I know how it goes. You come home from work exhausted. You know you have to get stuff done, but you really want to throw on comfy clothes, plop down on the couch and watch Dancing With The Stars (looking at you, mom).
But you’re conflicted.You have dinner to make, dishes to clean and you haven’t done laundry in like, two weeks.
Not every week is the same. Sometimes you have stuff going on after work and then all your errands, chores and projects (even workouts) pile up on the weekend. Sometimes you have the time after work to get stuff done, but you’re not motivated.
This post is going to break down tips and strategies to help you:
- Create more time in the day
- Tap into motivation to get stuff done
- Plan and organize your way to productivity
But before I dive in, let’s make one thing clear.
Repeat after me: I’m in control of my time.
Whether you’re a new mom, business owner, busy student, someone who works two jobs (or one super demanding one) I need you to know: you are in control of your time.
Right now, busy-ness is kinda glorified. “Busy” is the new “fine.” Have you noticed that? Now that I’ve pointed it out, you’re going to be aware of how much people talk about how swamped they are when you ask what’s new.
Have you ever talked about how busy you are, or apologized for not doing something because you’ve been “so busy?”
What are we all so busy doing anyway?!
The sad part is if we take a close look at how we spend our time we’ll find that we’re mostly busy doing stuff (and worrying about stuff) that won’t matter a month from now. Sad, right?
Ok. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s dive in. This post is broken up into specific time issues so you can easily scroll through and read the tips that are specific to what you’re currently going through.
If you feel overwhelmed…
Since we live in this busy culture, overwhelm is VERY common and it can hurt our productivity a lot.
Think about the last time you felt overwhelmed. What was the cause? How did you beat it?
I’m going to guess you beat it by either just DOING the stuff that needed to get done or completely dropping the project.
Most of the time, we can’t drop everything (no matter how amazing that would be). So my best advice is breaking your overwhelming tasks up into bite-size pieces.
Example: If you have to schedule a doctor appointment, a bite-size task could be just finding and writing the number down on a sticky note. Yeah. that small.
Doing small tasks builds momentum, which is necessary to accomplish the bigger items on your list.
On the other side, you can simply review your giant pile of stuff to do and choose which tasks to take off the list.
There have to be some tasks on that list that are more urgent than others. Remove the less urgent ones from your list and that should alleviate the overwhelm almost immediately.
This is also known as prioritizing! And it’s a skill worth developing in your work and personal life to make your life a lot easier (and your decisions smarter).
If you procrastinate…
We’ve all been there. We have to do laundry, write that paper, do that favor for a friend, pick up that prescription, do the dishes, grocery shop, meal prep and do the dishes again. And all in one weekend? Ugh.
Chores suck, but I want you to try this strategy to get motivated and finish stuff in half the amount of time.
Instead of indulging in Netflix, long boozy brunches or scrolling through social media on your downtime, reward yourself with those activities AFTER the chores and errands are done.
Here’s how this worked for me.
Since I’m my own boss, I’m in charge of making sure everything gets done. Invoicing, emails, client work, setting up calls… everything. And this blog is still pretty much a side project. But I found myself working on the blog during my work hours instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it hurt my business.
How I fixed it: I told myself that my reward for getting client work done was being able to work on this blog.
After I reframed my “chores” in that way, (sorry, clients) I got the work done SO fast because I knew then I’d be able to spend more time on what I really enjoy doing (this blog).
I want you to try this technique. Tell yourself you’ll be able to binge watch an entire show on Netflix ONLY if you meal prep, do laundry and get those errands done first.
It will be the only motivation you need to beat that procrastination!
If you don’t feel like starting…
Starting anything from day one, whether it’s a new workout routine, meal prep routine or project is overwhelming. So we dance around starting… and then nothing happens.
I’m going through this right now with launching my YouTube channel.
I’ve been talking about launching a channel for over a year, but have yet to upload anything for the public. Ugh!
Part of it is fear. Or doubting if I have enough time to keep up with filming and editing videos. Maybe it’s being too comfortable in my routine to shake it up.
But I really want to take this leap, so I’ve already started making moves. But it wasn’t easy.
If you want to start something new but feel overwhelmed, I want you to break the tasks into small bite-sized pieces as mentioned above.
Reverse engineer what you want to do. Write it all down. Ask for help. Then DO it. Mark it on your calendar, “today is the day I’m going to do x.”
That’s how I filmed my first three YouTube videos last weekend. First I came up with concepts. Then I wrote bullet point scripts. Then I charged my camera, put makeup on, sat down and filmed. It was hard, and I still have to edit. But next time will be so much easier.
Sometimes we have to push ourselves over the hill of starting, then it just gets easier.
If you struggle to get that “me time” in…
Creating time in your schedule for yourself is all about setting boundaries.
And that means you have to say “no” more than you’re used to.
If you feel like you never have time for yourself, it means you’re giving too much of it away to people (and things) that might not be worth it.
Of course, your family, SO and things that make you happy are totally worth it.
So what should you say no to? Think about all the events (parties, networking things, work functions, conferences, gatherings, meetups etc) that you don’t really want to go to. That’s the best place to start.
Before I started a business and got serious about health, I’d go out drinking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. You can imagine by Sunday, I was too tired to do anything productive or for myself. It sucked.
So I said “no” to party and bar hopping invites so I could maximize my weekend time for myself. And it was glorious.
Saying “no” to make more time for yourself should be an easy sacrifice. I promise you’re not letting anyone down by taking time for you. Me-time is not selfish!
If your time gets sucked up by social media…
This is a quick fix. If you’re someone that gets sucked into their phone or laptop every time you’re supposed to be productive, remove the device from your environment and allow yourself planned, limited social media breaks.
And if you need to work on your computer but can’t get away from Facebook, turn your internet off for a set amount of time. I recommend 40-90 minute chunks.
And if you can’t turn the internet off, block your time-sucking social media sites. I recommend using Freedom.to. It syncs with your phone and you can set timers. The basic free version is great!
I’m someone that gets sucked into Instagram really easily. So when I have something important to accomplish, I put my iPhone on a different floor of my house. Then if I want to check it, I have to physically get up and climb stairs.
It’s a lot of work to look at some Instagram notifications!
Make distractions difficult. You’ll seriously feel so amazing and accomplished after getting all that work done distraction-free.
If you plan to be productive and it all goes to sh*t…
This is another quick fix. If you’re someone who tries to block off a whole day to be productive but then does nothing, I have a tip that works well.
Instead of blocking off a day, block off two hours.
If you’ve ever read 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, then you know we give ourselves way too much time to do chores, work, etc.
We work faster when we have a shorter amount of time to do stuff.
When I did my first launch of my brand new meal plans in August, I had two or three weeks to put it together. In reality, I did most of the work 18 hours leading up to the launch.
I finished the plans, the sales page, the emails and everything in less than one day. On top of all the work, I also had to travel from California to Colorado. It was a crazy day, but the deadline made me focus.
This weekend, give yourself two hours to get stuff done. I bet you can do it all, and then have more time to rest and do fun stuff.
If you feel like you have no energy…
This is going to sound obvious, but if you feel like you have no energy to do anything, then don’t do anything.
Rest is a very important factor of being productive. Even if you give yourself 15 minutes of planned rest between tasks, projects and chores, that’s probably enough to keep you going.
Another reason why you feel like getting stuff done is so tiring is because you’re making yourself think too much.
Decision fatigue is the root of this. When we have to actively make decisions throughout the day, it costs us energy. Then we feel so brain dead that even choosing what to watch on Netflix is too exhausting.
How to avoid this?
Planning. Thorough planning and thinking ahead.
I recommend that you take time every Sunday to plan the week in your calendar or planner. Yes, the entire week.
As an adult, you know what you have to take care of every week. Plan that stuff first. Then choose three priorities (yes, just three) and carve out time for them. You plan the nights you’re going to exercise and the nights you’re going to chill. You plan what day you’ll make dinner from scratch and what day you’ll prep or order in. Even plan when you’re going to run errands or pay bills.
Why does this help? Because then DURING the week, when you’re in the chaos of your busy life, you don’t have to think about what you need to do. It’s just there on your calendar or in your planner.
Try it for one week. See what happens. If you don’t like it, keep perfecting it until you’re happy. It took me MONTHS to develop my current system.
This is something I’ve been doing for the last six months and it helps me tremendously with my energy levels. I never waste energy thinking about how to organize my time because (like with meal prep) I’ve already thought it all out.
If you have free time but don’t know how to spend it…
What an amazing problem to have!
If you have extra time before work, after work and on the weekends, but you’re totally bored of doing nothing, here are some suggestions.
First, prioritize. Make a list of stuff you’ve always wanted to do, but never tried. Pick the top three. Save the rest for later. Then make an action plan to start tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow dude!
Don’t have a list of stuff you’ve always wanted to do? That’s even better. Here are some ideas:
- Take a local class with a friend or family member of something you’ve never tried. You might hate it, but you also might love it. (think painting, cooking, wine making, music, writing, improv)
- Sign up for fitness classes — something you’ve never done or want to try.
- Don’t want to spend money? Follow Gary Vaynerchuk on social media and get inspired to make money on the side. (Think eBay and Amazon)
- Don’t want to spend or make money? Sign up to volunteer locally. It’s amazing to be able to give your free time to someone who needs it!
- Start a blog (okay, maybe I’m biased)
- Read! Write! Create!
- Hang out with that person you’ve been meaning to reconnect with
- Host a dinner party (and use some of my recipes)
- Go on meetup.com and join a club or event (I love doing this)
Seriously. If you have free time, do more with it than binge watch TV and play with your cats.
If you want to make a big change, but don’t know where to start…
Big changes are never easy to make, but at times are necessary.
Exactly one year ago I got laid off from a job I loved and started freelancing instead of looking for a new job. That was a huge, scary transition.
The best way to start is simply by diving in somewhere. Don’t overthink it. Don’t do too much research. Don’t talk about it too much.
Like Nike says: just do it. Worried about what people will think? Just remember they’re too wrapped up in their own lives to care.
Another approach, like I’ve mentioned before in this post, is to reverse engineer it. This is VERY effective for big plans and big changes.
I reverse engineered my entire move to Colorado. I figured out exactly what steps I needed to take to make it happen, from the timing of finding a place to live to how much money I’d need to save up to afford it.
Writing your plan out on paper (or on screen) makes them feel more tangible and realistic.
Lastly, think about WHY you want to make this change. Your reason behind it becomes your motivation. Your “why” will be what helps you push through when change gets hard, or when you fail.
Whatever you do, please don’t give up on something before you start.
Remember: you are in control of your time!
You CAN get stuff done and have time to chill.
What this all boils down to is your decision to make the most of the time you have. We all have different circumstances, but we also all have the same 24 hours in a day.
Using your time more effectively requires some thinking up front.
What matters most to you? What are the tasks you can get rid of (or outsource)? How can you remove distractions? What are ways you can almost trick yourself into getting stuff done? When can you say “no” more to set boundaries and protect your time?
As always, I encourage you to get creative when creating a better time management system for your lifestyle.