I went through this phase where I couldn’t get a grip on anything. The harder I tried to simplify my lifestyle and free up time to, you know, breathe, the more complicated and cluttered it became. Sigh! I ended up stuck in that nauseating tilt-a-whirl where the beeping, buzzing, and ringing made me feel like everything was urgent. I couldn’t tell the difference between my priorities and the unimportant. What’s a girl to do?
If you’re like me, you’ll keep going until you drop – literally. You’ll burn yourself out so you’re too tired to screw up your life anymore. Or, if you’re smart you’ll free up time immediately and simplify your life using the tips below. (See what I did there?)
1. Step Away From The Chaos
The only way you’re going to free up time is by stepping back and looking at your life from an objective perspective. Ask yourself: Why do I do the things I do? How does each thing make me feel? What do I want to free up time for?
Once you define how you really want to spend your time, it gives you a clear goal to strive for and keeps you motivated if you run into rough patches during the transition. Focus on one change at a time until your day feels as good as you look (rawr!)
2. Drop/Delegate What You Can
It’s amazing the number of things we do because we feel obligated to, not because we legitimately want to. Look through your entire list of obligations and categorize them:
- Drop what you absolutely don’t want to do anymore. As difficult as it will be, your friends and family will have to deal with it.
- For things you do enjoy but need to pause, put them on hiatus until further notice.
- Delegate what still needs to get done but isn’t as important as…well, your priorities. Put your Type A personality on the back burner and see what you can transfer to someone else at work and at home.
- For things you have to keep doing but eventually want to transition out of, put them on the outsource pile.
Tackle one task at a time – from easiest to more difficult – until your calendar is as clutter-free as possible.
3. Batch Tasks Together
When you free up time you’re able to think mindfully. From this point on, you’ll be able to assess everything you want to do and decide the most time-effective way to get things done.
For example, I’m a big fan of batching tasks together at work and at home. I batch together each phase of the writing process – brainstorming, outlining, research, etc. – so I’m able to effectively work on each of my assignments. (As other writers already know, “outline brain” is totally different from “research brain,” though “need coffee brain” trumps them all!)
The same goes for my personal tasks: I batch all of my shopping or errands into one trip, I do my food prep for the following week in one shot, and so forth. It’s best to stay in one zone and stick to it until you’re done, and this is a great way to stay away from “multi-tasking brain,” which is always in denial.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Do what you can to stay on track by eliminating distractions: get up earlier, only check your email at certain times, don’t read a text until you legitimately have time to, and put your phone on silent at night so you can actually unwind. Watch your television shows on the Internet so you can watch them at your own time and on your own terms.
Also, a larger coffee mug saves trips to the coffee maker. Just sayin’.
5. Define Boundaries
Instead of saying, “Yes,” to everything, start saying, “I’ll get back to you.” This will give you time to make an informed decision about every new request that comes your way – both professionally and personally. Once you’ve defined your time off, consider it as ironclad as a doctor’s appointment (so you don’t end up needing a doctor’s appointment!)
6. Leave Your Days Off Blank
Do what you can to finish your work and errands during your work days and leave your days off as obligation-free as possible. There’s nothing more freeing than knowing you have an entire day to do what you feel compelled to do in the moment. It’s something your inner four-year-old will really appreciate.
7. Recap On A Regular Basis
It’s not like one day we say to ourselves, “Gee, I want to be so busy having time for bathroom breaks is like a vacation!” It’s a gradual build-up of I’d-love-tos and sure-why-nots that slip under the radar until we can’t remember the last time we did the laundry or washed our hair. Once you’ve successfully cut back your schedule to a level a human can handle, reassess weekly to make sure you don’t fall back into old habits.
What techniques have you used to free up time?