9 Great Tips to Do More in Less Time
As a busy mom of 4 I often feel like there more to do’s and not enough day. I feel torn between just being present with my kiddos and playing, and all the many things that need to be done in any given moment. What ends up happening is that I am never fully enjoying what I am doing at any given moment because I am constantly feeling like I ‘should’ be doing something else even more productive. Makes for a very unsettling and anxious life.
So I’ve been thinking about time management and experimenting with a principle that goes like this.
A given task will take exactly as much time as you give yourself to complete it.
What? Let me explain.
For example, have you noticed how the same job can take different amounts of time on different days? Let’s pretend you have an entire morning at home and you have the plan in mind
to clean the house. Have you noticed that you could have 4 hours but often can’t seem to get it done? (Or maybe that’s just me:)
But if you got a call from an old friend you haven’t seen since high school who just happens to be in town and she is going to pop by for a surprise visit in an hour (nope, not enough time to lose all the weight and look like you did in high school, sorry) somehow you are able to whip your home into shape in a fraction of the time.
Why is that?
When we give ourselves a set amount of time to complete a task, we are able to move faster to get that same task done. Our thoughts are focused, our attention is concentrated, and our mental clarity is increased. Pretty much the opposite of the the typical multi-tasking we think is such a badge of honor.
How to Do More in Less Time
- Plan ahead of time. Gather the supplies you will need for success and write out the steps you will take before you begin.
- Create the conditions to complete the task without distractions. Choose the times of day and environment that works best for you to succeed. Turn off your phone if you need to focus on your kids or work. Plan jobs that require more mental energy for times that are quieter or when you are alone.
- Schedule appointments with yourself that include a start and finish time. Instead of an open ended plan of, for example, sorting the kids clothes today, give yourself a starting and ending time for the job. And actually stop when the time is up (that can be really hard to do!).
- Break big jobs into smaller tasks. If your end goal is to have the garage cleaned out, divide the task into bite sized sections and take on one job per day. We often make a task much bigger in our minds than it actually is, but by making it a game, we can accomplish more in less time without adding to our stress load.
- Make it a game and pace yourself. Keep it fun by timing yourself and seeing how fast you can complete a task while working at a steady pace. No need to give yourself a heart attack by working in hyper mode, but be efficient and focused.
- Create a reward system. This works great for kids but can also work great for you. If you know you will get to put your feet up and enjoy 15 minutes of your favorite book because you complete a task by the deadline, your motivation will stay high to stay on task.
- Let go of perfect and shoot for DONE. Perfection is the enemy of productivity. When we keep setting our sights on perfectly completing a task, we can spend infinite amounts of time. But what if we just shoot for done?
- Give up procrastination. When you are overwhelmed by what you have to accomplish, the tendency is to procrastinate or not do anything at all. Or spend hours on social media:). Start today by choosing a small task, set the timer and accomplish one thing. The first step to overcoming procrastination is to act.
- Notice how long you are spending on a job and adjust expectations if you need. If you set a goal to vacuum and mop the kitchen and living room in 30 minutes, but working at your most focused pace it takes 45 minutes, then adjust for next time to 45 minutes. Then over time see if you can drop that time.
The Test-Could I Shop Costco in Less than 1 Hour?
This past week I decided to test out this theory. My littlest had a one hour gym class and I committed to get my Costco shopping run done in that hour. Pretty ambitious considering I had to drive 10 minutes to Costco, shop, and be back for the last 5 minutes of class so she would see me and know that I ‘watched’ her class. (Look at me mom! I get in big trouble if she doesn’t see me watching)
The game was on. I had my list ready, I didn’t dawdle in the store and try out every food sample or deviate from my plan. Crazy enough, I made it back 10 minutes before her class ended AND saved money because I didn’t buy extras that weren’t on my list. High Five Mom!
Play the Game with Your Kids
This trick works great with our kids too. Assign them a job, set the timer, and see how fast their little hands can fly to complete the job. Even better, offer an incentive once the job is complete like a bike ride, extra story or special activity.
In our house we play ’15 pickup’ (or 20 pickup etc if the house has gotten really messy!). We set a timer for 5 minutes and each person races to pick up and put away 15 things that are out of place.
It totally works!
If you are stuck in the story that all this planning and structure leaves no time for fun, you might want to look again my friend.
Planning ahead, staying on task, completing a job efficiently…those are the foundations of spontaneity and a calm life. Now you actually have time to be spontaneous because you aren’t
running around putting out fires all the time.
And just think of all the fun you will have with your kids with all the found time. Ready, set, go!