Five Ways to Take Back Your Time

Our culture and conversations would benefit from a shift in the language we use to talk about time. When we say, “I don’t have time,” it may feel true, but it’s certainly not uplifting or empowering. In fact, hearing and believing this puts us in panic mode.

When we consider how many times we say I don’t have time in response to others’ questions and repeatedly telling ourselves this over and over, it’s no wonder we’re stressed and in deficiency mode.

What would it look like to pair time with energy? How would it feel to always have enough time to do the truly important things in our lives? As a business owner who works from home, coffee shops and co-working spaces, I have time freedom to manage my schedule. I’ve had the luxury (to my detriment at times!) of creating my own day to carve out time for everything. In the past four years of this lifestyle, I’ve learned a few things after applying some diligent approaches to time management.

  • Shift Your Mindset: The next time we’re tasked with something, how about responding to ourselves, “I’m not willing to carve out time to do that task right now.” Then consider the energy level the task will take and the time. Be realistic. Place the task in your calendar in a timeframe that works and leave it there.
  • Balance Task Types: You all know this: turn off immediate notifications and your phone for certain timeframes during your day, especially if you are working on a focused task. Be present. Take a few moments, a few deep inhales and exhales before beginning a task that takes focus. Work in hour-long sessions and vary focused work with more quick-response type-tasks like email responses. At home, I solve my toughest challenges while folding laundry during a five-minute break.
  • Be real: Sometimes what you thought would be a quick response to an email finds you still drafting that email an hour later. Is it better to voice text or call the person? Respond to the email when you’ve allocated time to do so. Same applies to phone calls. A “quick phone call” could eat up 20 minutes. If you’re not prepared to take any action, solve any issues on a phone call, postpone it until you do.
  • Align Energy: I can’t stress enough the importance of matching energy to tasks as much as possible. Take a look at your week holistically. Consider each day, each hour. Track your time (weekends too) for a month then take a honest look at what needs to stay and what needs to go. Here are some examples:

— I am a morning person, so getting one quality hour of quiet time in each morning M-F is highly productive for me. I used to try and work through my kids’ breakfast time and their getting out the door. No more. I focus on them for 45 min and dig into work after they’re on their way.

— I fit in several five-minute play periods with my dog during the day. Wow, does he make me happy. His energy lifts me up and I’m ready to go back to my work when we’re done playing.

— I also make time to workout – yoga or other – 3-4x a week. I vary this between 7:30a, 9:30a and noon classes and they’re always on my calendar so I can avoid scheduling meetings during those times. My energy and creativity level is always high heading back to my desk.

— I am not a 2:00-2:30 person. It’s best if I’m out of the house at this time so a nap doesn’t beckon me. I set this time for active and easy tasks that provide quick rewards. I also reach for an energy boost that’s caffeine-free to ward off low energy levels or at least navigate through them without feeling totally depleted.

  • Set the stage: How you communicate with everyone around you – co-workers, family, and friends – sets expectations. Are you texting back within three seconds? Picking up the phone after a half-ring? Emailing or texting late evening hours or weekends? Don’t be afraid to set more structured guidelines around your communications and conversations. I even schedule time to have a 15-minute conversation. It’s just respectful to all parties involved.

I credit my framework for learning to Jane Schuette. We met two years ago and worked together to get real about everywhere and every way I was spending my time. It was eye opening. I tracked my time for months and made notes about efficiencies and inefficiencies. I said no to some things, I carved out more time for wellness. I increased my networking and connecting skills to outcome producing versus just introductions. I started to make connections with my pursuits, interests and passions and make my time work for me, not against me, in reaching my goals.

I find that when we reach out connect with people to share wellness, it’s astonishing to be reminded of the busy lives we all lead. I hear it in people’s voices and pick up on it in texts – just too busy. We want to empower people to change the conversation, make time for what’s important including wellness, align their energy with tasks and set the stage for a productive, intentional and meaningful life. Here’s to making the most productive use of your time!