We’re all busy people. Some people, though, are busier than we’d ever imagine, yet are somehow are able to stay on top of things so well they seem to go about their life in a lackadaisical manner, while we struggle to produce good work and maintain a household.

What’s their secret? Why do they seem to have everything figured out; always unstressed and ready to go?

Leverage.

Sure, tactics like maintaining “to-do” lists (or “done” lists), setting goals, and decreasing the amount and time of meetings can all help. But really, these are all tactics that fall into a strategical category of leveraging our time.

Leverage is an awesome force–it allows us to multiply our abilities by applying a little pressure to something.

In life, we can leverage our time, and here are seven ways to do just that:

  1. Get it out of your head. If it’s in your head, chances are it’s taking up valuable storage space that you can be using to get things done. Every time you think of a task, to-do item, or idea, write it down. Getting it out of your head not only lets you focus energy elsewhere, rather than trying to remember things, it also helps you clear your mind so you’ll be more effective when you do try to tackle that massive list of chores.
  2. Organize your day. Do you go to work and just “jump in” to all the work that’s in front of you? Try this instead: organize your day into chunks of time–10-15 minutes for emails, an hour for that large project due at the end of the month, etc. Focus on knocking out the most important things on the list, earlier in the day to increase your productivity. As your day draws to a close, the easier or shorter items on the list will require less effort, allowing you to de-stress at the same time.
  3. Use other people’s time. One of my favorite entrepreneurial tactics is leveraging other people. This doesn’t mean using other people–no one likes that. Leveraging other people means empowering and allowing coworkers and employees, or even outsourced help, to help you with some of your routine tasks throughout the day. If you run a website, consider hiring someone to maintain the server, site, comments, and emails.
  4. Focus on the prize, but work in “chunks.” Don’t let the looming pressures of finishing that massive report get you down. Focus on how awesome it will be, but actively seek to “chunk” it into manageable parts that you can work on steadily. Give yourself a small reward every time you finish a chunk, and yes–give yourself a large reward when you finish the final project!
  5. Allow time for yourself. One of the most overlooked aspects of the American working life, leading to stressful people who are spread too thin, is giving time to yourself. Plan and write down a segment of each day that you can take 10-15 minutes (at least) to just unwind and do nothing. Don’t think, don’t check email, don’t call your friend. Just sit, relax, and let your mind recharge. You’ll come back refreshed and more able to leverage the time you have. In addition, take a breather for one day a week or every other week if possible to increase your productivity. Do some easier tasks or the “fun” parts of your work, but don’t let yourself get carried away turning Sunday afternoon into another workday.
  6. Use technology. Technology is an evil temptress for productivity–it can suck us in with promises of simple task management, planning, and keeping us in the loop. But we can easily get caught in the vortex of more, more, more tech. Use a simple task manager if it suits your work style, but give yourself limits on social networking sites, checking email, and even text messaging (if that’s your thing). Ironically, there are really cool apps and software packages that help increase your productivity, so be careful and mindful of how you’re leveraging their help.
  7. Keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop producing good stuff. Keep reading, trying new things, and implementing them. To leverage your ability to read, start listening to audiobooks in the car to and from work, and during workouts. Don’t let your RSS feed reader bog you down during the day, but make sure you keep tabs on your favorite blogs and news sites a few times a week, if for no other reason than inspiration.

Leverage is only useful to us if we’re using it in the right direction: if we let the pressures of our lives get to us so much that we feel like we’re drowning, leverage is to blame. But it’s leverage in the wrong direction.

Use leverage the right way and you can free yourself from the mundane things that you never want to do, allowing yourself the ability to create the things that motivate you, inspire you, and keep you pushing toward the weekend.

Or a better tomorrow!

What about you? What are some other ways you’ve been able to leverage your time at work, at home, or elsewhere in your life to give you more “you” time?

(Photo credit: Close Up of Newton’s Cradle via Shutterstock)

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