How to Maximize Your Time
I'm always flattered when people say, "How do you do it!?" after they find out I work full-time as a high school English teacher and run Candle Moments
full time. I'd like to say that it's a piece of cake, but it's not; I am tired, but I have discovered some strategies that make it work, and hope they will work for you, too.
- Make lists. Yes, this list is an example, but there is nothing quite like the sweet gratification of striking something off your list once you've completed it. I put everything on my list; I mean, I even put "take a shower" on my daily list. (Not that I need the reminder, but it goes back to the joy of striking something off.) The other added bonus of lists includes the ability to prioritize. I use technology and my phone's capability for lists, but the old pen-and-paper is just perfect.
- Wake up early. The old adage is true: "The early bird gets the worm." Morning is usually quiet time around here and especially around school; I use that quiet to focus. I wake up at 4:30am every day. I'm not saying you need to keep farmers' hours like I do, but when you wake up, you're fresh and your mind is clear.
- Make your bed, every day. I sound like your Mom, but it's true - when you make your bed, you have one space that is already organized which organizes your mind. (Donna Johnson of the Indie Business Network recently said the same thing, so there is more than my advice attached to this!)
- Block time for your top priorities. You have to make and keep appointments with yourself. If you're a parent, and your kids are always demanding your attention, schedule a certain block of time that will be their time, and their time alone. This teaches them patience, and it ensures they're not going to be disruptive to battle for your time.
- Focus on one task at a time. Be present. Whether I'm cooking dinner, crafting candles, writing this blog, or teaching my classes, that is what I'm doing. I don't allow other distractions; I ignore my phone and I keep the TV off. It's very difficult to complete even the simplest tasks when you allow yourself to be distracted.
- Make exercise part of your daily routine. Okay, this one I'm still struggling with, but what I do to try and keep myself moving (on some level) is take the stairs, park a little farther, and do at least one physical chore a day (see tip #7).
- Do one physical chore every day. You can vacuum, rake, weed, clean the bathroom, do the laundry, whatever it is, make sure your body is moving and the task is getting done. This prevents a pile-up at the end of the week, where the overall task of cleaning seems daunting, and it's exercise.
- Get enough sleep! We, as humans, cannot function without the appropriate amount of rest. The average adult needs between 7-8 hours of sleep per night. A recent blog post by Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body pointed out the importance of making lists before going to bed; she's nailing the main point - you allow your brain to rest because it knows you have a handle on the situation. You almost have a conversation between your conscious and subconscious. Doing this allows you to have meaningful rest.
- Light a candle! Of course, I need to relate this back to candles, but it has been scientifically proven that aromatherapy helps to focus your mind and body. When your mind and body feel calm and focused, your productivity will naturally increase.
- Just say no. It's okay not to accept every invitation, or to tell your friend you'll call her back (assuming it's not an urgent matter, of course). Time is our most valuable asset, be mindful about what you do with it. Don't spend time on unnecessary tasks or invites if you really don't want to be there. The same applies for work; give yourself a cut-off - maybe that's a day during the week, or a certain time during the day, but you must allow time for sheer enjoyment.
- Shut the television off. If you're worried about missing your favorite shows, invest in a DVR or Netflix. TV is one of the biggest brain-suckers out there. Save your TV time for your quiet time.
- Play background music. It has been scientifically proven that music increases productivity. According to the linked New York Times article, "music can bring us back to the present moment."
- Shut off the notifications on your phone. There are dings and rings for every alert in the world, but this can not only be distracting, it can be detrimental to your perception of productivity. For example, you will probably receive upwards of 20-30 emails per day (maybe more, I average around 100 if I include work email). If I stopped to check every email, assuming I spend about 2 minutes per email, that means I am literally wasting 3.33 hours a day just checking my email, not even acting on them. Sign up for a service like Unroll.me, where they will roll-up your non-urgent emails into one daily email, or one weekly email. Or, just unsubscribe to stuff you don't really need. (Except this blog. You NEED this blog.)
- Keep your sink clear of dishes. This goes back to the making-the-bed concept, but a sink full of dishes is a constant reminder for what hasn't been completed because most Americans spend 60% of their time at home in the kitchen and living room. Also a great training technique for kids, or anyone else you live with.
- Create a bill-paying chart. I use a year-long bi-fold calendar. I write when each bill is due on the appropriate date for each month. Twice a month, I sit down and pay those bills, striking off which have been paid. This ensures I'm never late on payments, and never overwhelmed by piling bills.
- Order groceries online. Okay, this isn't for everyone, but food-shopping is one of my biggest time-and-soul suckers. I use online delivery because it stores my previous shopping list, tells me what's on sale, and then drops it off at my door. Easily saves me 3 hours a week.
- Prepare huge meals at once. When you cook, do it for a small army. Use the leftovers to pack lunches for the next day, or for other meals during the week.
- Plan your meals in advance. This goes along with tips #16 and #17. When I order my groceries, I consider what giant meal I will be cooking, order all of the ingredients, and then have it ready to go. Less thinking, less fussing, more doing. (I will share some giant-meal recipes in a future blog.)
- Clear out your closets every other month. Consider donating unworn clothes to charity; I usually donate to the Disabled American Veterans Association. Cleaning out your closets has multiple functions: It reduces clutter, it simplifies your decision making, and it counts as a physical chore.
- Work through lunch. This tip is a bit controversial, and it really depends on the type of work that you do, but as a teacher, working through lunch means less for me to bring to my home. If you're in the type of work where you will have to complete whatever your doing at home if you don't finish it there, then I suggest working through lunch. If not, then use your lunch break as a time to go grab a walk.
What tips do you offer for maximizing your time?
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