How do you do it all? – A question posed to many busy people and one I am often asked. I believe that what people are really asking is – How do you manage your time? For years I wasn’t sure. Like many others I spent most days in survival mode, unsystematically crossing items off a list only to find even more added… eventually leading to exhaustion and frustration.
Faced with shifting professional objectives and kids who are growing faster than I care to admit, I’ve devised some tricks that help me use my time wisely; they may lead to less chaos in your life as well:
Say no sometimes – Carve out time for what’s important to you, your family, and your job or business. Are you a “yes” person like me? Ask yourself a few questions before immediately agreeing to every request:
- Do I truly want to participate/attend? What is the benefit to the community, my business, or me? Is this request in line with my priorities or goals?
- Is my personal attendance at a meeting essential, or may I call in? Who else on my team can pinch-hit?
A habit of taking a few moments to reflect should steer you clear of the autoreply/ future regret syndrome and lead to what’s best for you and your time.
Think ahead – To maximize your attention and get things done, schedule blocks of time, and travel that make sense. For example, if I have a committee commitment in Allentown at 8 AM, I will try to schedule a downtown client meeting at 9:30, lunch in Bethlehem at 11 and a team meeting or filming at my office from 1 – 5 PM. Travel time is smartly used for calls anytime I plan to be in the car for 20 minutes or longer.
Make a plan – My week begins on Sunday evening with a fifteen-minute review of my schedule. This mentally prepares me for what’s ahead, offers a bird’s eye view of my time and commitments, gives me the option to tweak what doesn’t work, and uncovers where there is room for last-minute requests or activities. The exercise also points me back to what’s most important and ensures that there is plenty of time for family dinners, time together, and time to take care of myself.
Rely on a routine – My mother-in-law always served chicken on Sunday, meatloaf on Monday, pasta on Tuesday… you get the idea. While we may poke fun at the lack of imagination, there was a method to her madness. Sticking to a routine helps balance the inevitable unpredictability of everyone’s life. Doing laundry on Sundays and Thursdays allows me to forget about it the other days of the week. Paying bills every other Monday gives me the freedom to let the mail pile up and ignore it the other 28 days of the month. And, hey, perhaps following the same shopping list every week perfectly fits your lifestyle!
Don’t waste time – Our world is overloaded with “time sucks.” Scanning Facebook, instead of working out at 6 AM, can throw off the entire day. Schedule blocks for self-care, get plenty of sleep, and wake up early, so you’re ready to tackle the day. If Instagram is important (and it is for most of us) scroll to your heart’s delight for 30-minutes at the beginning and end of each day and use a timer.
Ask for help – “It will get done quicker if I do it.” We often rely on ourselves to tackle drudgery while surrounded by willing and able people, at home and work. The time used teaching another how to complete a task you’ve mastered is time well spent. Empower your kids to do more meaningful chores, ask an employee or intern to manage a piece of an assignment, and focus on what you do best…not just quickest. And if there is no one in your life to help control many of the little things or even some big ones, hire someone and train them. It’s ok to ask for help, and everyone will benefit from your well-honed, fastest way.