From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to the second the lights switch off for bed, everyone’s head is swimming with all the things they have to do. Even tiny tasks can quickly pile up, leaving us feeling overwhelmed. Certain techniques can help alleviate some of the anxiety, but they can’t completely diminish the feeling we could use another two or three hours in the day. Since we’re stuck with 24 of them, figuring out some smarter strategies for managing a hectic schedule is key.
Though you can’t expect your to-do list to just evaporate, you can make it seem less daunting. When you feel more in control, you might be surprised by how much you manage to accomplish. Get on the path to productivity and feel less busy with these six tips.
1. Limit your to-do list
You might have about 20 tasks you need to accomplish over the course of the day, but trying to keep track of all of them at once isn’t particularly useful. You’ll just end up wasting energy that could be better spent focusing on the most pressing ones. Try using The Daily Muse’s 1-3-5 rule. The idea is that you create a task hierarchy where you narrow your day down to nine items: one high-priority thing, three that are of medium importance, and five smaller things.
The real genius of this method is it forces you to focus on finishing the most important projects. This way, if you don’t manage to accomplish everything, it’s not going to be that big of a deal. It’s probably beneficial to write out the list as well because you’ll have a physical reminder of which items matter the most.
2. Maximize your most productive hours
Many experts have tried to nail down the most productive time of day in an effort to help people figure out how to do their jobs better, but they never seem to come to a consensus. Though it might be a little frustrating, it actually makes a lot of sense because everyone has his or her own sleep, work, and eating habits. Lifehack illustrates these differences by asking a number of entrepreneurs what times they were most productive, finding responses were all over the place.
Instead of worrying about the most productive time of day, focus on your most productive time of day. Once you have an idea, use it to your advantage and save mindless email replies and tedious tasks for when you’re feeling slightly more sluggish. And keep in mind, productivity doesn’t necessarily align with creativity. Some research suggests we do our most creative thinking when we’re not at our best, so you might be better off brainstorming when you’re feeling a little fuzzy.
3. Slow down to enjoy your meals
Once considered a social, or at least enjoyable part of the day, dining is a lot more rushed today. The desire to accomplish more definitely plays a big role, but you have to wonder how effectively you can actually do your job while simultaneously slurping noodles.
Everyone needs a break, so the lunch hour is the perfect time to take a breather. Psychology Today says rushing through eating will just make you feel like you have even less time and recommended committing to keeping lunch a work-free time period.
Eating at a more relaxed pace is better for your body as well. Some research suggests eating quickly is associated with being overweight. Though the exact reason for this isn’t entirely clear, some experts think eating fast doesn’t allow our brains to get the signal we’re full until too late.
4. Stop controlling and start delegating
Many people who value their work like to be in control of just about everything. Attempting to do it all yourself isn’t going to be very effective, though. Instead, figure out which tasks can better be accomplished by someone else. An article in Employment Relations Today explains proper delegation is crucial for managing time, allowing top-tier individuals to handle the most important matters instead of getting buried in details, and helping other employees feel more valued.
Just don’t allow delegating to turn into dumping. Piling too much work on someone else is going to leave them feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and resentful. Take the time to determine which projects should go to which people, and you’ll be rewarded with happy co-workers and greater productivity.
5. Set goals for your leisure time
Most people only think about writing out goals as they relate to fitness or their careers. Using the method for your relaxation time may be just as beneficial. Business Insider explains setting leisure goals will help you focus on relaxing during your downtime.
While leisure time can by anything from playing a round of golf to reading a book, don’t forget about taking a vacation. It’ll give you time to really recharge and come back to work refreshed. You don’t even need to make it a huge expedition. One 2010 study finds the anticipation of a vacation is often more beneficial for your mood than the actual getaway, so short, frequent trips could be better both for your mind and your busy schedule.
6. Prepare for tomorrow today
Have you ever noticed how picking out your clothes in the morning feels like a huge drain? Try doing it the night before instead. You’ll feel less pressed for time and won’t have to worry about second-guessing your fashion choices when your mind is still fogged from sleep. The same goes for packing your gym bag if you typically exercise before heading to work.
For an even smoother start to your day, make your morning meal in advance. Cook a breakfast casserole during the weekend, try overnight oats, or make something simple before heading to bed.
Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec