Be productive. Learn how to multitask. Find balance. Seek ways to be efficient. These buzz words leave us reflecting on how to make the best of the limited time we have and do so in a way that leaves us fulfilled.
But, let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. The truth is that productivity can be challenging, and oftentimes, we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of procrastination. Multitasking is actually something that productivity coaches frown upon. (I guess the 50 browser tabs up at one time can, and will, cause you to not only not be an effective multitasker, but become overwhelmed by your attempt to do so.) Balance … what is balance anyway?! And typically, efficiency is only as good as its partner in crime, quality.
As we cozy up into a season filled with pumpkin-spiced everything … a season where beauty is found among change … let’s uncover some of the best time hacks for busy parents, busy partners, busy employees, and just all around busy people and see if there are small changes we can embrace to make life a bit more awesome. Here are 3 tried-and-true ways that you can find time by being more judicious of the time you have been given.
Ask the magic question.
Falling upon a good podcast now-a-days is about as much fun as deliberately falling into a racked pile of leaves in the fall as a child. It’s exhilarating and gives you all the feels. And it can stick with you like the leaf remnants tend to do when you get back up to re-rake the pile and jump back in again.
Falling upon The Lazy Genius Podcast can help any stressed out person with a multitude of time hacks during a season of life where time feels like it may be constantly against you. Kendra Adachi, in partnership with her book, The Lazy Genius Way, walks her listeners through easy yet thought-provoking ways to, as she puts it, “be a genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t.”
Her tips and tricks are brilliant, but her Lazy Genius Way Principle #3 is the epitome of amazing time hacks we should all consider. Her principle is this: Ask the magic question. And that magic question happens to be: What can I do now to make life easier later?
While this principle has flexibility in how can be applied, you may consider using it in these ways:
- When your child takes 10 extra minutes to finish getting ready and you find yourself stressed but can’t control the situation, what can you control? What can you do now to make life easier later? Can you begin to fold clothes from the dryer or pull the chicken breast for dinner from the freezer to begin to defrost? Utilize those extra 10 minutes to save you 10 minutes later!
- When your internet is moving at a snail’s pace as you feverishly work through your growing to do list, use those few minutes while your computer gets up to your brain’s speed to organize a file folder, make a to-do list, brainstorm innovative ideas or journal.
- One of Kendra’s suggestions is around the use of bags! Yes, bags! It’s easy to waste time trying to remember what all you need to get to piano practice, an upcoming meeting, a business trip, etc. Why not think ahead and begin to make bags for places you go regularly. It’s soccer season and your kids always forget their shin guards. No worries, make a soccer bag that always includes their soccer gear. Do you travel regularly for work but you’re always running around trying to find the travel-sized haircare products at the last minute, so you don’t have to check your bag? Deep breaths and create a small bag with approved bottle sizes for each ahead of time so when it’s time to pack, you are ready to go.
Whenever you find yourself with some unexpected time on your hands or fretting about lost time from something you couldn’t have likely controlled, make the conscious choice to use those moments now to make life a bit easier later.
Learn to say no.
Kids don’t have a problem saying it, but as we age, we tend to find saying that simple word harder and harder to say. No, for many, just doesn’t seem like a warm and inviting answer. And yet, saying no has the power to alleviate unnecessary stress and, in return, gift you with one of the best gifts of all … time!
Most of us feel more comfortable saying “yes” to requests, and many times, “yes” is likely the right answer! Your partner asks if you want to have a date night … “yes” provides you two a great way to catch up and reconnect. Your child asks if you want to play a boardgame … “yes” gives you and your child the opportunity to laugh together and make a memory, one you both will likely cherish. Your employer asks if you want to give a new project a try … “yes” could open doors for you to new opportunities! So many great things can come from “yes!”
But when you say “yes” to something, you are also saying “no” to something else without ever realizing it. When you say “yes” to a new project, you could be turning down the space for another opportunity should it arise. When you say “yes” to an outing with your friends, you could be saying “no” to free time to rest and relax. When you say “yes” to working a weekend function, you could be saying “no” to weekend household chores.
When you say “yes,” consider what you could be saying “no” to. And, consider flipping that thought as well, realizing that when you say “no” to something, you are leaving space to say “yes” to possibly a better fit or opportunity later. Learning to say “no” doesn’t mean you should turn down meaningful time to spend with your loved ones or opting to not complete a project, a household chore, or anything else for that matter, that is necessary. Instead, it’s reminding you that when you say “yes” you are committing your limited time to something. Make sure that something is worth it. And if it’s not, get comfortable with saying “no” enthusiastically!
Put it on the schedule.
Nick Strand has always believed that you find time by making time. And you make time by scheduling it. Author of the book, Loving Someone Who is Dying, Nick shares his personal heart wrenching story of caring for the love of his life, his late wife, Brianna, throughout their marriage and during her most challenging times as she suffered from her diagnosis with cystic fibrosis (CF). Even up until her very last breath, however, Brianna constantly reminded Nick that you get the opportunity to create your own life and live it with purpose.
Nick and Brianna knew from the moment they said “I do” that their time was limited. But they didn’t live that way. Instead, they lived their time together fully, as they both juggled demanding careers. One way that they embraced the time that they had was by scheduling time for each other daily. They made a pact to put aside their phones, the TV, and any form of outside communication for at least an hour a night and just talked. Together. During this time, they talked about things they wanted to work on, how their days went, what the future could look like, how something made them feel.
Since Brianna lost her battle with CF, Nick has reflected back on this time as cherished moments that they had together, building a life that will never be forgotten. He encourages others to schedule time for the things and the people that matter most to them. Here are some ways to use this approach in your personal and professional life.
- Time blocking is a real thing, and it’s an approach many people use to create the balance that they seek. The concept is simple in theory: block sections off on your calendar that align with your goals, needs, projects, etc. But to execute flawlessly requires you to have your capacity in alignment with your personal and professional goals. For instance, if you are an entrepreneur but are seeking better balance, be clear on your professional capacity and ensure that you set yourself up for success. Also, be clear on your personal goals (maybe it’s to not work evenings and weekends, for example), and time block accordingly.
- Scheduling time for your loved ones is important. Hands down. No questions ask. What should that time look like and how can you schedule it in a meaningful way? Is it Friday Movie Nights where the whole family comes together for a night filled with laughs and buttered popcorn? Is it a weekly date night with your partner in an attempt to check out all of the amazing local eateries? Does it involve a daily video chat with family and friends that aren’t local?
As you schedule your time, be sure to gain clarity on what meaningful time means, looks like, and requires so that you can schedule your time wisely.
You may not be able to always be balanced, but each day, you can seek to find balance. You may not always be productive, but you can always be purposeful. You may feel like you have to multitask at times, but other times you can put away all the things and just be present. And you may not always be efficient, but you can be fulfilled. Your time is in your hands.