While there will always be 24-hours in a day, there are several ways you can maximize those waking hours to create more time for yourself. By compartmentalizing your priorities, you are much more likely to find that extra time with which you can do as you wish!
The best way to optimize your waking hours is to plan out your day the night before. Many people will plan the morning-of, but this actually cuts into precious hours of the day. By preparing for the day the night before, you can go to bed assured that you have a schedule for the following day and start that day knowing that you are already maximizing your time. How much you plan is a personal choice – you may prefer to plan every detail, from what you will wear the next day, what you (and your family) will eat at every meal, the order in which you will run errands, etc. Or you may choose a more relaxed plan, having a more visualized approach to how your day will transpire. Whichever method you choose, having perspective in advance will help you save time as you compete against the clock.
Your social time is important as healthy relationships are key to happiness. Social time includes your family, friends, co-workers and any personal interactions you may face in the day. And while you cannot foresee how much of your time will be spent on the most personal of social obligations, you can help yourself out by having a plan to limit over-committing yourself. Use a calendar, whether an old fashioned wall calendar, a white board in your kitchen and/or office or on your phone. By writing commitments down, you can clearly see where you may take on too much and choose a more realistic timeline for obligations. Time management experts say the number one reason you over-commit is because you cannot say “no”. By having a calendar, you can arm yourself with the foresight of whether you are able to help with a project, take a class, attend a party, etc. And always have an exit-line at the ready. Sometimes, you simply don’t want to take on a task because it will take away from other personal priorities. Have an excuse prepared in advance and lose the angst of turning people down. Your time depends on it!
Social media is unquestionably where people waste so much precious time. How many times have you logged on for “just a minute”, only to find that a couple of hours have slipped by? While a digital detox may not be feasible for everyone, cutting back and prioritizing here is vital. Time spent staring at a small screen, most often your phone’s small screen at that, drains your energy, your concentration and your willpower to stop and do something more productive. You must learn to be more purposeful with your time and surfing through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, e-mails, etc. is not the best way to use the precious hours in a day. Social media surfing often leaves you feeling regretful and unfulfilled. Instead of mindless scrolling, be strategic and ask yourself what you wish to accomplish before going on-line. If checking e-mail is a priority, do just that. If you need to find something through Facebook, stick to the task and sign off once completed. And experts recommend staying off social media altogether first thing in the morning, to avoid wasting precious time getting your day started, and last thing before bed, as it causes difficulty in falling asleep. Ultimately, everything on-line can wait. Any valid emergency will come to your attention through another avenue.
Your health should be your most important area of focus. Balancing everything else around eating nutritiously, exercising regularly and finding time for mindfulness can be the greatest challenge in your day, but it is the most important one to master. Once more, this is where planning is key. Make a nutritious meal plan on a Sunday night – include your family to make it a bonding activity. And after you have planned your meals, you can then plan your grocery list accordingly. If you have carved out enough time for this, you can prepare some meals, or parts of meals, in advance the night before. You can cook large quantities of some foods and freeze them, saving yourself more time the next time you eat the same meal. Prepare your children’s lunches the night before and your office lunches. Taking home-made meals to work and school is much more nutritious and usually provides a more satiating meal. As for exercising, you know what will realistically fit into your schedule, whether you work out in the morning, after work, or off-schedule. But make sure you have a plan here as well, fitting in fitness that works for your time. There are always options for those who are busier than others. You can read more about fitting in fitness here.
If you have followed the advice above, you should have found some time for yourself, which is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you often find that you personally get left behind or left out altogether. But by planning and spending some time organizing your time, prioritizing what is most important, you are ultimately prioritizing yourself. After all, you cannot help run a household and manage long days at work without taking care of yourself first! Make a list of things that you love to do, some can be simple and brief activities, such as taking a walk, coloring, reading a magazine, and others can be more involved, such as a day at the spa or taking a vacation. Once you can visualize what you want out of life, you are better equipped to achieve those things. While it may seem like you won’t have time to live out your list, you will find that with practice and through being more mindful of your time, you will indeed find that extra time in your day. You have earned it.