“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
– Peter F. Drucker
We all know that feeling: You start the day with so much energy and intention! But as the hours go by, time seems to run away from you. The more you try to catch it, the faster it runs. By the end of the day, you feel exhausted and wonder where all your time went.
The truth is most people feel this way, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to use our time more effectively over the course of a week or a year, and when we do things right, there’s always enough time.
In the end, it’s a muscle that we all must build. We all have 24 hours in a day and about 168 hours in a week. You can use your time wisely or you can let it slip away. It doesn’t matter whether you work for yourself or for an organization. Whether you have children at home or not. If you want to stay productive, you have to make time for what is important. And it’s not difficult to do once you know the secrets.
Here are three ways to find more free time each week:
1. Stop multi-tasking.
We all think we’re great at multitasking, but in reality, it’s awful for productivity. When you try to do too many things at once, nothing gets the attention it deserves. For example, when you make a phone call while checking email, chances are both activities suffer because your focus is divided. If you must multitask, try to switch activities every five to ten minutes and give your undivided attention to one task at a time.
2. Say no more often.
You will always be busy, so the key is to decide what’s most important and eliminate everything else. Don’t succumb to peer pressure—it’s perfectly fine if your friends want to go to a movie while you want to hit the gym at 6 pm every night. Strategic use of your time is essential if you want to stay productive throughout your life. Don’t be afraid to cut activities that are impeding your progress toward achieving long-term goals.
3. Think before saying yes.
As you get older and your responsibilities grow, it’s important not to get caught up in the busyness of life because it will prevent you from reaching your fullest potential.
It’s easy to agree to something your friend asks you to do because she needs help. She probably sees it as a simple favor, but for you, it could be another task that keeps you from doing what you should be doing. We all like helping others and we don’t want to say no—but there is such a thing as taking on too much. When someone asks you to do something, ask yourself: “If I say yes to this, what will I be saying no to on my plan for the day?”
Take some time to think about your schedule and identify activities that you can eliminate or cut back on so that you have more time for the things that matter most. And remember: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”