You’ve heard the example before: if you say, “Don’t think about donuts,” all I can think about is a hot, flaky, frosted donut.
Too often, my approach to time management has been born out of frustration, an intense desire to stop wasting time. Just like the donut, when I try not to waste time, all I can think about is wasting time. It hasn’t worked for me. Unless I have a reason to stop wasting time and start doing something more valuable, I’ll bounce between YouTube, email and cat GIFS all day.
I have found a few simple strategies that help me overcome the lazy procrastinator that lives inside me and start using time more wisely:
Replace “I don’t have time” with “it’s not a priority”.
Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, shows even the busiest people how to salvage time for valuable but often ignored activities.
Our priorities are defined by where we spend our time. Whenever I’m tempted to say I don’t have time for something, I take Vanderkam’s advice and admit that it’s not a priority. This honest assessment gives me a great starting point. Do I want to be a person who says exercise is not a priority? What so called priorities am I neglecting in favor of lesser activities?
This minor shift in language goes a long way in spending time on what’s most important to me.
As people, we have a limited amount of willpower that’s gradually depleted each day. If I leave my phone on my desk while I’m trying to work, I am continually tapping into my limited willpower. Every time I glance at the phone, I am tempted to open Instagram or email. I have to overcome the temptation over and over. If I leave it in another room and turn off notifications, I no longer have to use my valuable willpower because I’ve removed the distraction.
Distractions can also undermine meaningful time with friends or loved ones. In a recent Real Simple article, psychologist Sherry Turkle referenced a recent study which found “…if you place a phone on a table, personal or heavy topics won’t even come up.” By keeping my phone out of sight, I’m not tempted to ignore the person sitting in front of me.
Removing distractions altogether maximizes the time I spend working or with loved ones. Instead of draining my willpower trying to ignore distractions, I conserve that energy for the work or interaction in front of me.
Put priorities on the calendar.
Time is our most valuable and finite asset. Nothing says, “this is a priority” like writing it on your calendar. If you’ve decided something is important to you, schedule time for it and follow through with the appointment.
My husband and I got serious about cleaning up our finances at the end of 2011. A moment of inspiration can easily be swallowed by life’s demands and opportunities. Our monthly budget meetings have provided room for us to flesh out the inspiration and turn it into perspiration. Without those meetings each month, we would have easily drifted into old habits.
If you feel time slipping through your fingers and want to use it more intentionally, try these simple tweaks. Be honest about your priorities, put them on the calendar, and remove distractions when you’re spending time on what matters most.
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