When you think about it, 24 hours sounds like a lot. But when you’re trying to get things done, one day doesn’t seem long enough. If you often feel like you’re racing the clock, you’re not alone. Many women say they don’t have enough hours in the day. We talked to a panel of experts for their advice on how to feel less rushed and more in control with simple time management strategies. Read on for easy ways to discover where your time really goes and how to make it more rewarding.
Our Expert Panel
Laura Vanderkam, author of Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters, (Buy from Amazon, $21.99) is a time-management and productivity expert.
ID Time Traps
Keep a log. Whether you use your phone’s voice memo or jot down your activities, tracking your time will help you find sneaky “time sucks,” says expert Laura Vanderkam. “Try it for one week, logging what you do in half-hour increments,” she advises. “You might learn that you clocked 3 hours a day on Facebook, when you meant to be on it for just 15 minutes. I’ve kept a ‘time log’ for eight years and it reveals many surprises.”
Be intentional. “Ask yourself, When I finish X, do I feel better or worse? ” urges expert Rebecca Morrison. “For example, I was falling down a rabbit hole of social media at night, leading me to delay bedtime.” This realization helped Morrison become more intentional. “Instead of staying up at night, I now check social media in the morning with my coffee,” she says. No need to ditch guilty pleasures: Striking a balance is often a matter of when you do something.
Find rewarding activities. When one of her clients discovered she was playing Candy Crush 10 minutes every hour, Morrison asked her which hidden need she was trying to meet. “She realized she just needed breaks, and found more rewarding ways to fill her tank, like getting up and moving or grabbing a healthy snack. Finding ‘higher value’ activities will boost your happiness and productivity.”
Let yourself be still. Give yourself permission to “be” rather than “do,” encourages expert Holly Reisem Hanna. Simply practice sitting with your thoughts and emotions for 5 to 10 minutes daily in stillness. “This helps ground you in the moment. Once you consciously devote time to being off line and relaxing, you’ll be surprised how creative you feel and how much more time you have for rewarding endeavors.”
Let go of distractions. The simplest experiences tend to offer the highest “happiness dividend,” says Morrison. “I have two golden retrievers, and when I take them out, I have a choice: I can make it a ‘working walk’ and take phone calls, or I can just be with the two goofiest dogs in the world without distraction.” To get more out of her time, Morrison chooses the latter. “Slowing down is what improves the quality of our lives.”
Make your own rules. Consider designating small windows of time for chores so you can truly relax the rest of the day, suggests Vanderkam. “You might set a timer and clean Saturday morning for 60 minutes, then stop.” Once you make rules for yourself, you’ll find you have more discretionary time. Vanderkam realized instead of checking emails at night, she had the bandwidth to join a choir once a week. “Just tweaking your schedule by an hour or so will help you find more time for the things that matter.”
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.