How many times have you bailed on plans or cancelled an appointment because you’re too busy? How many times have your plans been changed because someone else doesn’t have time to meet or is over-committed?
Being busy is so common many of us have defaulted to making back-up plans for our plans. Or, even worse, we make plans knowing we can’t make it but think maybe we can squeeze it in anyway. Our calendars are crammed full, we run around town all day in a tizzy and drop like a rock into bed at night wondering where the hours went and why we aren’t more productive.
I lived like this for years and felt under constant stress about all the things I had to do but never seemed to get to. My to-do list was a mile long and I never seemed to stop treading water.
When I deconstructed how I spent my days I realized much of my time was wasted by either not working on the right things or not being efficient. I also saw how much of my time was spent reacting to what other people asked of me, which kept me bouncing from task to task rather than being productive and focused.
Recognizing how much of my day I allowed to be controlled by others allowed me to begin taking my time back.
Here are the steps I took to make time for the things I needed to work on and wanted to achieve, even though I didn’t have time to spare.
- I thought about how my ideal day would go and decided how I wanted to spend my time. I created a schedule and plotted when I would work on all my different projects and left room for back-burner projects and interruptions. Anything that didn’t fit on the calendar was dropped, delegated or outsourced.
- I determined to stop reacting to whatever came up during the day and instead take a breath and look at my calendar and workload. Could the meeting wait? Did the conversation need to happen right now? Did I have to drop everything and change my focus to a different task?
- I created a list of non-negotiables and built my schedule around them. For me this was bedtime, exercise and family time.
- I lowered my expectations. For a recovering perfectionist this feels ridiculous but I’ve learned I need to put less on my to-do list and be more realistic with what I can accomplish. I’ve found three to five tasks in a day is more than enough.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past year is how to make time for things that matter to me. In both my work and personal life I’ve seen the benefits of choosing how to spend my time and prioritizing what I’m passionate about. I’m happier, I’m more productive, I meet my deadlines and I can’t remember the last time I cancelled plans.