I’ve already confessed that I’m not superwoman, and if you haven’t yet read that post, I hope you will go read it before you read this one. I want to share 7 tips for getting more done, but it’s important that you first understand that every choice we make in life has a trade-off value, and getting more done in one area means making sacrifices in another.
My goal here is not to impress you with my ability to balance it all, but simply to share some tips for making the most of your time in order accomplish your goals. If you don’t have the need or desire to juggle as many tasks as I do, then by all means count your blessings and don’t for a moment feel guilty! But if, like me, you are working towards a goal that requires some extra time and effort and you’re looking to make the most of your time in order to meet that goal, then here are my tips for making it happen:
Set Concrete Goals
The first step — which may be obvious — is to actually set concrete goals. I can tell you from experience that it is so much easier to work hard and juggle more than seems possible when you are focused on a goal. Working towards a goal is motivating and makes the rough times a little bit easier to push through. On the other hand, juggling too many things without a goal leaves you feeling a bit like a hamster on a wheel with no end in sight. It’s discouraging and draining, and it will leave you burnt out.
The key here is to have concrete goals. Just saying, “I want to build a successful side business” or “I want to pay off some debt” doesn’t count as a concrete goal in my book. What exactly do you want to accomplish with your side business? How much debt do you want to pay off and by when? Set concrete goals and milestones that you can work toward and that provide you with a light at the end of the tunnel!
Figure Out Your Priorities
As I’ve mentioned before, a well known time-management mantra is that we’re all given the same number of hours in each day. Each choice me make to do one thing is a choice not to do another. Figure out which activities are important to you — and to your goal — and which are not and then make your choices based on those priorities.
If you work against your priorities, chances are you will end up feeling frustrated and exhausted. It’s important that your schedule reflects your priorities so that you are dividing your time among those things that are important to you.
Schedule Your Productivity
I have been getting up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. each morning (and sometimes even earlier) for almost three years now for one simple reason: I am more productive in the mornings. As I race the clock each morning to try to accomplish as much as I can before the day officially begins, I get so much more done than I do in the evenings. For me, the moment my kids are tucked into bed at night, I begin to zone out. I have trouble concentrating, and I am certainly not productive. My body and mind are tired after a busy day, and staying up late rarely results in getting more done.
Other people work much better at night, and there’s no right or better schedule. The key is to figure out when you are actually more productive (and that doesn’t mean just saying it’s at night because the thought of a 5 a.m. wake up call freaks you out!) and tweaking your schedule to make the most of that time.
Get Enough Sleep
That said, I don’t think that the importance of sleep and its effect on productivity can be overemphasized. I read an article in Focus on the Family a year or so ago that said that consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep affects your mood, concentration and productivity in the same way as staying awake for 24 hours straight! Now, I realize there are people who are exceptions to this rule and thrive on less sleep than that, but for me 7 is the magic number.
Getting less sleep than your body needs in order to get more done can backfire very quickly when it leaves you sluggish and unable to concentrate and complete tasks. It can affect not only the amount of work you get done but also the quality of that work. I’m often tempted to sleep less in order to check more off my to-do list, but I inevitably end up zoned out in front of my computer within a couple of days, wasting any extra effort I put in the first couple of nights. In my opinion, it’s not worth the effects on my health, mood or productivity, and I try to make sleep a priority!
Forget “Me Time”
I’m not sure where the whole idea of “me time” came from, but I have to tell you that I think it’s a bit of a stretch to assume that we’re entitled to time every day to just focus on ourselves. I realize that might be a bit of a controversial statement, but I can guarantee you that “me time” will cut into your ability to meet your goals and that if you don’t feel like you have enough time in each day to get everything done that you need to get done, “me time” may be the first place to look for more time.
Now, I’m an extreme introvert, so I completely understand that need to be by yourself. I’m not talking about eliminating time by yourself (in fact, I’m sure that’s another reason that I am so productive in the early mornings. I love being by myself during those hours.) However, “me time” often refers to a person’s right to focus on themselves and do things that please them and make them happy. I’m not against hobbies or relaxing or spending time just doing nothing at all, but if you really want to work towards a goal and accomplish it, you have to give up the idea of relaxation being a right that you deserve and are entitled to.
Take a Break
On the other hand, I absolutely believe that it’s important to take a break, shut the computer, put away the to-do list and just enjoy life even in the midst of a busy season. Just as many financial experts advise people to include “blow money” in their budget even while working hard to pay off debt, I think it’s important to take a day every once in a while and simply do nothing. When my motivation starts to fade, I usually listen and take a day off to rest and just enjoy my family. I’m able to come back recharged and ready to face the task ahead after that break!
Use Routines & Schedules to Keep You on Task
I love routines and schedules, and I think they have been key to my ability to meet the goals I set for myself. Having routines in place allows you to streamline everyday tasks and get them done more quickly and smoothly. Schedules keep you focused and on track and are especially useful on busy days when you need to move from one activity to the next on time in order to get everything done that you need to get done.
All of these tips are designed to help you “work smarter, not harder,” which ultimately helps you reach your goals faster and leave more time for simply enjoying life. It’s not an exact science, but it is about making a conscious effort to figure out which things help you be more productive so that you can make the most of the time you do have!
What helps you be more productive? What makes you unproductive?