Feel like you need another hour in the day? Time management tricks and tips can help create more time.
In 2010, a coalition of Canadian women actually argued that 24 hours wasn’t enough to fit in all the responsibilities of work and family life, and campaigned for a 25-hour clock. The coalition’s Facebook page received more than 1,000 likes and prompted many women to daydream about what they would do with an extra hour in the day.
While it seems like the 24-hour day is here to stay, we might all benefit from a strategy for organizing the 24 hours we have more effectively. Find your 25th hour without changing the clock by using these time organization strategies.
Keep a time journal
Julie Morgenstern, author of many books, including Time Management from the Inside Out (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2000, 2004), says a visual representation of how we spend our time can help us prevent it from slipping away. Print a time grid and record everything you did during the day from the time you woke up until you went to bed.
An alternative way is to plan your day using the time grid. “Write down what you think your day is going to be, but then leave room on the page to write down what actually happens,” says Morgenstern.
Plan your day the night before
“A lot of people wait until the morning to figure out what they’re going to do for the day, [but] if you wait until the day of to make or review your plans, the day’s crashing down upon you; you don’t have any distance to make any real decisions,” says Morgenstern.
By planning and reviewing your schedule the night before, you spend your day implementing your plan rather than trying to make one as you go. Pick your clothes, decide what you’re going to eat for breakfast, and coordinate kids’ after-school activities the evening before, so you don’t have to waste time making these decisions in the morning.
Control your social media addiction
Morgenstern calls social media one of the biggest time guzzlers, and says logging onto Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest is often in reaction to being bored or feeling overwhelmed by an upcoming task, rather than a planned, purposeful activity.
“When you do those things in an unplanned, non-conscious way, they steal your energy, your focus, [and] your brain power,” says Morgenstern, who recommends having a plan for using social media. “You want to be really mindful and really strategic, and [think about] how much time and how many times a day you’re going to do it and what you want to achieve [by logging on].”
Avoid morning email
“Email is a purely reactive device. When you go onto email, you’re looking at what everybody else needs from you,” says Morgenstern, who authored a book called Never Check E-Mail in the Morning (Fireside, 2005). Simply checking email, even if you don’t respond to it, clutters our minds and distracts us from the important things we had on our to-do lists. “Start your day with you in control,” says Morgenstern.
Schedule “me time”
“[Me time] is the first thing you should schedule,” says Morgenstern. She describes the human body as a machine that requires fuel to run. “If you were going on a road trip across the country, you would plan your pit stops; how far you can go until you have to get gas,” says Morgenstern. “That’s what me time is. It’s your gas stop.”
Determine what it is that instantly recharges you and schedule 20 to 30 minutes a day, and an hour or more once a week to engage in that activity. It may be going for a walk, talking to your best friend, or taking a power nap—whatever it is that gives you fuel to continue with your day.
Much of our time crunch comes from committing to things that we later regret. To stop overcommitting to things, Morgenstern says we need to make it a policy not to commit on the spot. Saying “I’d really love to, but I have to check my calendar” gives you time to consider whether you should commit or not.
Having an exit line is also important. Rather than simply saying no, something many of us struggle with, exit lines such as “I’d love to do that, but I just couldn’t possibly do it any justice given how full my schedule is right now” can help us to avoid making commitments. “Having the language to say no that feels comfortable will keep you from saying yes,” says Morgenstern.
Time crunched nutrition
Balancing work, school, and activities with healthy eating can be a challenge, but these simple tips can help us stay on schedule without compromising nutrition.
Make a list
Dedicate an hour a week to look up recipes, shop through flyers, and plan your meals for the week, making a grocery list as you go, dividing items into categories to make your shopping trip more efficient. If possible, go to the grocery store at non-peak hours.
Ottawa nutritionist Rachel Caven advises cooking in larger quantities, which can help cut down on meal preparation and cleanup. “[Plus], you have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day and [can] freeze individual portions for a quick meal at a later time,” she says.
Although fresh, local produce is always best, buying out-of-season produce frozen may actually be better for you nutritionally, and cuts down on cooking time.
“Produce is transported from far distances and is often picked before it’s ripe,” says Caven. Frozen produce, however, is picked ripe and frozen right away “so it may have more nutrients than ‘fresh’ produce that has travelled a long distance,” says Caven.