How to find more time in your day

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

There is a group of people out there in the world that take deep pride in being extremely, overwhelmingly busy. You know them. They are The Busy People, and their answer to innocent inquiries of "How are you?" are met with "Sooooo busy, I can't even talk to you because in the four seconds we've interacted I just received six emails."

Sometimes, a member of The Busy People finds out about this blog. "You must have a lot of time on your hands," they say. This is one of the most disappointing things that someone can say to me, right up there with "I'm sorry, but we are out of cookie dough ice cream" at Baskin Robbins and the recorded American Airlines voicemail telling me my flight has been delayed.

The truth is, we all have the exact same amount of time in a day. How we choose to prioritize and use it is discretionary. In my humble opinion, I think The Busy People are simply lacking either the will or the means to ruthlessly prioritize their time. Quite frankly, we've all got plenty of demands on our time and if we don't have an approach to determine how best to spend it, we'd also be passing judgement on those who make it to yoga while we're combing through our thousandth email.

A few years ago, I read Greg McKewon's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and it changed how I thought about (and spent) my time. It helped me to become more disciplined on how I allocated it, and gave me some tactics for making space for things that add value to my life (for example, exercising, snuggling with my dog, dating my husband, or writing this blog).

Here are some of the best time-saving strategies I've found:

#1 Pre-schedule everything

Every hear of the 5 P's? Not the marketing framework, but the time management one: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The ability to maintain my split creative-and-corporate personas, along with my personal life, is all thanks to pre-scheduling my time and sticking to a system that makes it as easy as possible for me to meet my commitments. (Although my neglect of this blog lately suggests my ruthless prioritization approach needs to be revisited...)

For work, I plan out my upcoming week on Fridays, getting my to-do lists together, blocking time on my calendar for heads-down tasks, and confirming meetings, appointments, dinners, etc. Reminders are set up in Outlook for all work and personal tasks, covering everything from workouts, nail and hair appointments and conference calls.

For writing, I plan out my content creation schedule well ahead of time, carving time out on the plane to write and on the weekends to take photos. I schedule most of my Instagram shares with Latergramme so it sends me a pre-scheduled reminder to post during a time when I can take a break to do it.

#2 Streamline your morning routine

Proper planning in the evening helps me get ready in as little as 15 minutes in the morning. Selecting my outfit, shoes, coat, laying out my jewelry, makeup and hair supplies and pre-packing my bag with everything I need before heading out the door makes this possible. Since I travel Monday through Thursday, my outfits are already selected and ready to go. Adhering to the French approach to hair care (ahem, investing in a great cut every 6-8 weeks, shampooing just a couple times per week and allowing to air dry always with no product save for a little sea salt spray) means that I'm literally wash-and-go.

#3 Automate everything

That is bill payments, rent, banking, you name it. If you can automate it, I'm on it and believe it is a true failure to have to get in the car to "run an errand." I do not run errands, partly due to my deep and undying love of Amazon. I truly believe that if you can't get it on Amazon Prime, you don't really need it. Nearly all of my pantry staples, toiletries, makeup, vitamins, etc. I order via Amazon Prime and I love that you can schedule auto-shipments for things you use often (I'm looking at you, Nespresso pods).

#4 Outsource wherever possible

Although I embrace fulfilling DIY activities such as fixing my own heel tips or making my own lace-up flats as documented on my Instagram feed, those are creative outlets and therefore deemed worthy of my time. Other activities such as doing my own web design, walking my dog, developing a fitness regimen, etc. are things that I hire professionals to do for me and it is worth every penny in the time it gives me to devote to other things.

#5 Eliminate unnecessary things from your life

Marie Kondo would agree with me when I say that every object we own - be it a kitchen appliance, a couch, or a pair of pants - requires our time and attention. Some are more high maintenance than others, but still demand care. Selling off my beloved (but perpetually parked) Honda Civic eliminated oil changes, check ups, license and registration renewals, gas station visits, insurance payments, etc. from my life and my transportation needs were replaced with low-commitment, low-cost Uber and L rides. Downsizing my wardrobe has helped save me time in processing, packing, and hemming-and-hawing about whether the item looks good. (If you're hemming and hawing, it doesn't.)

#6 Use "dead" time wisely

Many people I work with hate traveling. I've re-framed travel time to represent "me" time, and use my weekly flights to invest in my self-development. Occasionally I get a bad case of the Mondays, but usually look forward to my Americano and quality time with my Kindle. Without that time, I wouldn't be able to read a book per week. Time walking to the office from my hotel or sitting in traffic is used to think and re-assess, or call my mom, sister or friend I've been meaning to check on. When I can't sleep or am waiting in the doctor's office, I write. It's amazing how much you get back if you start to re-think the moments you waste in transit.

#7 Learn to say no 

This is an extremely hard one to do, but necessary to give yourself space to devote time to who and what you really care about. Social events like weekend getaways, mimosa-filled brunches, and movie nights are things that I try to keep to a minimum so I can invest time in my family and passions. I'm extremely careful to commit to work-related requests that don't add value to either my clients, other colleagues, or my professional skills. This may sound terrible, but if my "obligation" sensors go up (as in, "I feel obligated to do this, but don't really want to") I make it a policy of saying no.

#8 Put first things first

At my consulting firm, we have an adage that gets passed around regarding life priorities that goes something like this: "Think of your life as a set of balls. Three of them are glass, and the fourth rubber. Your family, faith and health are the glass balls that will shatter if dropped. Your career will always bounce back." I fully believe this is true. My family, husband and close-knit friends are the loves of my life and I spend most of my time with them. The decisions I make in my life and career are guided by my faith and values, even when it may be counter-cultural. My health is an investment, and I'll never think twice about the money I spend on a personal trainer, the food I eat, or the sleep I demand (which I explain to my colleagues as: "I'm not a morning or night person - best between 10 and 3!" before inviting them to Bikram).

Ok folks, that's all I have for now. Would love to hear any time-saving or prioritization tricks that work well for you, as I'm always refining my approach!


6 comments on "How to find more time in your day"
  1. Always enjoy your posts Colleen. Some good tips here... Must plan some time to try a few 😊.

    Kerrie

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    1. Thanks so much Kerrie, I really appreciate your comment! Let me know if you try any of these! Have a great week :-)

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  2. Loving this! Streamlining your morning is such great advice babe. Hugs, Kait
    www.makeminemaroon.com

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    1. Yes! Agreed. Easier said than done though :) (In my bathrobe as I type this.)

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  3. Awesome post, Colleen! This one really speaks to my heart. I've met so few people like you who are so deliberate with their time. It is very inspiring. I strive to do the same. I am happiest when I've got a clear plan because it is allows me to use even a spare 15 minutes (which is something I enjoy immensely). Usually people look at me strangely when I tell them how I approach life. However, reading your post makes me realize that 1)I'm not alone 2)I need to take it to the next level. I need to put much more planning into my Instagramming. I also need to run fewer errands and make better use of my Amazon Prime account. I've been giving lots of thought to a capsule wardrobe and am planning one for the months of June, July and August. I anticipate this will greatly simplify my closet and my mornings as well possibly unify my style. One idea for you. Do you have a Fitbit? I love it because I find myself using even a spare 30 seconds to get up and move around. Thanks for this list! I will be evaluate my game starting nooow!

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    1. Jill, thank you so much for your comment! Love that you are a fellow devotee of conscious time-spending :-) Let me know how your capsule for summer works - trying to work towards that goal for 2017! In terms of FitBit - I used to wear one and then just kept forgetting to charge the battery. That's a great idea to use it to encourage efficient exercising, definitely something I can use (in addition to my "running late for the airport" cardio exercises). Have a great week, and thanks again for reading!

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