It is common to hear complaints of “not enough time”, but you may have more time at hand than you think. If you know how to use your time wisely, you can not only get more done in a day, you can allocate your time in a way that makes your life feel more meaningful and more satisfying.
Take back your control
Your time is finite, but how you use it is within your control. Author Laura Vanderkam who wrote the famous book 168 hours: you have more time than you think cites various time studies that show that you have far more time available to you than you think (which might be surprising if you frequently feel overwhelmed by your never-ending to-do list).
So this means that your time is your choice. What you’re doing right now is what you have chosen to do. How you choose to spend your time is up to you. That realisation is both liberating and scary
It’s about boundaries
Making the right choices are always about your boundaries. If you find it hard to set boundaries, you might start by reading up on how to say no without hurting someone’s feelings, or feeling guilty. The thing is, you can’t use your time wisely if you’re constantly prioritising the needs of others over your own. Or allowing others to dictate your time to you.
Once you have accepted that you have more time than you might have realised, and that you need to take control of your time by setting boundaries, what might your life look life? Apply the following helpful tips to learn how to use your time wisely.
Blue-footed Booby Success Formula: How to use your time wisely
- Use the ‘hell yes!’ or ‘no’ rule to set better boundaries
If someone asks you to do anything at all, big or small, personal or professional, favour or fun activity, check in to your own response. If your response isn’t a “hell, yeah”, then it’s a no. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a request to go for a walk or up for lunch or give someone’s child a lift or make a cake for a bake sale, or take on a job or collaborate on a project – if it’s not an instant “Hell yes!” then Booby, it’s a NO. Saying no is hard, especially at the beginning, but it does get easier with practice.
- Schedule your life
As Mr Richard Williams (father of world-renowned tennis players Serena and Venus Williams) famously said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
Start by making a To-Do list on a weekly basis, and then organising the most important things into your weekly schedule. Research shows that the best time to write a to-do list and schedule the coming week ahead is on a Friday afternoon. However, it doesn’t have to be a Friday, it just has to be a day that works for you. On that day, take just a few minutes to sit down and brainstorm everything you need to do in the next week.
Then organise it and spread it over the week ahead. Don’t expect yourself to do ten things in one day, unless those ten things are realistically do-able. Be brutally honest with yourself, work within your limits, and break things into steps. Having a realistic, clear and do-able schedule helps you to define your time and plan out what is important to you.
Your brain is for having thoughts and ideas, not remembering them. You can make your weekly schedule and your to-do list using physical pen and paper, or you can use an app if that works better for you. There is a certain satisfaction in crossing items off a daily, physical to-do list, but it’s totally up to you.
- The daily priority
Every day, make sure to mark out just one thing, which is the absolute number one priority for you. It is the one item on the to-list list that you MUST get done today. What that thing is, is up to you. It doesn’t even have to be related to work. But it should be the one thing that if you do it, and even if you don’t manage to complete anything else at all that day, you will feel good about the day.
- Time blocking
Where possible, carve out blocks of time in your calendar – most especially for your daily priority. That means that the one thing that is a number one priority to you is clearly marked out in your schedule. As Ali Abdaal (productivity expert) explains, if you do that one thing that is a priority every single day for an entire year, can you imagine what a difference that might make to your life?
Don’t forget to block out ‘me-time’ in your schedule. It’s very easy to let your work and productivity goals take over your entire life and that’s not healthy either. For example, block time to exercise or play video games or read a book. Or to tuck your kids into bed, or do date night with your partner, or breakfast with your bestie. Use this time to do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries. Blocking “me-time” into your schedule is a self-care technique that pays off in better physical and mental health, and greatly increased productivity. ‘Me-time’ makes for more time.
The time block(s) can be somewhat flexible in that you can move it according to the demands of the day, but be careful – it’s actually easier to have strong boundaries around your time blocks. Make them non-negotiable and rigid, because then it’s much easier to say no to anything that conflicts with a block.
- Set artificial deadlines
Parkinson’s law is the idea that any planned task will expand according to the time you allocate to it – so that it uses all of the time. For example, if you plan a meeting for 90 minutes, that meeting will expand to fill the full 90 minutes. Or if you set aside two hours to attend to your emails, you will use the full time. But if you allocate 30 minutes for the meeting and one hour for the emails, both the meeting and most of the emails will somehow all get done in 90 minutes. So, utilise personal, clear deadlines for every task you do and don’t go over time.
Where possible, use a planner. Have a calendar and put your repeating appointments on repeat. These can be daily appointments, like certain blocks of time you schedule for certain things, or weekly, like meetings at work or exercise classes or kids activities, or more long-term appointments, like reminders to see your dentist every 6 months. Having appointments automatically scheduled will save you not only time but mental effort. You can check your calendar every week when you plan your weekly schedule.
Outsourcing or delegating whatever you don’t want to do or whatever you shouldn’t do isn’t selfish. You need to think about the most constructive and valuable use of your time. Should you really spend your time washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom? Or would it be a better use of your time to hire a cleaner occasionally. Is it more important to drive your kids to and from school or should you let them take the school bus?
No one can answer these questions except you, it all depends on the qualitative value you get from the task. If washing dishes calms you and makes you feel good, then it’s a valuable activity and if you like it that much you can block it in your me-time schedule 🙂 If you get to have meaningful interactions with your children on the drive to and from school, then it might be well worth the time. But if you hate doing chores and if your kids simply fight in the back seat while you stress in the traffic, you might want to reconsider the value of your time in this particular activity.
Final thought: How to use your time wisely is a practice
I hope these tips are super useful to you when thinking about how to use your time wisely. Your time is finite, and you don’t get it back. But if you feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time in your life, move forward booby. Use the time you have left in order to benefit you and your loved ones. When you use your time well, you feel more satisfied, more purposeful, and more meaningful. Your physical and mental health benefit greatly.
By the way, Booby, I tested some of these ideas with this article. I made writing it my daily priority for 2 days, allocated a set time for each day, and blocked it out in my schedule. My allocation of time felt a bit optimistic because I’m a slow writer, but I decided how long it should take and set myself an artificial deadline. And guess what, booby, I’m done with 8 minutes to spare 🙂 🙂 🙂
If you like this article, please go ahead and share it. And please let us know what you think of these tips and how it is to apply them to your own life.