There’s never enough time in a day to do all the things we want to do, right? What if I told you, in a week, I can do a week’s worth of laundry, cook dinner every night, save money on groceries, keep the house clean, write 50k words (or more), market my books (posts, newsletters, website updates, etc.), run all the errands I need to outside of the house, film and edit four videos for my cooking channel, and still find time to do things that bring me joy outside those responsibilities?
Would you call me crazy?
I might actually be crazy, but I’m also stupid organized.
It all starts with a tiny little thing known as a day planner. Every Saturday, I sit down with my planner, look at the week that just passed and the monthly overview (where I mark birthdays, project due dates, and meetings), and look at the week coming. I make a list of all the tasks from the previous week and monthly view that still need to be completed (if there are any), decide what I’m making for dinner every day, and then fill out my planner for the week ahead and make a grocery list. Because of the pandemic, we’re ordering for pickup, so I clip and apply every coupon I can find before I hit the checkout button.
Stickers and colored markers are used to highlight extremely important tasks.
Now, it’s one thing to own a planner and another thing entirely to actually use it. I find the ones with the month overview and weekly days, with the hours listed, work best. They keep me focused and break down my time by the hour, so I know exactly where I need to be and when I need to be there.
As you can see, I go all out. There’s very little time during the day that isn’t planned. If I need an hour to write up a blog post, I put that in there. If I need to fill something out, that thing is itemized, in order, so I don’t forget anything along the way.
I can also microplot those bigger tasks with list stickers. They look like this:
These allow me to make micro lists for a high-level task I’ve set for myself.
Notice how nothing is planned after dinner or on weekends unless it’s for me. This is my time. I don’t respond to work emails or phone calls during those times. Family time is important, and self-care time is important, too. If you work yourself to death or to sickness (yes, either are possible), you won’t be able to do as much. Be sure you’re actually planning your time off and taking it. I know it seems like I’m not saving time, but the key is in all the free time I have while still getting things done. Because this list was two weeks out from when I wrote this, it’s not complete, but I’ll fill in the blank spots over the previous weekend.
If you have a task that takes extreme concentration, silence everything you own. Whatever messages come through during that time will still be there when you’ve completed what you’re working on.
This is especially true for creatives. If you’re knee deep in a task that requires you to bring ideas to the table, any little interruption will throw your mind out of what you’re doing and slow you down. You need to be able to focus on the task, while you’re doing it, until you’re done. It takes a creative up to half an hour to get back into the zone of using their creative brain after an interruption. Cut out the interruptions, and you’ve saved that time.
Be sure to plan time for getting up and moving around, too. You can’t simply sit at your desk all day and pound away at the keyboard. Eventually, you won’t be able to get up and move around because your muscle groups will get fatigued from sitting.
Plan every moment, and if you have a day off, plan to do nothing concerning work. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at your computer, slogging away on one project or another.
Don’t be afraid to adjust! If you find a task took you longer than you thought it might, adjust next week to include an extra half hour. Be flexible until you find a routine that works for you, and then stick to your routine like it’s a freckle you can’t erase. It only takes two weeks to form a new habit.
Be sure you’re using tools to help. If there’s a tool out there that will handle one of your tasks for you, get it and use it. Set aside time once a week to input data if need be, and then leave it until the next week. I’m thinking of things like Buffer for posting on social media. Spending time with that tool once a week, filling it with links and posts to go out, will save you enormous amounts of time each of the following days.
If you have things outside of work that you need to accomplish each week, take a day and do them all. Yes, that day will be crazy busy, but you’ll always have those things done. Mine used to be Mondays. I’d do the laundry, go grocery shopping, put food away, and take the trash. Mondays were my no-work-outside-the-house and alone-time days. It’s good to have some Zen, and if you need it, make it. Doing this will free your mind for other tasks throughout the week. You won’t be worried about if the laundry got folded or if you have everything you need to make dinner. It can be a housework and play day. Use it to relax between tasks. If you can’t snatch a Monday, take a Saturday or Sunday, and tell your family what you’re doing. Perhaps they can help cut your task time down by participating.
This method of planning will not only save you time every day and allow you time to do the things you enjoy, it’ll help you get more done in the time you’re allotted. Yes, it takes a ton of self-motivation and discipline to get it together, but once you start, it’s easy to keep going.
Can you add any time-saving suggestions?