A lot of productivity advice offers great hints for speeding up particular tasks: perhaps by concentrating better, by eliminating distractions and interruptions, or by learning to use Firefox, Gmail and other common programs more efficiently.
But what can you do if simply saving five minutes here and ten minutes there isn’t enough? What if you want hours more space in your life, or if you feel constantly overloaded and busy?
Here are five big ways to make more time, which, ultimately means you’ll have a better chance of succeeding at what you want to accomplish.
- Drop One of Your Goals
It’s an unpopular thing to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: You can’t do everything that you want to do. I’m sure that, like me, you’ve got loads of goals and projects and ambitions and ideas… the truth is, you’re going to have to pick between them if any of them are going to succeed.
Can you drop one goal? Can you put it aside for a while? If you’re trying to start a side business, lose 50lbs, write a novel and get a promotion all in the same year, you’re probably going to end up quitting on all of them. It’s much better to make a conscious decision on what you want to drop.
- Ditch an Unwanted Commitment
As well as the goals and projects which we love, most of us have a few commitments which we’re not so keen on. Perhaps you got roped in to being on a committee at your kids’ school, or maybe you’re always the person who cooks at home.
You don’t have to keep on with your commitments month after month and year after year. If you’ve totally lost interest in something, and if it’s become a dreaded chore, then find a way out! You might even find that by quitting, you can open up a space for someone who’d really enjoy that particular task.
- Learn to Delegate
One reason that many of us end up too busy is because we have the attitude that “If you want a job doing, you have to do it yourself.” The truth is, there are plenty of tasks – especially low-level ones – which we should be delegating. It’s not only better for us, it’s better for other people who can learn and grow their skills by taking on those tasks.
At work, delegating usually means handing on tasks and responsibility to a junior colleague (see here for some tips on delegating effectively). But you can also delegate at home: perhaps getting your teens to help with dinner, or even paying a professional for help with jobs such as cleaning, gardening or decorating.
- Get Better at Saying No
Many of us have a tendency to say “yes” whenever we’re asked to take on something new. Often, we’re reluctant to say “no” because it’s just a little job … perhaps taking the minutes for a regular meeting at work, or making cakes for the kids’ school fete, or helping out with our partner’s accounts.
The problem is, little jobs often go on over time and become tedious commitments, draining energy as well as time. Plus, if you keep saying “yes”, you’ll find your free time shrinking rapidly. One of the best ways I’ve found to say “no” is to ask for a few days to think about it. This is often easier than feeling put on the spot for a decision, and it also lets people know that you’re taking their request seriously.
- Make Your Happiness a Priority
Finally, if you’re really going to create time in your life to do what you want, you need to make your happiness a real priority. That means believing that your happiness does matter, and behaving appropriately.
You may find that you need to stand up for yourself more, or that you can start suggesting social activities which you enjoy, rather than just going along with whatever friends and family say. You may even end up switching careers, starting your own business or taking a sabbatical.
What could you do this week to free up a big chunk of time in your life?