This must be one of the most popular reasons causing people to feel frustrated. Many of us don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to cope with important tasks, and this leaves the illusion of us not having any time to relax and enjoy life neither.
It doesn’t have to be this way though, and you can find time for everything you want.
As with any other aspect of your happiness, there are quite a few common mistakes and wrong suppositions, which I will list here for you to work on. Not all of them may be true for your situation, but acting on any of them is bound to make you feel much happier about your productivity and time management skills.
One thing you want to understand about being productive and managing your time successfully is this: it is always your choice how productive you will be.
Time is a limited resource, and managing it means having to make decisions and compromise. There are no magic tricks or secrets to having all the time you want for doing something. The art of being productive is about knowing how badly you want to do something, and finding ways to accommodate it by prioritizing other things you have on your plate.
Being happy with your time is about maintaining the balance. We all know the basic principles of being productive, but if you are 100% efficient, you are left with no time for joy. So staying happy means striking a balance between getting things done and taking time for yourself and your family.
Only through finding the right balance and getting better and maintaining it can you be truly happy.
Too many things to do every day? Do your planning!
Consider planning exactly how you’re going to spend your time. Do it in the evening, and outline as much of the plan for the next day as you can. The point of this exercise is in seeing what you will need to have done the following day.
Just adding this bit of clarity to your situation will make a huge difference. Make such a plan every evening, and it will help you make easier decisions when you’re working through the list the following day.
Will this make you absolutely happy? No. Will your list look scary on some days? Probably, yes. But you have to make planning part of your day, because knowing exactly where you are is always better than guessing. Even if your list is massive, you can use it as a progress indicator as you go through tasks and tick them off. You may not get through the whole list on a particular day, but you’ll see and know exactly how much you’ve done. And this will make you proud and help you relax.
Everything is important and urgent. Prioritize!
I know, there are days when things seem exactly like this – very important and absolutely urgent. You start one thing, then drop it unfinished and start another one, and eventually end up working late ours and still not feeling like you made any difference at all as you go home.
Is there a way out of this? Sure there is. Prioritize!
Make a to-do list and pick the most important things for you to do on a given day. It can be hard to justify taking time for such an exercise when there seem to be far more important things to work on, but this is the only way you can break free – so just trust me and do it.
Take 15 minutes of your time, write every single task down, and decide which 3 of these are the most important for today. Don’t think about urgency for the moment, just consider which 3 tasks will make your day if you complete them. These are the tasks for you to work on.
Leave the rest aside, and start working through the 3 most important tasks, one by one. No interruptions, no multitasking – focus on each task and stay at it until it’s completed.
Once you’ve completed the 3 most important tasks, you will feel much better and may even find yourself doing a few more things on the same day just to reinforce this positive feeling.
Learn to enjoy this feeling of having accomplished your daily goals! As you make prioritizing your daily routine, you will get better and better at goal setting. No matter how busy you seem to be, always take time to plan and pick the 3 tasks which make all the difference. Do not do anything else until you finish them.
Goal setting: be ahead of the time
To make your life even easier, prioritize your tasks every evening. Whenever you plan your following day’s work, identify the most important tasks, filter out things which will not matter to you if they’re not completed at all, and factor in how urgent everything (anything) is going to be.
Does it get any better? It does! Once you master this, you can start planning a whole week ahead and bring it your awareness to a whole new level: most things, when planned properly, never even get to become urgent!
If you understand how important the task is and have a clear picture of other things you need to accomplish on the same day or week, you can prioritize and block the time for each task. This means lower priority tasks will be pushed to some other day, leaving you plenty of time to complete the things which are really important.
Identify time wasters and reclaim your time
Try identifying what’s eating most of your time. Remember: we all have the same 24 hours available to sleep, plan, work, relax and be happy. If you don’t have enough time, that can’t be helped by getting more time somewhere. 24 hours is all you get, sorry.
Instead of looking for more time, find ways of reclaiming the time you already use doing other things! Take notes of how you spend hours at work and at home, and you will quickly see what can be reclaimed back.
Most people can easily free up 3 to 5 hours a day this way! That’s like an extra day and a half each time for you to do something that you will really enjoy or something that’s really important.
You already know the typical time wasters: watching TV, browsing websites, checking and replying to your emails, chatting on a phone or using an instant messenger.
If you pay attention, you will see that most of these things are non-essential to your success. They’re rarely work-related, and can be so counter-productive that in certain companies such activities are prohibited completely.
You are the master of your time
What’s important for you to realize if you want to be happy is this: you are the master of your time. You can free up a lot of it by giving up or limiting counter-productive activities, but unless you have a good reason for doing so, it will not make you happy. In fact, that’s a quite common problem for many people new to time management: they read an article or two, decide to give something up and end up feeling miserable because they don’t use the reclaimed time. They clearly see the things they had to give up, but don’t see any positive gain from the spare time.
So if you want to be happy, start with finding your own reasons for doing or not doing something with your time. If you can’t think of a better way to spend your evening than watching a TV – perhaps you’ve yet to see a bigger picture. Until you have a good idea of what to do with your spare time once you have it, there is no point in even trying to free it up.
The only way to be happy about your productivity and time is this: have immediate and long-term goals. Identify and review them regularly, and have your daily activities properly aligned.
If a particular task consumes a sizeable chunk of your time, and you can’t align it with any of your daily or long-term goals – you’ve got a potential time-wasting candidate to get rid of.
Stay conscious about everything you do. Acknowledge your progress and your time spend towards reaching your goals – that’s the time best spent. Fight activities which don’t bring you any closer to your goals – but only if you are prepared to sacrifice them for a quicker attainment of a certain goal. If you don’t have a goal worth sacrificing some activity – then don’t fight it, keep doing what you do until a worthy goal arrives. You’ll know when it does.