You know you’ve truly reached the throes of adulthood when you hear yourself uttering the sentence, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” And before you can swallow the words back, you realize, “Oh no, I’m turning into my mother!” It happens to the best of us – but that feeling of life moving too quickly to get everything done? That isn’t a feeling you have to settle for.
There are some seasons of life that are crazier than others, but the day-to-day exhaustion and never-ending to-do lists of most American women is the stuff of horror movies. We’ve corralled ten tips that will help you create more hours in your day – without sacrificing more of your sanity.
1. Make an organized list.
There are few things in life that are as satisfying as drawing a big line through a task on your to-do list. But when two new tasks seem to grow out of every one that you cross off, panic can set in. First, resist the urge to make a second list for the day. You only need one. Sometimes the list itself can serve as a distraction from completing what’s actually on the list.
Second, when you make your list for the day or week, organize it in order of importance. Create four categories: “Urgent and Important”; “Urgent but Not Important”; “Important but Not Urgent”; and “Not Important and Not Urgent”. Each item should fall under one of these categories, and should be tackled based on where it lands. “Urgent and Important” should be done first, working your way down the line to “Not Important and Not Urgent”. The result is that whatever needs to be pushed to the next day is something that can be pushed.
When overwhelm hits, it can hit hard. Not only will you be unproductive, but you’re also more likely to make mistakes when you can’t think straight. The next time you feel the chaos of not having enough time rise up, try this two-minute exercise.
Take a deep breath, and list 5 things you can see.
On your next breath, list 4 things you can feel (the wind, the shoes on your feet, etc.)
Next breath, list 3 things you can hear.
Take another deep breath and focus on 2 things you can smell.
On your final breath, list 1 thing you can taste.
This grounding exercise helps bring you back to the present moment, and allows you to get out of your head long enough to relax. The best part is that this can be done at any time without anyone else knowing you’re doing it: during that stressful meeting, at dinner with the in-laws, or while you’re staring at your screaming toddler, wondering how something so cute can be so loud.
3. Listen to podcasts!
The next time you’re cleaning, organizing, or doing another activity that doesn’t require too much active thinking, try listening to a podcast. They’re a great way to pass the time, learn something new, and feel like you had a bit of a brain break – all while completing those mundane tasks.
If you’re unsure of where to start on your podcast list, take a look at the ones I’m listening to: https://www.breaker.audio/u/elysa
4. Busyness vs. Productivity
It can be so easy to fill our days with busyness – and yes, busyness is different than productivity. There’s a quote from Denzel Washington that sums this up perfectly: “Don’t confuse movement with progress. You can run in place all day, and not get anywhere.” Ouch.
In taking an honest look at your day, how much of it is filled with being busy, and how much is filled with productivity? Part of the busyness trap is due to the lie most of us were taught: that multi-tasking is a great way to get things done. Insider secret? It’s not! Not only does it not save you time (a project is going to take as long as it takes!), it actually takes up way more of your brain energy than just focusing on a singular task does.
Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Busyness is not a sign of accomplishment or success.
5. The art of “No”, and what it can teach you.
We’ve heard it before: “No” is a complete sentence. But what happens when that complete sentence is the response to your significant other, or that get-together you really did want to go to, or your own kid? Now “no” feels kind of mean.
This is when it’s time to turn to your handy-dandy categorized to-do list that you created after point #1. If you can move something from that “Not Important and Not Urgent” category to another time, then by all means say, “Yes!” to the things you want to! If you’re finding that everything on that “Urgent and Important” list is requiring you to repeatedly say, “No,” it may be time to reevaluate your priorities and re-align them with your personal beliefs and desires. Maybe it’s time to start saying “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to others.
6. Hang up your “do not disturb” sign.
For the love of everything beautiful, put your phone on “do not disturb”. So much time is wasted in those few minutes here and there where you check your phone, or email, or accidentally scroll through Pinterest for half an hour. Those “little” pieces of time are eating up your day in more than one way: Not only do you have to take the time to respond, but your brain has to mentally shift gears away from the task at hand, and then re-shift once you’ve hit “send”.
Set a timer, and check your phone at pre-determined times throughout the day. While it may frustrate some people at first, you’re training them to respect the boundaries you put around your time. Taking 10-15 minutes every few hours to respond can serve as a great break between tasks without sacrificing your time and energy during the completion of those tasks.
7. Rise and shine!
Before you check your phone, turn on the TV, or begin any of your morning rituals: Take 5-10 minutes and get in the right head space. This could mean listing 5 things you’re thankful for, meditating, reading a chapter from a book, or doing a quick visualization of how the day will look. The point here is to do what works for you. What will make you feel like your day got off to a good start?
Another way to set yourself up for success is to ask, “What’s one fun/relaxing thing I can add to my day?” It could be going on a quick walk, taking time after work to get a drink, or scheduling a day in the next week to spend some time alone. The idea here is to give yourself something to look forward to. That way, when the inevitable stress of not having enough time hits, you already have something exciting scheduled in.
8. Don’t play the comparison game.
Comparison? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
And yet many days, we waste mental and emotional time and space crawling right into the comparison trap and letting it shut on us. When we feel overwhelmed by our own lives, to-do lists, or insecurities, it is so easy to look at Rebecca in HR’s Instagram and wonder how she does it all. Or look at our neighbor’s Facebook feed and feel jealous that she got to go on a three-week vacation while we’re working 60-hour weeks to make ends meet.
Comparison is the thief of joy, and too many times we leave the door wide open for it to walk in and take it in broad daylight. Instead of checking everyone else’s social media feeds when you feel overwhelmed, do something for you. Indulge in a coffee drink. Call your mom. Buy an adult coloring book. Remember that you can’t control what happens in life, but you can absolutely control how you react to it.
9. Get specific on your priorities.
We all have the best of intentions when it comes to priorities, but what do our actions tell us? When items that aren’t on your list for the day come up, ask yourself: Is this what’s most important right now? The key here is the “right now” part; you’re not making blanket statements about the value of certain things, you’re making decisions based on what’s happening in real time.
If you’re cleaning the house and your significant other calls – they’re probably most important right at that moment. But if they send you a quick text during a conference call? Yeah, their text is probably not the most important thing right at that very moment. What’s most important to you at any given moment should accurately reflect your priorities, and it gives you the power to make decisions based on those priorities.
10. Ditch the guilt.
I’m going to blame the society we live in on this one, but we women tend to feel a lot of guilt about how we spend (or don’t spend) our lives. We’re given this idea of a woman with perfectly coiffed hair, a gaggle of happy and laughing children playing calmly in her perfectly designed and very clean house, all while she balances a wildly successful career, and a body that would take hours of daily exercise to achieve — and we’re told that we, too, can “have it all”. News flash: That is NOT having it all. And if any such woman actually existed, she would be seconds away from a mental and nervous breakdown.
Having it all is as unique and individual as each woman trying to achieve it. For some, it means having a career; for others, being a stay-at-home mom; for others, it’s traveling the world. The point is, you get to define success and what it means for you! So, stop feeling guilty! Don’t feel guilty that your house is messy – you spent the day building blanket forts with your toddler, so who cares? Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t have enough time to hit the gym today – you totally nailed that work presentation today, and there’s time to workout tomorrow.
The reason there aren’t enough hours in the day is because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all – and you’re not supposed to. Do what’s important, what’s urgent, and what serves your goals and priorities. The rest can wait, and the sun will still rise tomorrow morning to give you another shot at marking off some of those incomplete tasks.
Do you have some time-saving tips or ideas about having enough time in the day? Let us know in the comments!