One of my favorite quotes is from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.
The days are long, but the years are short.
Those words conjure memories of marathon days when just getting to the finish line of bed at night was the victory.
At the same time, birthdays, holidays, the beginning of a new year…all roll around with astonishing speed.
I don’t understand the space / time warp…how this is possible.
Yet I know, everyone knows… time is slippery.
Somehow it works like this…when I have a page full of to-dos on my calendar, there’s not enough time. I look up and it’s noon, 3:30, 6:00, the day is done, and I’ve hardly noticed the passing of hours.
But put me in a cabin on a snowy, cozy day full of firelight and good company, and time almost stands still.
So how can you manage your days, your hours, to have more of what you want?
If we can’t stretch time, can we harness it?
The best way I know to feel like I have more time is to have less stress about my time, less frustration with the way my days unfold. Living at the speed of barely surviving is not how I want to watch my years tick by.
Tools help to harness the busy, the urgent, the unexpected, and give us room for fun, for quiet, for listening, for touch, for being present in the moment.
This very moment.
Tools help us to be a little better, more prepared, less tired. Time tools feed creativity and excellence, all things positive.
These are my best tools.
- Decide what kind of person you are, then be that person. Are you someone who needs a planner and a tight schedule? Do you need to build in plenty of room around your commitments and promises so you can fulfill your plans? First know yourself…know your rhythm, what helps you be most productive and focused.
- Even if you’re comfortable with a casual schedule, it helps to have a template. Find a planner, paper or digital, that can be your friend. Make it one of your best friends.
- Write down anything that’s important to you…anything you commit to that involves others. One of the important components of time management is courtesy. If you keep your appointments and commitments, you demonstrate self-discipline, and you show respect and thoughtfulness…courtesy…to others your schedule impacts.
- Determine the right level of busy for you. Individuals have varying capacity to schedule appointments or commit to items on a to-do list. Of course your capacity will be impacted by your world. Are you juggling work, kids, school, personal time, marriage? What are the big commitments you want and must accommodate? Set your priorities by knowing your values.
- Get up early, as early as you can possibly manage. The quiet time before the bustle of the day begins can yield so much. Use it to ease into your day with soothing morning ritual…your cup of something soothing, an inspirational read to set the tone of your morning, quiet space to collect your thoughts. (I must admit, I prefer the soft and gentle approach to mornings, unless I’m traveling and out the door early.)
- OR…use your early time to jump start your tasks. Knock out something that requires quiet and focused thought. Organize your household chores. Be productive.
- Set aside time each week for routine. Routines will keep you grounded and moving, especially when life is stressful or especially busy.
- Help yourself out the door in the morning. Create a launching platform. Anything that you need for the day should be there the night before. Or if you can’t put the item out, put a representative. If your lunch is in the fridge, put a water bottle that will remind you to grab your food. Put your keys out, purse out, your laptop, purchases to return…whatever goes out the door with you should be there.
- Pre-load your morning the night before. If you have kids, make sure their gear is rounded up, lunches made, papers signed, clothes chosen. It makes all the difference in the world when you don’t have to search for shoes or a missing assignment at the last minute.
- Even if you don’t have kids, do these things for yourself. Incorporate pre-loading your morning into your evening ritual. Get your coffee ready to brew if you have coffee at home. Know your schedule for the next day so you’re prepared.
- Redundancy…redundancy has saved the day many a time! Have a spare for anything that’s critical and that’s practical…phone charger, house key, car key, cash or credit card in a safe spot in your vehicle and your home. Keep extra batteries and light bulbs. When you use up something, put it on your list to replace.
Some are better at managing time than others. But this is a skill that can be learned. It takes a little discipline, and some effort to plan. But the payoff is worth it, so worth it! The difference in my days when I’m prepared is amazing. When I’m not prepared, I can’t catch up; I’m behind and I’m frustrated.
So, best foot forward, right?!
What tools have saved the day for you?