The 5 Step System to Finding More Time
“Productivity”, “time management”, “personal planning” – is there anything as profiled in today’s world as ‘getting things done’?
Our lives are consistently busy, rushed and stressed out. We find ourselves trying to do more and more with less and less. It’s now more common for someone to be juggling 2 jobs at once than to take a leisurely walk through the woods, and the idea of someone working 16 hour days whilst attempting to manage a home life and a social life is no longer seen as ‘rare’.
One thing that we all have in common is that we’re all looking for more time. We repeatedly realise that there’s far too much to do in a standard 24 hour day, so we try to find more time. We may rush through our tasks or we may cut back on our sleep so that we have extra hours to use. We may even ‘fanatically multi-task’, performing 2 tasks at once such as walking the dog whilst speaking to a client over the phone.
Look In The Right Places
I used to be like this. Every morning before going to work, I’d tell myself that I had to do this, this and this on the day, otherwise I’d ‘fail’. I rarely gave myself room to breathe.
But today, I know differently. I have learned to better manage my time – instead of sleeping less or juggling 2 tasks at once, I now focus on one at a time and maintain a healthy perspective. I have done this by learning to find more time in the ‘right places’.
I realised that instead of cutting back on the things I needed, such as sleep or socialising, I could cut back on those tasks that weren’t important. I used to think that every task had to be done, that it was all important. But the truth is, not every task is. Some of the jobs you ‘have’to do can be let go.
I created a 5-step system for myself that I could use to find more time on a regular basis, and I hope you can use this too. You can use as many or as few steps as you like:
- Decide What You Want To Fit In
Before you begin to make changes, it’s important to know what you want the end result to be.
If you want the end result to be ‘more time to work on your project’, then you can make changes to fit it in accordingly, but if your end result was just ‘more time’, then it wouldn’t work.
If you just want more time, then you could fall into the traps of cutting down on sleep, or family time, or relaxation, or all three. This is what is commonly done – people just wish for more time to get more done, but they don’t focus on why they want more time.
Whatever changes you wish to make, you must know why you are making them.
- Make A List Of What You Do Each Day
Once you know what you want to start doing, or what you want to do more of, the next step is to make a list of everything that you do on any given day.
This can be done for just one day or for a number of days, but the aim remains the same – to see just what you do in a day and find out where your time is actually spent. Usually when we think about the day before, we can only think of the important events that happened. What we often forget is everything else that took place yesterday – that which shaped our day.
Here’s an example of a short block from a sample day:
6:30am – Woke up
6:30am – 7:30am – Toilet, shower, got changed, breakfast
7:30am – 8:00am – Checked e-mails, responded to important ones
8:00am – 8:30am – Played on online game
8:30am – 8:45am – Drove to work
Now, this is an example of when you include everything you do, including the morning routine. Here, you could say that responding to e-mails is important, but playing on an online game isn’t. By doing this exercise, you can see where you’re spending your time, and for how long.
At the end of your day, try to write down what you’ve done that day whilst it’s still fresh. Remember as much as you can, and don’t leave anything out because ‘it’s not important’.
- See What You Can Stop Doing That Isn’t Important
Now that you know what you want to do more of, and you have discovered what you’re doing each day, you can perform the ‘magic’ step of this system. You can now stop doing what isn’t important.
A lot of people find this step tricky. They believe that they must do everything that has been put before them, with no exceptions. They believe that if they don’t do everything, then they have failed. But this is a self-defeating behaviour – we definitely don’t have to do everything. It’s near impossible to do so, and it’s also counter-productive to our own nature.
If we wish to fulfil a hobby that we enjoy, then we can stop doing a chore that doesn’t need to be done at all, or not as much. For example, we don’t have to clean the house as often as we do, so how about doing it less? This frees up some hours on a weekly basis. Also, we don’t have to be on social media sites for an hour a day – we can cut it down by half and save ourselves 30 minutes a day.
We can stop doing some of the things that we have listed from the previous step – this is where we can free up time, rather than sacrificing something more important.
- Schedule The Desired Activity In
After deciding what you want to stop doing or cut down on, it’s time to schedule in the desired activity as decided in Step 1.
For example, if you wish to write more, then you can now use the hour that you have found from cutting down on online gaming. Or, if you wish to spend more time with your family, then you have the cumulative 2 hours you found from cutting down on TV and newspaper time.
There are endless possibilities for cutting down on less important tasks and activities, and spending that time on more important things. What you decide upon will be unique to you – everyone is different, and it’s entirely up to you what you decide to spend your time on.
- Be Patient With Your Efforts
Finally, please be patient with your efforts.
You still may not have as much time as you’d like even after cutting away so much ‘waste’, or you may be tempted to procrastinate even though you know what you ‘should’ be doing. This can be frustrating, but don’t worry – be patient with yourself, and take it one step at a time if you need to. A step in the right direction is better than a leap in the wrong direction.
Use this system to enjoy the process of learning about where you spend your time. I learned a lot about myself from this, and I hope you will too.