As life moves forward, more and more commitments attach to our days organically without us much noticing. Soon, we’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and things that used to seem fun feel more like a chore. Here are 6 tips on how you can audit your time and try to recapture some room to breathe.
- Write it all down– Take a 3×5 index card and list out all you need to get down. Put a small dot to the right of any of these chores are recurring over a series of weeks or months. If it helps to categorize them, do that (house chores, work, projects). Try to get it all out on paper.
- Carve up your day– Using the time carving method I discussed, make a grid of the hours you have available in a day. Block out all hours that you can’t control (sleep, family time, some of work but not all, unless you’re a captive audience). What’s left over is where you can stick all those items we just wrote down.
- Start with Hobbies– Hobbies are anything you’re doing for yourself for pleasure with no benefits other than peace of mind. We need this time temporarily to get you out of the weeds. You can have it back. Oh, if you’re watching TV, you can trade 1 hour of TV for an hour for your hobbies. Eliminating hobbies is temporary, but frees up a block to move.
- Find Commitments to Cut– Things you said “yes” to a year ago might no longer fit your plans. Match your list against things you want to be doing in the future. Do they line up? Wherever it doesn’t, consider finding a graceful way to bow out of that commitment. Your personal family commitments should be solid, but sometimes extended family is a place to find some of these. (Whatever you love can stay, but you’re trying to make time, and it has to come from somewhere.)
- Align Around Priorities– If you’ve read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this is Habit 3. Take what remains of your list and determine how it relates to what matters most to you. This exercise should give you ideas on what else might have to go to give you room to do what needs doing.
- Protect Your Future– One reason people say yes without thinking is that they don’t see their time commitments laid out. You wouldn’t write checks blankly without knowing your budget, would you? Make sure you’re aware of your time budget before taking on new projects, and check these new commitments around your priorities and see how they match up.
This isn’t about restricting you, but rather it’s designed to help free up cycles for you to do better, more meaningful work on the things in your life that you decide are the most important. Too often, we let our obligations clutter the path to success. By rethinking your time, you’ll find a big improvement in the quality of your days.
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