So many choices, so little time! If that is your mantra, it’s time to take a serious look at your life and try to pare things down so you’re not overwhelmed and you can get more done. Luckily, there are steps you can take, some very easy, and others that may take more effort, to streamline your day so you’re not so exhausted when you fall into bed.
Productivity experts tout this as key to successfully making it through the day, and there’s no doubt that it’s worth spending a little extra energy on the front end of your day, week or month identifying what is most important. It can make you happier at work and at home. Make sure to include time for both work and personal projects on your priority list, and recognize that you’ll need to adjust your those priorities occasionally; don’t be too dogmatic.
2. Create a Schedule
In addition to the feeling of accomplishment you can earn when you check something off, a schedule helps you keep on track with your priorities. However, don’t be overly optimistic. If you’re always bragging to friends about your 50-item to-do list, it’s time to rethink your strategy; you can’t possibly get that much done in a day. Instead, think about managing two, simultaneous lists: one to realistically accomplish in a day, and the other a longer-term plan.
3. Plan Ahead
Once you prioritize, it will be easier to plan ahead. Planning ahead isn’t just for big projects at work or at home. It can be as basic as selecting what to wear the night before or packing lunch at night instead of when you are running late in the morning. You may be surprised by how much easier it is to have things ready to go when you need them instead of always racing the clock at the last second to get things done.
4. Eliminate Extraneous Choices
Many successful people famously eliminate choices from their lives to help them get through the day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly has 20 identical t-shirts and wears the same thing every day. President Obama has told reporters that he incorporates several routines into his day, such as eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch and rotating a few suits with matching shirts and ties. How does eliminating choices help busy people succeed? It eliminates the mental energy spent on unimportant details. Decide what choices can you eliminate from your day; it may help you store up that energy for more important decisions later.
5. Delegate Something
While not all of us have a staff at our disposal to handle aspects of our day that we would prefer not to manage, it’s possible there are untapped opportunities to delegate you have not considered, and they don’t always involve hiring someone. For example, can you ask someone at home to help out with a chore? Or, are there friends who might be willing to partner with you to get things done that would improve both of your lives? Some families share food preparation; each one provides a meal so not everyone has to make dinner every night.
If it’s feasible, consider hiring someone to help you with items on your to do list that take too much time and energy. You may be surprised by how useful it is to get professional help on a task that is draining your energy and resources.
6. Get Rid of Things
Most of us have too much stuff. Instead of designating a huge chunk of time to declutter, try getting rid of one thing you don’t need each day. Look at your desk: what files can you put away or what paperwork can you toss? At home, how many shoes are there in your closet that you never wear? Step-by-step, you can simplify your life.
7. Manage Online Time
It’s almost a cliché to suggest paring down your social media and email use to simplify your day. Social media can actually be quite useful for you professionally and personally, so don’t be so quick to eliminate it from your day. Instead, make sure you have specific goals in mind when you get online and try not to deviate from them so you won’t fall down any online rabbit holes.
8. Avoid excuses. Just do it. Or, just say no.
Instead of spending your time thinking of excuses, either make a plan to get what you need done, or say no and don’t take on extra responsibilities you can’t handle.