There it goes again.
Time, that elusive foe.
It always seems to slip through your fingers no matter what you do!
Despite always being busy, you don’t get the results you want or the success you work so hard to achieve.
And you never have time to relax.
You’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked and over it.
You just want to know how to get more done in less time so you can finally enjoy your life.
Trust me, I feel you.
If you’ve been trying to reach your goals but it seems like life keeps getting in the way, you’re in the right place!
I’ve got some helpful tips on how to manage your time, energy and attention so you can unleash your productivity potential.
Here are my 6 steps to getting more done in less time:
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1. Spend Your Time Intentionally
The War Against Time
Ever notice how we always seem to be battling against time?
“Racing against the clock...”
“If time permits...”
But, time is not our enemy.
It’s actually our most valuable (and limited) resource.
No matter how much money we make or how successful we become, we will still have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.
The fact is, we can’t get more time.
But, we can feel like we have more time.
You Are the Steward of Your Time
As the steward of your time, you get to choose how you will spend it.
The key to feeling like you have more time is experiencing new things.
When our days are pretty much the same and we do the same things in the same way over and over, our brains don’t remember each individual day.
One just blends into the next.
And then we’re left wondering where all the time went.
We can help our brains remember how we spent our time by creating memories.
Of course, we can’t always do something “big” and that’s ok.
We can still find joy in the little moments and cherish the simple things.
“Today is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.”
- Maya Angelou
Often, we don’t notice how special certain times in our life were until they’ve already passed.
Probably because we were so busy trying to get things done.
So, remember that life is not a race to the finish line – be mindful and grateful for each moment you have.
The sooner you are able to glean that “hindsight lesson”, the sooner you’ll be able to move on, unencumbered by the past and with a greater chance of success.
So, to make the most of your time, don’t just sit idly while it passes you by.
Make some memories. Learn some skills. Try some new things.
One study even suggests that you can slow down your perception of time by experiencing awe (my suggestion => the great outdoors).
Seize Overlooked Opportunities
Also, look for opportunities to spend your time wisely.
Many of us waste a lot of time mindlessly engaging in mundane tasks like waiting in line or driving to work.
I guarantee there is something productive you could be doing with a few minutes here and a few minutes there … they really add up!
Don’t “kill” time or let it rule you.
Utilize it. Invest it.
It could be something as simple as listening to an audiobook/podcast/TED Talk while you’re cleaning, mentally organizing your to-do list while waiting for an appointment, or just taking a few minutes to consciously breathe.
Seize those precious opportunities!
Being mindful and intentional with how you spend your time can help you to:
2. Get Organized
If you want to maximize your time, you’ve got to get organized.
Research shows that clutter leads to overwhelm.
If your work area is disorganized and scattered, you are likely to be too!
So, get your physical environment in order.
If you’re not sure where to start, just get everything into a big old messy pile.
Once you have it all out in the open, then you can see what you are working with and:
This system works not only for physical clutter but also for mental clutter.
In today’s "everything needs to be done yesterday" society, it doesn’t take long for mental clutter to accumulate. If you don’t address it, sooner or later you will eventually burn out.
So, take a few minutes every so often to do a brain dump.
It will help you to see the big picture so you can cut out what doesn’t belong and focus on what matters.
Establishing priorities in this way will definitely help you to get more done in less time.
Getting your mental “to-do” list out on paper is also extremely cathartic! I always breathe a sigh of relief afterwards.
Here are some free worksheets from the Freebie Library to help you get started!
3. Manage Your Energy
An important part of time management is managing your energy.
We are human beings, not machines.
We’re not always in a great mood, we don’t always have high energy, we can’t always focus.
So, work with yourself.
Notice when you have the most energy.
Maybe it’s when you first wake up in the morning or maybe it’s when your day has gotten underway, in the afternoon.
Or maybe you’re a night owl so you do your best work at 1am.
Use whatever time you are the most energetic and focused to complete your most mentally demanding tasks.
If you find that you have the most energy at 5am, make sure you tackle priority #1 at that time and save the rest of your to-do list for later.
Give yourself the advantage of peak performance when it comes to your most important tasks.
Also, switching between tasks drains an incredible amount of mental energy so whenever possible, finish what you start.
Completing a task frees up mental energy whereas starting several tasks without finishing them leaves loose ends for your brain to stress over.
4. Improve Your Efficiency
One of the biggest lessons I learned in law school is that there is a difference between being busy and being productive.
To get more done in less time, you’ve got to work smarter, not harder.
If you’ve read other stuff on productivity and time management strategies, you’ve probably come across Parkinson’s Law, which basically states that work expands to fill the available time for its completion.
In other words, if you give yourself 1 hour to complete a task that really should take only 20 minutes, you will wind up using the extra 40 minutes anyway.
So, give yourself tight deadlines. Focus on results, not efforts.
Try to meet (or beat) those deadlines in order to improve your efficiency – or the ability to do things well without wasting time.
Maximize Your Time
There are several lifestyle habits that will improve your efficiency, such as healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and meditation.
Additionally, there are other things you can do to improve your efficiency so you can get more done in less time, including:
- Preparation- Prepare your daily to-do list ahead of time and be as specific as possible (ex: “format my blog post for this week”, not just “work on the blog” so you’ll know when you’ve completed each task.
- Chunking- To reach a big goal, chunk it down into smaller and smaller tasks. Each small task you complete will motivate you to complete another. Because the tasks are manageable, you wind up doing way more than you would if you were faced with the whole daunting task at once. And when you're done with all the small tasks, ta-da! You've reached your big goal.
- Single tasking- When I was applying for jobs back in the day, the ability to multi-task was considered a huge plus. I used to always put "ability to multitask" on my resume and mention this "skill" in interviews. Now, we know that the multitasking myth has been debunked! To get more done in less time, focus on one thing at a time.
5. Minimize Distractions
Handle Your Triggers
Distractions are a huge threat to productivity.
When you’re distracted, it can take you alllll day to do something that should have taken an hour.
Often, there are certain triggers that will prompt you to begin doing those things that are not getting you closer to your goal.
If you want to be productive, know your triggers and handle them ahead of time.
For example, if you work from home and you often procrastinate by cleaning (guilty!), then be proactive – clean the night before so you’re not tempted to get distracted while you're working.
To get more done in less time, you could also give yourself a certain amount of time to complete a task.
When that time is up, take a break before moving on to the next task.
Experts suggest setting a 90-minute timer and taking 15-30 minute breaks to make the most of your time.
Also, consider this: the average person watches 30+ hours a week of TV and spends 5 hours a day on social media!
These are both passive activities that get you no closer to reaching your goals.
Passive/ “mindless” activities (as opposed to mindful, productive pursuits) will only make the feeling of “having no time” worse.
So, it’s best to limit the time you spend on those as well.
If you’re not sure whether you need a social media break/detox, track your social media usage.
You’ve got to measure it to manage it.
You might be surprised to discover how much of your time is getting sucked away by Facebook, Instagram, etc.!
Try limiting the time you check your emails/ go on social media/ watch TV/ play video games to certain times of the day like during breaks or after you’ve finished for the day.
6. Evaluate & Adjust
To keep getting more done in less time, you need to evaluate your performance and adjust your strategy when necessary.
People change. Things change.
Sometimes, the goals you initially set for yourself are no longer serving you.
When that happens, your productivity can suffer because your “why” is no longer a strong motivator.
So, conduct periodic reassessments of your goals to make sure they are still in alignment with your definition of success.
If they’re not, don’t be afraid to make some adjustments and keep it moving.
Track Your Progress
It may help you to keep a record of what you did and recap every week.
If you keep track of your progress, you’ll be able to see what you didn’t get done and where you should be putting more effort.
Keeping a record of all your accomplishments will also help you to see how far you’ve come, which will motivate you to go even further!
*An additional note:
“Done is better than perfect.” – Sheryl Sandberg
It’s important to remember that you’re aiming for progress, not perfection.
You’ll never be perfect anyway.
It’s all a matter of degrees. There will always be someone better – and worse – than you at any given thing.
Your 50% could be equivalent to someone else’s 100% and vice versa.
If you want to get more done in less time, you’ve got to stop trying to be “perfect” – there is no such objective truth.
There is only your best.
And it's good enough.
*Related Post: How to Create a Personal Development Plan- Your Ultimate Guide
Over to you … what do you struggle with the most when it comes to productivity? Let me know in the comments!
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