Swiss clocksIn the past few months, I’ve had some other friends and acquaintances say things to me such as, “I have no idea how you are doing everything with such limited time.” OR “Do you just not sleep?”  OR “I just don’t have the time.”

In honor of these loving hardworking individuals, I wanted to jot down some of the best tricks that have helped me have a better relationship with time, AND with everything I have going on in my busy fun life.

First things first: I have come to absolutely detest the term “Time Management.” It is a fictitious thing- the idea that you can actually control or manage a universal continuum.  Silly.  You cannot manage time, nor should you try.  We all get the same amount of it, and we each make choices on how we use it over the course of our day/month/year.

So here goes.  If you have anything to add to this list, I welcome it with open arms.

1. Apply The 80/20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle) To Everything You Work On

If you have yet to learn and apply Pareto’s principle to some (if not all) areas of your life, I suggest you do. Pareto’s principle states that 20% of your activities are creating 80% of the results (i.e. the most impact).  On the contrary, 80% of what you do is contributing to only 20% of your results. Before I start working on something, I spend about 5 minutes considering if the project/task is going to be in the top 20%, or if it’s just going to be another random thing I can mark off the list (lower 80%).  If it’s not in the top 20% of impactful activities, I consider spending minimal effort on it, skipping it, or just not putting my “all” into it. I know full well that my time is not well spent if it’s spent on an activity in the lower 80%.  That’s when you hit the “hamster wheel” phase- that feeling of spinning but not really making any progress. BOO. Don’t let yourself be there- it’s not worth it.

2. Wake up Early (AKA: Before my family)

I know this sounds terrible, and some mornings it really is.  Actually, the first 10 minutes of nearly every morning is a total negotiation for me, but I can usually make it up and out of bed to do something for myself about 5 out of 7 mornings.  That something could be meditating, light yoga, attempting to work, thinking through the day, or even just drinking tea and sitting alone in peace. It has been huge for my mental state, and continues to help me feel a bit more in control of each day… especially when the chaos hits. You might think this is completely impossible for you, but taking small steps to get up 5 minutes earlier might work in your favor.  Going to bed earlier also helps, but I’m terrible at doing that.

3. Realize That EVERY Thing I Do Is a Choice

You might think I’m full of crap with this one, but it’s mostly true. Yes- there are many things in life that are out of our control, and we honestly don’t have a say in how they turn out.  But for the most part- almost every part of your day is a choice. When Jumping Bean freaks out about getting dressed in the morning, I have a choice on how I react and how much I hold on to it the rest of the day.  When I choose to go to the grocery store with both kids, I then have a series of choices inside the store and beyond (Do I get the 35 ingredients for home cooked meals, or do I buy 3 frozen pizzas and call it day? Do I fight over giving them some cheez-its, or do I just give in and let it go as we make it through the isles?).  During a terrible meeting, after a horrible interaction with a coworker, or when I’m mad at my hubby… I make a choice if I am going to say something or not. I also choose how it will be said and delivered.  I then choose how to move forward from my saying something (or not).

We all have a lot more control over our time, our energy, and our intentions than we lead ourselves to believe.

If you are able to shift perspective of your daily activities and take ownership of every choice you (and only you) make, then it puts a new perspective on how you are going to spend that next moment sitting in front of you. You have a choice. Make it a good one.

4. I Plan Out Every Week, and a Good Portion of Every Day

For you non- planner people, this might sound like total hell, and I hear you. It’s hard, and I am a planner.

But studies have shown that setting goals and planning how you will accomplish those goals can drastically increase the chance of them actually being completed.

It can be intimidating and difficult to really sit down and think, “What do I want to get out of this week?” or “What are the 2 biggest things I want to get DONE this week?”  But I do it. I sit down for 45 minutes or so every Sunday or Monday night and really focus on my weekly calendar: What needs to get done and work, What needs to get done in my personal life, and how am I going to fit all the steps into the time allotment that we all receive. I started doing it this past summer, and now I can’t imagine going through a week without it.

Some claim that for every 10 minutes of planning at the beginning of each day, you will save at least 1-2 hours of distracted un-focused time.  That is HUGE when you think about how many times you think, “If I just had another hour…”

There is a quick post from Lifehack with simple tricks to start planning your week here.

5. Find A Way to Manage Distractions

I am an extremely distractible person—both at work and home.  I don’t love that I have shiney object syndrome, per se, but I know it’s true.  I have chosen to be at peace with it, but not let it take control of my focus without my permission.  If you also get distracted easily, take some time to evaluate: When are you most distracted (on the computer, on the phone, reading, etc)?  How can you mitigate the distractions (disconnect the internet, ignore email for an hour, turn off your ringer, read away from what distracts you, etc)?  For me, I have chosen to only email in select chunks throughout my day, reward myself with internet searching when I complete a project, and use post-its and voice memos as my ‘recorders’ when a distraction pops up during a focused time.

Find what works for you, but find a way to keep distractions from taking over your day.  They can rob you of precious focused time, and keep you moving toward the “hamster wheel” instead of accomplishing your goals.

To be honest, there are about 15 more things I considered writing about, but these 5 top my list.  But I also like to use full disclosure, which means I should be honest about things I am not good at doing yet.  Things I need to get better at include:  Getting enough sleep, Being a better planner with my personal life (for fun family trips!), Meditating for more than 10 minutes, Getting more cardio exercise, Being outside more, and not being so defensive.  There are also 35 more of those on the list, but I’ve exposed plenty for now!

I hope, for your sake, you can spend some time focusing what is important to you, and get it done.  You deserve it. Rock on with time, folks.