able to tackle difficult tasks in the morning. This is when my cognitive ability is highest. I find it easier to write in the afternoon. On days when I need to clean the house, I have to start very first thing. If I even have breakfast first– it is likely that I will become distracted and decide that the house really isn’t that dirty.
- Have a list of easy-peasy tasks (low hanging fruit) for low energy times. You will feel productive and will be honoring yourself by listening to your body and giving yourself grace. Low energy times are going to come and sometimes deciding to take a break is OK too.
- Sometimes just getting started on something easy will allow you to get excited about what you planned to do.
- Consider adding exercise to your routine. While it would seem that exercise would use up energy and make us more tired, it actually has the opposite effect. If you are not exercising start with taking a walk. Notice how you feel. Even a simple stretching routine with some deep breathing can give you energy.
Cultivate the ability to focus and schedule protected time to do deep work
In our hyper-connected world, it is so difficult to hold a thought in our heads. Between email pinging and social media chirping at us, it can be difficult focusing on the task at hand.
The newest research is showing that while multitasking feels productive; it really is not. What we are actually doing is task switching. This switching from task to task is actually slowing us down; reducing accuracy and outcomes; and causing us to feel more stressed. The one exception to this is if you are doing a repetitive, low cognitive task. For instance, you can wash dishes and talk to you husband/wife at the same time. However, if an emotionally charged subject comes up, I recommend stopping and giving the other person your full attention.
In most cases, we are better off tackling one thing at a time before going on to the next task. When interrupted during a task, taking a sticky note and writing down where you are in the process or what the next step is can help you get back to where you were before the interruption.
The book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport does a great job of talking about the importance of focused and uninterrupted work periods. He also gives ways to introduce blocked time into your schedule. If you prefer podcasts Cal did podcasts with the Art of Charm and Entreleadership. I enjoyed both of these and different information was highlighted in each of them.
Consider Chunking up your day or week — cluster similar activities together.
- Have one day where you schedule all your meetings or appointments
- Only look at and answer email at predetermined times.
- Schedule one day where you tackle paying bills or doing administrative tasks.
- Group errands together – same goes for phone calls,
I use this method for tasks that are never done or can go on and on and on. For example, when my kids were young, I would deep clean on one day a week. If it got done that day- great. If it didn’t then it had to wait until the next week. I would often change up the day that I cleaned the house, depending on the week and what was happening. Typically, I would do it on Friday so it was “clean” for the weekend. Now I did dishes on a daily basis and often swept and mopped the kitchen floor more often. But laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting were reserved for that day.
Some people advocate a ‘tackle a little bit everyday’ program. For me doing a little bit of housework on a daily basis was emotionally painful. It felt like a never-ending task, the house never “felt” clean and the kids messed it up faster than I could clean. So this is me, you should pick a method that works for you!!
Develop habits or rules that add order to your life.
Some examples of this would be:
- Doing the dishes right after dinner before you go sit down.
- A set place you put your keys
- A place for the mail when you walk in
- I only have dessert on Saturdays
- Steve Jobs wore the same outfit each day so he didn’t have to decide on a daily basis. While that probably won’t work for us ladies. You might consider only wearing black socks in the winter. Then you can buy a whole bunch so you don’t have to match socks.
These are just ideas — take them or leave them.
5-Minute Pick Up
One technique I used when my kids were young is called a ‘5-Minute Pick Up’. A “5-Minute Pick Up” is a short pick up the house session. So we would
- pick up toys,
- take dishes to the kitchen,
- tidy couch cushions,
- put trash in the trash,
- take things to someone’s room
— basically whatever was sitting out and cluttering up the place. One rule is that during the session, it didn’t matter whose mess it was. If you knew where something went then you should put it away. The goal is to get the living room cleaned up – quickly. Everyone was expected to hustle. Compare this to what you do when someone calls to say they are on their way and you emergency clean your house 🙂
Approximately 15 minutes before we were scheduled to leave, I would declare a ‘5-minute Pick Up’. It helped the kids transition out of what they were doing in preparation to leave and left us time to get shoes on and out the door. It made a huge difference in how the house looked. I would call a ‘5-minute pickup’ at other times during the day if the house felt out of control and before dinner time. By doing this often the kids got used to helping out and they knew it would only last for a few minutes. At the beginning, I would have to direct behavior (take this glass to the kitchen) but after time the kids knew what to do. This is a great thing to implement with yourself, even if you live all by yourself.
Remember you have a choice.
Remember to breathe.
Be in the moment. This is your life, be sure to notice how you feel and what is happening around you.
Be grateful. One idea I heard was to be grateful for something very small every day. The warmth of sunshine, your child’s smile, holding your loved one’s hand.
Whew, that was a lot of information, thanks for reading to the end!! So you have 168 hours a week. What is one thing you are going to do differently next week to make the most of your time? I am also curious to hear the best techniques tips and tricks you have.
I look forward to reading your ideas and comments.