Filling your schedule with tedious tasks and chores will kill your productive power. It isn’t the amount of decisions you make that matters, but rather the impact of them. If you want to stop being “busy” and start being effective, make fewer decisions every day in these seven ways.
1. Set a “wake-up” time and stick with it.
I know, I know, “stop hitting the snooze button,” is an obvious tip you’ve heard a million times now. But there is no denying that the quality of your morning tends to determine how the rest of your day goes. Think about it: how do you think you’re going to feel if you…
- Hit the snooze button too many times
- Look at the clock and jolt out of bed, because you’re going to be late if you don’t hurry
- Rush through a shower so quickly that you can’t even enjoy it
- Feel bad for having to make your dog hurry up about going to the bathroom
- Skip breakfast because there’s no way you have time for that
- Feel like you’re starving, probably eat too much at lunch as a consequence, and get a bellyache
Sounds miserable, doesn’t it? Observe how much better things would be if you just woke up when you’re supposed to:
- Get up when you’re supposed to
- Look at the clock and gently roll out of bed, because you’ve got plenty of time to get ready
- Take a relaxing shower that you can actually enjoy
- Walk your dog through the neighborhood and let it potty at its leisure
- Eat a healthy breakfast including fat and protein
- Feel like you’re nourished, eat “just enough” at lunch, maybe even pack it to save some money?
2. Rotate a few established outfits every week.
Treating trivial matters like what you’re going to wear today as if they are life-changing decisions is as foolish as it gets. While you should try to establish a professional appearance if your job calls for it, that doesn’t mean you need agonize over your outfit every morning. To make life easy, you could simply pair a matching top and bottom together in your closet after you do laundry every week. If you want more variety, just shift things around on a weekly basis, but don’t get carried away with it, because you shouldn’t need to think about what to wear for more than a minute.
3. Treat exercise like an important appointment.
There is no “best” time to exercise. Just make it fit your schedule, however you need to do it. If you use a day-planner or online calendar, go ahead and grab it. Do you see 3-5 days with time slots of at least 30 minutes that are wide-open most of the time? If so, congratulations… you just found the time to exercise! Exercising at the same days and times every week makes it easier to stick with a fitness routine, because eventually you will become so accustomed to this behavior that it feels like second-nature (read: you will just do it without thinking about it so much).
4. Cook in bulk to put your meals on autopilot.
It’s interesting that a lot of people eat the same thing for breakfast every day without batting an eye, yet they’d never imagine eating the same thing for lunch or dinner. I’ve gotta ask… why not? Cooking in bulk, or more specifically, preparing 5-7 days of meals at one time is a great way to make healthy eating more convenient and less expensive. You don’t need to be a master chef: for example, you could simply grill a pound or two of chicken at once, chop up a whole onion or pepper, and refrigerate in reusable containers. These foods could be used to make chicken tacos (make sure to get salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese!) or chicken salad (all you need is spinach or lettuce and a healthy dressing), which could serve as lunch or dinner for the entire week. If you’d like to learn more about cooking in bulk, my favorite book on the topic is “Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family.”
5. Plan the next day of work before bed time.
Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by all the work you need to do that you don’t know where to start? Me, too, but it’s best not to dwell on that feeling, because it leads to procrastination. It will never feel like there is enough time in the day, and the longer you stress out about how “busy” you are, the harder it will be to motivate yourself to get to work. When you’re caught up in the daily hustle, it can be hard to look at things with any perspective, so I recommend planning your workday the night before. Write down the three most important things you need to get done in a notebook (or you could even email it to yourself to make sure you don’t miss it). As long as you tackle those priorities, consider your day a success.
6. Admit that not all tasks are worth doing.
No matter how well you might plan, your intentions could be ruined if you allow distractions to interrupt your flow. People have a tendency to perform “busy-work” that makes them feel better about the fact that they are procrastinating. For example:
Are you organizing your desk for a good reason, or are you putting off that presentation you don’t want to work on?
Are you checking your email because you need to, or are you delaying those sales calls you should be making?
Are you washing the dishes to be a good Samaritan, or are you avoiding that report that’s due today?
There is nothing wrong with having a tidy desk, responding to emails, or being nice enough to do the dishes; but it would be silly to do these things while you have more pressing concerns that need to be addressed.
7. Dedicate your decision making power to the right people.
Why should you waste your time trying to please people who will never appreciate you? If a person can’t accept you for who you are, then they aren’t worthy of your time. Be more selective about who you spend your time with, because friendships should be reserved for people you trust.
The fewer decisions you make, the more time you’ll have for the important things. Tell us how you set priorities in the comments, and feel free to share with anyone who might be helped by it.
Featured photo credit: crossroads/Carsten Tolkmit via flickr.com