By Michael Mink
While it may seem like a paradox, the only way to feel relaxed about time is to become more mindful of it and commit to spending it intentionally.
That’s from Laura Vanderkam, author of “Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.”
She asked 900 people with full-time jobs and families to keep track of their time for a day. “The strategies I learned can help anyone feel less busy while getting more done,” she told IBD.
Tips on taming time:
When we don’t know where our time is going, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, Vanderkam says. “When we do know, we can change what needs to be and celebrate what’s working. Time discipline leads to time freedom.”
Vanderkam has been tracking her time on weekly spreadsheets for three years.
“I promise the results will be enlightening,” she said. “Just as we seek out good data for making business decisions, time data leads to better life choices.”
Make life memorable.
When it’s not, it feels like time is slipping through our fingers, Vanderkam says.
She advises that each day you ask yourself this question: “Why is today different from other days?” If you don’t have a good answer, “see if you can plan a mini-adventure in your life.”
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. “Maybe you call a few colleagues and try out a new restaurant for lunch,” she said. “Maybe you surprise your spouse with movie tickets on a Monday night! Maybe you take your family to the park after dinner instead of just watching TV.”
The key is this, she said: “if you do something memorable, you will remember it. And that will make you feel like you have more time.”
Target productive periods.
Good time management includes considerations of when we are at our peak energy mentally, physically and emotionally. Experts from neuroscience, medicine, business and psychology confirm this.
That’s from Mary Camuto, author of “Make the Most of Your Workday: Be More Productive, Engaged, and Satisfied As You Conquer the Chaos at Work.”
Camuto suggests starting with the big picture view of a day, week, month and quarter. “What is most important in a day? This type of big picture prioritization is not about quantity but about quality – top goals, projects, work relationships, business growth/development or crisis trouble shooting,” she said.
Camuto views her day as a success if she meets her three most important tasks, even at the expense of eliminating less vital ones that were planned. “As leaders, focus, delegate and help your teams do the same,” she said. “There is good science behind this approach.”
The skill of prioritization is critical, she adds. “Walk in to work with the mindset that you will have enough time to do the most important things. The day will probably not be perfect, but you will succeed and have a good one if you understand the following:”
- What work is most important and requires your peak focus?
- What time periods are usually your best times for focus?
- What relationships need attention?
- What meetings are a waste of your time?
- When will you take breaks to refocus and re-energize?
Manage your phone.
People have available leisure time but choose to chop it up with frequent glances at their phones, Vanderkam’s research found. Then, an hour that could be spent more productively “disappears into unnecessary email deleting, headline checking and social media perusal.”
Try putting your phone in airplane mode occasionally to remove “the temptation to check mindlessly,” she said. “You’ll likely feel like you have more time.”
Let it go.
Problematic expectations eat up time, and ruminating keeps us from enjoying the time we have, Vanderkam says.
Try being understanding with yourself, she advises. “Rather than lament all you’re not getting done, celebrate what you have accomplished,” Vanderkam said. “This will likely inspire you to take a few more small steps, rather than giving up entirely.”
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