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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

Reference

More by this author

Dinnie Muslihat

Writer, content marketer & productivity enthusiast

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

2. Write Down Your Goal

If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

3. Set a SMART Goal

A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

     

    By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

    • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
    • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
    • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
    • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
    • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

    Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    4. Take One Step at a Time

    Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

    Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

    For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

    This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

    5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

    With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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    For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

    The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

    Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    6. Schedule Your Tasks

    Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

    What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

    For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

    Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

    While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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    7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

    Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

    Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

    You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

    8. Check off Items as You Go

    You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

    There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

    If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

    9. Review and Reset as Necessary

    Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

    If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

    The Bottom Line

    When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

    More on Goal Action Plans

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

    Reference

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