How many times have you uttered the words, “I wish there were more time in the day”?
You have 100 things on your plate, due dates are approaching, your eyes are bloodshot, and all you can think about is how fast the hours are flying by without your to-do list getting smaller.
The initial reaction to needing to find more hours in the day is to sleep less.
So you pull some all-nighters and find drinks/pills caffeinated enough to keep you energized and focused to make all of your deadlines. Sometimes that works. Sometimes you make your deadlines by the skin of your teeth. Sometimes the planets align and you’re able to make it all work.
And then you crash.
The problem is that you’re putting all of your energy and time (both of which you wish you had more) into working harder, when you should be using both of those precious resources to work smarter.
You have enough time to do what matters, it’s simply being confident enough to make the right choices.
Here are five sometimes-counter-intuitive steps to help you work smarter and better manage your time.
1. Give yourself less time
Parkinson’s law says, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, if you leave your day open to finishing a task it will take you all day. If you allow yourself just enough time to finish how long a task should realistically take, you will get it done.
Check out this great video on the science of productivity and how you can cut the fat (wasted time) from your day by working more deliberately.
2. Set a timer
Accurately determining how long a project will take is crucial in order for you to plan how you use your time. Know that this may be a trial and error period. Don’t be hard on yourself, just stay focused. Using apps like Rescue Time are great for catching yourself in a bad time-wasting habit and redirecting your focus back to a task.
3. Turn off notifications/distractions
It can feel productive to stay on top of notifications and messages, but it’s actually just white noise tricking you into wasting time. Keep notifications muted when working and set aside a separate time during the day to specifically check all notifications in one sitting. Just think how popular you’ll feel with 20-plus notifications waiting for you on Instagram after you’ve stayed off of it for a few hours!
4. Say "no" a lot more
Another reason things don’t get done and plans don’t get followed is because we allow other things to take us off track. This happens most often when we get requests from others and say “yes” before considering how that will effect our plans.
Always remember the Oxygen Mask Principle: take care of you first so you can take care of others after. Stop to think about what you could accomplish if you said “No” to the next 3 requests that come across your plate.
5. Reevaluate your to-do list
Every week it’s important to check in with your plan to see what’s changed, what needs tweaking, and what needs to be doubled-down on. After all, a lot can happen in a week.
Don’t wait until you’ve gone months down a path that is no longer connected to what serves your ultimate goal(s). Spending time staying loyal to a plan that is no longer optimal is the ultimate time-sucker.
When we say, “I don’t have time,” what we really mean is, “I have no idea what my priorities are.” Protect your goals and your plans for how to reach them from outside distractions and stay connected to why you’re pursuing those goals.
With better boundaries around your time and better clarity around what matters to you, you’ll soon find you have all the time you need to make each week a productive masterpiece.
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.