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How to Organize Your Life to Find More Time

How to Organize Your Life to Find More Time
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Does This Sound Familiar?

Everyone seems to complain about being busy nowadays. That’s no surprise considering the wealth of information, activities and opportunities that we have at our fingertips when compared to just a few decades ago, but it also means that one of our most precious resources – time – is becoming even harder to control.

That said, there are people who are achieving amazing things every day in the same 24 hours that we all have available. So what do they know that most people don’t?

What’s Really Important to You?

We’re surrounded by distractions that will steal our time if we’re not careful. Everyone is busy for 24 hours a day but it’s important to remember that we’re all busy doing different things.

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The question is whether you are busy doing the things that are really important to you, or if you find your days filled with endless time vampires. For more information check out How to Improve Your Life by Discovering Your Why, which goes into detail about focusing on what’s really important to you.

How to Organize Your Life to Maximize Your Productivity

Here’s a simple exercise to look at where your time is going on an average day and to help prioritize the important stuff:

  1. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into 3 sections
  2. In the first section write “Sleep – 8 hours” or whatever that number is for you
  3. In the second write “Work – 8 hours”
  4. Now in the final box write down the following things and the time they take
    1. Things that you have to do (showering, commuting, eating, etc)
    2. Things that you want to do (activities, time with family, etc)
    3. Other things that you currently do (TV, Facebook, etc)
    4. Anything else that takes your time each day and isn’t captured already

Now you simply ask yourself if you’re happy with where your time is going in that additional 8 hours. If you wish you had more time to spend on your hobby or with your family but find you’re spending a couple of hours in front of the TV each night then you might want to change that.

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This exercise is designed to show us the places where we’re leaking time into activities we don’t really care about. At the end of the day it’s up to you how you structure your life. Maybe you’d rather spend more time watching TV and less time with your family; it’s completely up to you.

Eliminating Huge Time Sucks from Your Life

There are also parts of our life that you might have to do right now but aren’t always the best use of your time. For example you might spend an hour or two commuting to and from work. That’s time that you’re losing every single day of your life and you’ll never get it back.

You might look at how you can get a job closer to home or tele-commute a few days a week. Since my commute is 7 steps from the bedroom to the office (yes I just counted), it saves me a ton of time every day that I’d otherwise lose. Again it’s your life and completely up to you which choices you make –  just be aware that there are always choices available.

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Other things might include dropping off and picking up children when you could take turns with other parents. Perhaps you jump on Facebook or turn on the TV and it’s time for bed before you know it. Limiting yourself in these areas can reveal a whole bunch of wasted productive time.

Using “Dead Time” Productively

If you still need to commute or do other tasks, then you’ll want to work out the most productive way you can do it. For example, you might start listening to personal development or business audios while commuting to up-skill in some area. By turning your car into a driving university you can easily listen to 5-10 hours of uplifting audio every week… that’s 250 to 500 hours a year!

When cooking or cleaning, you might get the kids involved or simply have them sit at the kitchen counter so you can chat. That way you have quality time with the kids every night as you cook and eat dinner at the same time. You’re basically asking yourself how to maximize the time spent on those “must do” activities.

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It’s Your Time… So Organize Your Life to Get What YOU Want

We all have a limited amount of time each day and it’s up to us to make the most of it. By knowing what’s important to you and making the most of your dead time you change your life dramatically. Remember it’s about designing your ideal life   not somebody else’s – so focus on what works for you.

More by this author

Craig Dewe

Craig founded Lifestyle Outlaws, with the belief that everyone should have the time, money and health to do what they want with life.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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