Most of us have had that moment during a busy day where we finally stop what we are doing to realize that we have been running wild on a hamster wheel, constantly moving, but not really getting anything done.
It's that feeling you get when you find yourself asking, Man, where did that day go?! Between driving or taking a million subway trips, banal errands, meetings, responding to emails, helping out friends and family, and even social media, every hour of the day is filled. And yet you still feel like you weren't able to accomplish anything "real."
But consider this silly piece of wisdom: "You have just as many hours in the day as Beyoncé.” And then consider that you can replace "Beyoncé" with anyone: The President, The Dalai Lama, Oprah, and/or any other notable figure who inspires you. The point is this that every person on earth is confined to the exact same 24 hour day as you. While it's easy to look with disbelief at the lives of these successful people, it's time to shift our perspective.
In other words, "not having enough time" is a mere idea that we're choosing to believe. By using those extremely successful people in the examples above, we know that we are all capable of making the time and achieving greatness, should we CHOOSE to commit to and prioritize our goals.
Here are five ways to help you be more efficient with your time, and really focus on knocking things off that to do list, leaving you feeling less stressed ... and much more productive.
1. Get cozy with the word "NO."
Why do we have such a hard time saying "no" to people? How did we get to a place where we feel like saying "no" to the things we don't want to do (or don't have time for) is a personal affront to another person?
If saying "yes" to someone else means saying "no" to yourself (and something that you really wanted to do or need to do), than ask yourself, who am I really letting down? This exercise will free up some time and energy for you. I guarantee it.
2. Eliminate energy busters.
Energy busters are those tasks that are low on the enjoyment level or low in priority. Some of these items even show up as things that I feel I “should” be doing but really have no interest in completing.
Start by making a list of all of your tasks over a one week time period and then review and rank all of those tasks on a scale of importance, value and enjoyment. From there, consider what can be eliminated entirely, or be reduced, restructured or outsourced.
3. Work less (yes, that's what I said).
This may sound counterproductive, but simply start working less and take note of the results. If you find that you are constantly putting in 60+ hours per week at work, just stop.
Most companies nowadays have a pretty solid appreciation and understanding for work-life balance and don’t require their employees to put in 10+ hours of overtime each week. It causes burnout and chronic stress, neither of which aid our productivity. Relaxation (through meditation, for example) is actually a powerful mode of ramping up our focus, believe it or not.
And if working less truly isn't an option, speak to your manager to see if there are any ways to re-evaluate your workload.
4. Be honest about how many hours you're wasting on "time-sucks."
"Time-sucks" include tasks such as email and social media. They are those activities that you spend the most unnecessary and unproductive time on.
I used to lose hours upon hours on social media. Now, I set myself twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening on those sites. I also only check email four times per day (morning, before lunch, after lunch and end of the day), and turn off all alerts and notifications.
By restricting my access to both, not only have I magically found additional hours to my day, and people no longer expect me to respond immediately either.
5. Create steady routines and habits you can expect.
Becoming more effective and efficient is like any other new goal that you are trying to create for yourself: it requires intention to making a change, and a commitment to follow-through.
Similar to trying to start a new exercise routine, trying to be more focused in your work involves strategy, creating new habits to help yourself stay on track.
When I first started working for myself, I realized just how important this was as I suddenly had no structure in my days. So I thought back to my corporate job where I always had a routine to my days, including given times of day for breaks, snacks, a walk around the block and so on. I realized that a focused eight hours is incredibly more productive than distracted 10 hours.
Making these small adjustments to your day will allow you to experience the magic of adding valuable time to your day to help you achieve more of what you truly want to, and reduce stress and unnecessary exhaustion.