We all have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce or Barack Obama. So why is it that so many people say that they don’t have enough time to do the things that matter to them? It could be because they aren’t living according to their values, or they are letting stressful thoughts about their to-do list take over their bandwidth.
In this article I’m sharing a few ways that you become more efficient with your to-do list. This way, it will appear that you’re creating more time. You’ll also have fewer stressful thoughts. All of these things create an illusion of you having more hours in a day, week, or month.
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I remember seeing multi-tasking as a requirement for more than a few job descriptions. But working in an office, I witnessed how multi-tasking makes people significantly less productive.
I imagine that hiring managers include multitaskings as a required skill because they want to make sure employees can juggle projects and handle the interruptions that come with the territory of an office environment. But setting the expectation that employees will constantly switch between tasks is a mistake.
Studies have shown that it takes 20 minutes to refocus the brain after switching between tasks. That is a lot of wasted time if you’re doing that several times during a work day.
Batch work has become my favorite way to handle projects and tasks because I am really good at deeply focusing and it allows me to make huge progress in relatively short amounts of time (a few hours).
This is a process where you choose one project, dive in, and don’t get up until the time is up. For example, I do this with my writing projects. Every single Tuesday I go to the coffee shop, get a hot beverage, sit down, and I write four articles in about 4 hours. This way, I can schedule out all of the articles for the month and only think about blogging on one day of the week.
Some Tuesdays I work on other writing projects if I have completed my writing for that month. Every time I sit down, I have already planned the day before which writing project I will be working on.
Think about what work you can batch in your life or work. Here are some ideas:
- Recording podcast episodes or videos
- Writing social media posts or emails
- Writing blogs, reports, or articles
- Gardening, cooking, or cleaning
- Client work
- Answering emails
Put your to-do list in your calendar
This is a tip I heard from Brooke Castillo that has changed the way I related to overwhelm and planning. Brooke says that overwhelm and burnout are frequently results of poor planning.
The brain is spinning, thinking about all of the things on the to-do list because it’s a mile long. But actually if you just put your tasks in your calendar and stick to it, you’ll be much more effective.
Here’s how it works:
- Do a “brain dump” in your life design planner at the beginning of the week where you write down every single thing that’s been looming over you, that you need to do.
- Once everything is down on paper, go back down the list and cross off the list anything that’s not necessary for you to do, anything you don’t want to do.
- Then write down any obstacles to doing any of the points on your to-do list. Overcoming these obstacles will become your first steps to getting the thing done.
- Ok—Now that you have written down this long to-do list, put each task in your calendar. The key to putting things in your calendar is that you honor your time, honor your commitment, honor yourself, honor your calendar. Or else this method does not work. Stick to your word. Be the kind of person who does what she says she would do.
Be the kind of person who plans well so that she can have lots of free time. Another tip here is to make sure you get the thing done in the time you allotted yourself. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
In other words, give yourself an hour, and make sure you get the thing done within an hour; Give yourself two 8-hour work days, and it will take you two 8-hour work days. If you waste time getting started, check your phone, and get side tracked, come back to the task. This may take practice, but you will get the hang of it.
Using this method, you will find that you have more free time. You can schedule that too! Be intentional about the ways you spend your free time: taking a walk, baking, spending time in the garden, meditating, spending time with family or friends. You name it. When you schedule your free time, you’ll have more time to be aligned with your values and do the things that matter most to you.
Don’t do things if you’re not a hell yes.
This tip is alluding to the power of your No. Each one of us has a different way that we feel into our decision making. Get to know yours, and a good way to do this is through Human Design. Here are the different decision-making authorities of Human design [https://www.interiorcreature.com/interior-creature-human-design/2018/6/5/an-intro-to-human-design-the-seven-authorities-self-projected-heart-environmental-lunar-authority
For example, I have a splenic authority which means that I can feel my yes or my no instantly. My challenge is saying “no” skillfully in those moments. At times I see myself people-pleasing and saying yes to things I don’t want to do because I don’t want to have a negative impact. Instead, I’m working on saying no in a way that is loving and kind. One of my favorite ways is “I’m a yes to you, and a no to that idea.”
I know that people will trust me more when I say no, because it demonstrates that I don’t do things that I don’t want to do.
Take a look at your human design chart here http://jovianarchive.com/. Some people have quieter authorities, and some people need to wait a period of time before making a decision.
Get to know how your authority works, and listen to when you’re a “hell yes” versus a “no.” In service of saving your precious time and energy, for the love of the Goddess, say no.
This one is a tough one for me—I’m definitely not a minimalist, but I do enjoy having a lot less to clean and a lot less to choose from.
When I see celebrities in magazines or on TV who have huge closets the size of my bedroom, I feel a flood of anxiety—how the heck do they ever choose what to wear in the morning?
I try to be a minimalist in my closet, in my home and cleaning, in my garden, with my work, and with my social circles.
In my closet, I have only a few pairs of shoes and I am working on creating a more streamlined wardrobe. As I get older, I really enjoy wearing basics with accessories that have flair. For example, I like wearing scarves, funky cardigans, and jewelry. Oh do I love jewelry. My husband and I share a closet and a dresser, so there’s not room for much else.
This keeps my decision-making to a minimum, makes it easier to pack for trips, and makes laundry easier.
In the home, I try to keep the knickknacks to a minimum. I think I’m pretty good, but my altars and medicines do take up some space. These serve a purpose and bring me joy, so I’m not about to get rid of them.
We don’t have a lot of furniture or decorations, so there is not a ton to dust or clean. In the kitchen I try to keep the appliances and tools to a minimum because I can’t stand when people have an overflowing drawer full of tupper ware; old plastic grocery bags; or a tool for everything under the sun like those apple slicers or avocado scoopers. That’s what a knife and spoon is for!
In the garden, I’m doing my best to plant what is native to our area so that they don’t need a lot of water or care. And weeds! I love St. John’s Wort, wild strawberries, ground cover, clovers, and flowers that people typically think of as weeds. But these are the most resilient plants often packed with the most medicine.
In my work, I do my best to focus in on projects. As a visionary idea woman with a constant flood of ideas this is 100 percent necessary for me. Just ask me for a business idea and I will give you one.
I need to focus on what I’m working on over a long period of time, committing to a certain result, or else I’ll be working on 50 different projects at once. I ask myself, “What has the most impact or return on my investment of time, energy, and money?” And I try to do that.
Socially, I’m an introvert, so minimalism is important for me. I have a list of “VIP” friends who I give the majority of my time and energy to, and I also have times when I can contribute to the community at large. The list changes throughout the year, and sometimes I spiral in and out of certain friendships. This is ok with me because I see relationship as constantly growing and changing.
Social minimalism works for me for a few reasons: 1) I find it easier to be a good friend when I track a few people and 2) I feel held and settled when I focus my energy on a few friends rather than trying to be everyone’s friend.
What is most important to you? Prioritize your projects, values, and relationships so that you can be the most effective and feel the most fulfilled. The meme below that I found on instagram really illustrates what it looks like to prioritize according to our values or not.
Do you prioritize health, or convenience?
Experience, or things?
Quality time, or numbing out?
Wasting time, or being intentional?
Go back to tip #2 where you track the time in your calendar, look at your bank statement at the end of the month, and see where you could live more in line with your values.
I hear people complain all the time that they don’t have the money for this, or that; that they can’t get out of debt; that they don’t have the time for this or that. Then I see them wasting time on social media; watching too much TV; over drinking; over eating; or spending money in foolish ways on things that they clearly don’t need.
If you can’t seem to make progress in living according to your values, get a coach for support. Working with coaches for dating support, relationship support, general support, and health support have been some of the best ways I have spent my money in my life. Going to retreats with people I admire who have taught me some of the most foundational skills and wisdom of my life have been my favorite ways to spend my time and money.
Where could you reallocate time, energy, and money?