If you could have more of any one thing, what would it be? I’m going to guess most of you answered, “Time!” I agree! Do you know what I’ve discovered, though? We can maximize time … and even create more of it!
Before you all start throwing hundreds my way—though I wouldn’t say no to a few of those!—I don’t mean literally increasing the hours in a day. You can create more time by better utilizing the 24 hours you’ve got. And I’ve got 10 literal ways for you to do just that!
1. Get organized.
This will look different for everyone. I’d love to hear what things help you get organized!
Here are my top three organizational steps:
Organize email folders.
Create email folders for all the messages I either can’t read right away, want to reference later or want to respond to when I can. I also have a folder for inspirational emails—kind words from people like you!
Organize work spaces.
Tidy up my desk area and make it as free of clutter as possible. This isn’t entirely achievable for me since my “office” is a shared space, plus it’s also our dining room/living room/school room.
Organize your calendar.
Set up a scheduling system I can access whenever, regardless of where I am. I have tried to keep electronic calendars, but it simply does not work for me. Pen and paper is a must for me. I love Charmaine Clancy‘s annual planner. She made it specifically for writers, and it speaks my languages in so many ways! So, I carry my little binder around the house with me, keep it on my nightstand at night and toss it in my purse or bag whenever I go somewhere. I totally stole Mea Smith‘s binder idea this year! Now, in addition to having my calendar in my binder, I also have sections for each WIP (work-in-progress), for blog posts, for social media ideas, for writing craft notes, for story ideas, etc. I love having all that stuff in one spot!
2. Know YOU.
In order to both simplify and maximize time, you must know your ultimate goals and what is most important in your life. Take some time alone to reflect and jot down what these are for you. Keep them handy and reference them often.
3. Plan ahead.
Think through all the tasks that fill your time. Now, how can you plan ahead to accomplish some of these?
For example, earlier this week I thought through my social media posting and jotted out a plan through early March. I went ahead and scheduled the rest of January and will do February’s next week. An hour or two a month will save me an hour or two every week. Sure, some posts can’t be scheduled; and I will still interact with my followers, but I’m not trying to formulate a post last-minute. Plus, I won’t forget to post! (Or having the flu and bronchitis won’t keep my posts from getting out there!)
Consistency is key in building a faithful following.
I’m working toward spending only four full afternoons a month on writing these blog posts. I can write two posts one day, two posts another day and then type up, format and edit them over one or two more days. That will save me a great deal of time and help when life gets crazy and changes in my schedule happen. Plus, I should be able to produce better quality posts for you when I write ahead. Even if my idea is a good one, slapping it all together on the day before posting is not the way to write a quality post.
In my home life, meal planning makes a huge difference both time-wise and financially. I’ve gotten out of my meal planning habits lately, and I can tell. When I sit down and plan out our meals a week, two weeks or—best of all—a month at a time, I save an incredible amount of time. Also, because I’m planning ahead for a longer period of time, I save money by choosing meals with similar ingredients. I can buy a big bag of potatoes to spread out over the month. I know they’ll all get used and won’t go to waste, and I’m buying one item instead of five different types of starches.
4. Set times.
Every successful person I know does this—time blocking, “batching,” scheduling. Regardless of what you call it, planning specific days and times for specific work is a must and will maximize time. Basically, you look at your calendar and plan blocks of time to devote to various tasks, jobs or writing projects.
Every weekday morning, I block off 8 to noon. This is when I homeschool my children. We complete all of our work together during this time. If they are productive and focused that morning, they will also be able to complete, turn in and receive their independent work back with a grade before lunch.
Now, one of my children is an early bird who loves mornings. He wakes up early, gets to work on his assignments for the day and stays focused throughout the morning 99% of the time. He’s always done before noon. Like he says, “The quicker I get my work done, the quicker I get to play and do other stuff!” My other child? Well, let’s just say she leans more to the procrastinating side of things. She takes 20 minutes to settle into a worksheet, does a problem and looks around for 10 more minutes and … well, you get the picture, right? She throws my time blocks in disarray; however, she knows that I will complete my teaching with her and she’ll work all day if she has to, but I have to get to work after lunch.
Noon to 1 I should be preparing and feeding my kids their lunch and doing household chores. My set daily work time is 1 to 3. Then I fill in the rest of my time blocks with specific responsibilities: writing, cooking dinner, preparing Sunday school lessons, prepping school lessons, handling paperwork and scheduling, etc. for the local girls’ character development organization I lead. Everything I do has a block of time. Every block of time gets specific to dos each day/week. On the day I typed this post, I set aside my 1 to 3 block for typing up, formatting and editing two of February’s blog posts and adding on the computer all the revisions I made to my short story.
When you schedule your time and specify what you’ll be doing, focus comes easier; and better focus helps you further maximize time.
The other good thing about time blocks is they can be quite flexible. I don’t know about you, but my days are anything but normal and predictable. My husband has a job where his schedule changes every day. Sometimes he opens; sometimes he’s a mid; other times he closes. Usually he has all three of those shifts throughout the course of a week, and each shift changes when I set my writing times. His day or two days off aren’t always the same days of the week. And, his schedule could change at the last minute.
So, I need flexibility! With my time blocks, I can pick up a block and mentally move it around as needed. I know what things I can skip when necessary. When his schedule permits, my husband does a lot of the household tasks, so that frees me up to do other things. Every now and then, my kids get in an ambitious, helpful mood; and they’ll actually follow the list of daily household chores I have posted! When they pitch in and take household chores off my plate, I can fill those time blocks with something else!
5. Use timers.
Closely following #4, you have to stick to the times you set. For example, if I’m going to make my 3 to 4 p.m. time block for reading to my kids, I have to finish my work at 3. The challenge I have is, when I start to work or write, I get in the zone and I’ll just keep on going. Unfortunately, I can’t just keep going. My days stay full of many different responsibilities, so I have to help myself stay within my time. That’s where timers come in to play.
6. Communicate plans.
This one rounds out the last two steps. You cannot hope to have your time blocks be effective if you don’t share them with your family. If I don’t let my kids know that we’ll read for an hour if they give me two hours of undisturbed work time after lunch, they’re going to try my patience that entire time. I won’t finish my work, and they’ll be upset when we don’t read.
7. Choose right.
We have countless ways we could spend our time. Many of them—even most of them—are great things. Podcasts, courses, webinars, articles, blog posts, Twitter chats, videos, conferences, etc. All great—so many free and available constantly at our fingertips.
The thing is, with all the great stuff surrounding us, we have to choose what’s right for us. For example, I may only have time for listening to two podcasts, so I need to quickly scroll through all the great and find the right two for me.
8. Cut extras.
Think through all of your activities and responsibilities. Now compare them to that list of goals and most important things you made back at #2. If whatever it is doesn’t aid in achieving one of those goals or isn’t something you are most passionate about, cut it out of your life. This can sometimes be difficult, but it has to be done so you can simplify and maximize time.
9. Be ready.
Keep a notepad on hand for whenever inspiration strikes. Make sure your planner’s always nearby, so you can reference it often to jog your memory on the tasks you’ve scheduled. Keep whatever tools you need for your work time in their proper place, ready to go when you are.
I have a morning routine that I’ve been trying to make habit. To succeed each morning, I know I need to have certain things on my nightstand before I go to sleep.
Throughout the day, I carry my binder and my spiral notebook around with me. That notebook is my journal, but I also frequently use it to write the first drafts of my blog posts, short stories and other pieces. If I always have it next to me, I can achieve #10 …
10. Grab time.
I may be partial, but I think moms are the best at this. Every mom I know juggles dozens of responsibilities every day. We recognize time gifts wherever we are—during club meetings, practices, etc.; while our kids are taking tests or finishing independent work or waiting in pick-up lines. If you’re a mom, know that I think you’re a Wonder Woman! If you have a mom or know a mom, give her a hug today … or a coffee; moms run on coffee.
When my kids have piano lessons or book club, I take a packed bag with writing to revise or my trusty notebook for writing or world-building. I always have my notebook on hand. It stays next to me while we do school. It gets tossed in my church bag, especially on the mornings I don’t have to teach Sunday school. (I have been known to slip away and read or write during that time.)
It’s easy for me to get frustrated when I only have 5, 10 or 20 minutes here and there. That doesn’t feel like enough time to accomplish anything; however, if I’m organized, know my ultimate goals, plan ahead, choose the right activities and always stand ready to grab those time snip-its, I can maximize time in huge ways! And, so can you!
How do you maximize your time? Share your favorite tips with us!