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Published on July 1, 2019

5 Techniques to Tackle a Busy Schedule (And Create More Time)

5 Techniques to Tackle a Busy Schedule (And Create More Time)

Busy schedules are not atypical for those who work full time in offices. So much so that the phrase “I hate working” may be a common thing that goes through your mind if you find that work is consuming your life, and that you have no time for anything else.

But what if I told you there was a way to make more time?

Modern day workers live in a world where being busy is put on a pedestal. There is a common misconception that the more work you agree to take on and the more occupied with tasks you are, the more it will demonstrate to your boss and colleagues how much of a dedicated worker you are.

However, most times, it’s simply a misconception. Just because your schedule is busy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. And how much value are you bringing if you’re not productive?

Knowing the difference between “busyness” and “productivity” is the basis of being able to tackle your busy work schedule to create more time.

While being busy refers to having a lot on your plate, being productive means achieving effective results in as minimal time as possible. The latter can lead you to a higher chance of more time to enjoy freely.

Having a busy schedule can not only leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but it can also leave you feeling defeated and without the motivation to carry on and complete your tasks to the best of your ability.

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While most of you may not be able to control the amount of tasks assigned to you, there are ways that can help you manage those tasks so that you aren’t spending all of your time preoccupied with them.

Creating more time doesn’t require a magical genie or time machine. It’s easier than that. All you need are techniques that you can apply so instead of being overwhelmed and inundated with tasks, you can tackle your schedule productively. Here’re 5 techniques to tackle a busy schedule.

1. Prioritize

If you’re not already prioritizing your tasks, then you’re doing it all wrong!

Prioritizing the tasks on your schedule is a good way to tackle it as it highlights what needs to get done first. And knowing this information can help you manage your time and ensure you meet all your deadlines.

A prioritizing approach you could try is “eating the frog”. A method popularly coined by Brian Tracy in his book, Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, it doesn’t require you to consume amphibians, instead, it encourages you to tackle your biggest task first.

The idea behind it is that once you get the biggest task out of the way, the feeling of accomplishment will be so great that you will be motivated to complete the rest of your tasks for the day without a hitch, creating a type of domino effect.

2. Don’t Overcommit

If you’re the kind of person who says yes to every request thrown at you, then it’s no wonder you’ve got yourself a busy schedule. Finding yourself taking on more tasks and obligations than you can deliver can lead you into that “I hate working” mentality.

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While saying no may not come naturally to some people, it’s a skill that should be developed if you want to ensure you are working within your limits. Overcommitting to things can stretch you out thin and cause added pressure and stress.

You may find it hard to say no to your boss, but, trust me, saying no initially will disappoint them less than if you take something on and not deliver it to its full potential.

Although turning down tasks and obligations will create more time for you, it’s always good to keep in mind that before you automatically say no to every request, you should first assess what is being asked of you. You never know, there may be some things that won’t take up too much of your time that would be worth your while.

Learn Leo Babauta’s advice on The Gentle Art of Saying No.

3. Stay Organized

Planning, coordinating, and having a system in place is pivotal for tackling a busy schedule productively.

How you stay organized is, of course, completely up to you. Whether this means having an all out task management system implemented or a simple daily to-do list written on a piece of paper, visualizing your schedule can help you stay organized and keep on top of it all.

It can also ensure you don’t forget an important task. Being preoccupied with a busy schedule can mean that you may accidentally overlook things. It can also help you be prepared for unexpected surprises or any last minute changes so that it doesn’t slow down your workflow.

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Remember that what may work for your colleague may not work for you. So just because you don’t have the latest, state-of-the-art scheduling system, it doesn’t make your way of organization any less valid.

4. Delegate

If you have the ability to do so, then delegating tasks is another way to manage a busy schedule. Knowing how to effectively delegate is an essential skill that everyone in any leadership position should possess. Not only will it lighten your workload, but it will also free up your time so that you can spend it on something you enjoy.

There’s more to effective delegation than yelling out orders. For instance, you have to identify the type of skills that are needed to complete the task and then determine who will be best to do it. This requires you to know your employees and/or colleagues. You also have to ensure you give clear instructions so that you avoid having to redo the task because it wasn’t done correctly the first time around.

Task delegation doesn’t only benefit you. It can help someone else acquire new skills that can be useful for them in the future. But before you start delegating, always look to see if there are tasks that you can eliminate completely. There’s no point in giving someone else the responsibility if it really doesn’t have to be done in the first place. You want to create more time for everyone in the company, not just for yourself!

5. Take Breaks

The perils of a busy schedule is that it can lead to stress, exhaustion, and a decrease in productivity; which is why it’s important to include breaks in your schedule. This especially refers to people who work in front of computers as they are at risk of leading sedentary lifestyles.

Taking regular breaks is crucial for maintaining your health and wellbeing. Too much stress and exhaustion can lead to serious health issues such as suffering from an occupational burnout,[1] which is now recognized as a legitimate syndrome caused solely within the workplace.

The benefits of taking regular breaks while you work is that while it may seem like you’re being counterproductive in trying to create more time, by maintaining your health and wellbeing, you are actually boosting your energy and productivity levels.

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It only takes as little as a 30 second microbreak to improve mental sharpness by 13%! Plus, you are also reducing the chances of catching an illness that can result in a substantial amount of time away from the office.

The Bottom Line

Having a busy schedule can make it easy to get caught up in work and forget about the other things in your life. Where busyness refers to the amount of stuff you’ve got going on, productivity is about how well you tackle your tasks so that you can achieve as much as you can in as little time as possible.

By applying the above 5 techniques, you can manage your schedule more productively; you are also one step closer to eradicating the notion of “I hate working” completely from your mind as you’ll notice your schedule freeing up.

You’ll be able to spend the created time on the things that matter to you most.

More About Productivity

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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Dinnie Muslihat

Writer & content marketer who specializes in keeping people productive.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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