How many times have you uttered the words, “I wish there was more time in the day”?
You have 100 things on your plate, due dates are approaching, your eyes are bloodshot, and all you can think about is how fast the hours are flying by without your To-Do list getting smaller.
The initial reaction to dealing with a shortage of time in the day is to sleep less.
So you pull some all nighters and find drinks/pills caffeinated enough to keep you energized and focused to make all of your deadlines.
Sometimes that works. Sometimes you make your deadlines by the skin of your teeth. Sometimes the planets align and you’re able to make it all work.
And then you crash.
The problem is that you’re putting all of your energy and time (both of which you wish you had more) into working harder when you should be using both of those precious resources to work smarter.
You have enough time to do what you need to do. It’s less about managing your time and more about managing your energy and focus around that time.
Here are 3 somewhat-counter-intuitive tips to help you work smarter and use your time more wisely:
#1 – Give Yourself LESS Time
Parkinson’s law says, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words if you leave your day open to finish a task, it will take you all day. If you allow yourself just enough time to finish how long a task should realistically take you will get it done.
For example, if you need to write content for your blog and you set a goal of getting it done tomorrow or by the end of the week, it will take you that long to write it. However, if you say you are going to get it done during your one hour lunch break tomorrow at 12pm, odds are you’re more likely to actually get it done.
Much like setting a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound), you’re giving yourself parameters and getting clear on what needs to be accomplished.
We don’t respond well to vagueness. Vague goals cause us to drag our feet as it clouds our mind. When you are clear on not only your goal but your intention with that goal (i.e. why it’s important and when you want it to be accomplished) your brain can process the information more easily and you’re more likely to take action.
Your goal can now be “write 700 words during my 1-hour break tomorrow on [insert topic here].”
Check out this great video on the science of productivity and how you can cut the fat (a.k.a. wasted time) from your day by working more deliberately.
#2 – Set a Timer
Accurately determining how long a project will take is crucial in order for you to plan how you use your time. Know that this may be a trial and error for a period of time. Don’t be hard on yourself, just stay focused. Using apps like Rescue Time are great for catching yourself in a time-wasting rabbit hole and redirecting your focus back to a task.
Much like understanding Parkinson’s Law mentioned above, setting a timer can help you be more intentional. Drawing boundaries gives us freedom – this is true in all relationships, including our relationship with time.
Start setting a timer when you sit down to write content or engage on social media or answer emails. The trick here is to honor the boundaries you set. If you set a timer for 45 minutes to write a blog post and you hit some writer’s block and by the time the timer goes off you’re not finished, stop. Go do something else and come back to it again with a timer set.
Give yourself a chance to get used working within a set amount of time, you will get better. Your brain will learn to focus when you’re clear about what you’re working on and why.
#3 – Re-Evaluate Your To-Do List
While it’s helpful to purge all of your tasks onto a master To-Do list so you can keep track of everything that eventually needs your attention, from a day-to-day perspective it’s best to look at a list that has no more than 3 main tasks for you to complete.
Each week take a look at your master task list and pull out the tasks that need your attention most immediately. Narrow them down and assign them times (and time limits) to be competed.
Then, each night before you go to bed look at the 1-3 things you’d like to set out to accomplish tomorrow. Look at that list again when you wake up and reconnect with your why/your intention with those tasks. Make sure that the goals you set last week or the week before are still the goals you’re working towards.
If something has changed or shifted in your goals or in what you’ve decided you want to do then change your list.
Always make sure you’re working on things that will serve your intended goal and not things that you feel you need to do simply because you said at one time you’d do it. Too often we feel we’re running out of time when we’re really wasting time with things that no longer serve us.
Remember, it’s about managing your energy around the time you have that will make all the difference. Putting your energy into too many things that drain your focus and distract you from your goals will ultimately keep you from “finding the time.”
If you’d like to learn more about being intentional with your To-Do list, take my free 3-Day Get Sh*t Done Challenge and turn your To-Do list into your To-Done list in no time!