Summer is over and the school season is in full swing. Most agree it’s a busy time, not just for kids but also for adults. Many of us are still adjusting to changes in schedules and having to juggle new obligations at work, a constant reminder that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we want. As life amps up and the to-do list grows longer, the feeling that you just don’t have much time can be an extra source of stress in an already strain-inducing period.
In these chaotic times, you’re not alone in feeling stretched to your limits. Fortunately, by identifying the issues and putting in place some sort of plan, you can learn how to maximize your use of time and start regaining control of your life. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Be time conscious. To many this may seem like the logical first step, but you might be surprised at how few people truly think their time matters or think nothing of squandering it all away. In order to be time-effective, you must first treat time as one of your most valuable resources. Only then can you start to budget your time wisely and delegate your tasks in a way that will give you the most out of every moment spent.
Prioritize. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you suddenly find a lot on your plate with no clear picture of all the tasks you have to tick off for the day. Making a list could help categorize tasks and arrange them into more manageable chunks. Important and urgent items can be taken care of right away, while those that are lower priority can be handled later.
Identify your weaknesses and distractions. One other advantage of making a list is that it gets easier to spot the tasks you might have been going out of your way to avoid. These are typically the ones that lead to procrastination, but ultimately there may be no way around them. Turn off any distractions and be aware that you’ll probably feel much better when you finally check off those pesky or unpleasant items from your list.
Multitask (if you can). Some people who are good at multitasking can increase their productivity that way, but if you find you work best on one thing at a time, that’s fine too. Still, having a plan for an activity to do during downtimes—such as answering emails while sitting in a waiting room, or listening to educational podcasts during a long commute—can make the time pass more quickly and make you feel more productive.
Take care of yourself. Be sure to eat well and get enough sleep. Studies have shown people who gets a full night’s rest have an increased ability to focus, translating to better productivity. You can push your limits to the max by pulling all-nights and skipping meals, but it’ll get you nowhere if you’re tired, hungry, and unhealthy.
Schedule breaks and time off. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! The truth is, our minds and bodies are not meant to be tied to one place for long periods of time. We need frequent breaks to ward off the tedium and keep ourselves sharp. Even when you’re feeling in the zone and making good time on your work, it’s a good idea to stretch your limbs, take a walk, and do something fun—anything to keep yourself recharged and refreshed.
Plan ahead. End each day with a rundown of the tasks you have completed, and what still needs to be done tomorrow. Disorganization can make it harder to stay motivated, so it may help to leave some notes or a reminder to yourself for when you return to work the next day.
Find what works for you, and keep doing it. Human beings are creatures of habit, which can be a double-edged sword. Old habits are difficult to break, and likewise new habits are difficult to form. However, once you find a routine that fits your needs, being able to stick to it can help you learn what makes you feel most focused and productive.