When was the last time you decluttered your diary? In this post, time management and personal productivity consultant Cory Cook shows us how to make our time work better for us and our goals.
Ah, spring. Time to clear out our homes and begin afresh! Time to throw open the doors, whisk away the old and give our space a good sprucing.
But why stop there? It’s not just our physical space that becomes overrun with fusty old ‘stuff’.
Our diaries get weighed down too.
Like our homes, a schedule is easy to fill. If we don’t perform an occasional cull and consciously select what stays, overcrowding can soon settle in. Before we know it our diaries are full, but not necessarily with the activities we truly want.
Ready to spruce things up?
1. What’s missing from this picture?
If it’s your big picture goals, or the steps to achieve them, then quite a bit is missing. Without a beacon to aim for, life may feel like going through the motions. The thing is, to reach our desired destinations, we need to consciously schedule – and perform – the actions that will lead us there.
If you haven’t given this much thought lately, put the kettle on and determine 3 – 5 outcomes you’d like to achieve, long- or short-term. What do you need to do on a regular basis to make progress? Schedule one small step per goal into your diary now.
If the goal is truly compelling, you’ll find a place for it in your day.
2. Avoid the vortex
There’s nothing wrong with working late every now and then, enjoying a bit of telly, catching up on social media …if executed in moderation. However, time seems to suspend itself when we become absorbed in certain types of activities.
The key is being honest with yourself about your tendencies, as well as which activities in particular have the strongest magnetic pull on you. If work takes over to the demise of your social or family life, implement a failsafe to stop and shut down by a certain time each day. If online distractions draw you in, set a limit with a timer to alert you time is up. Close it down and slowly step away.
Don’t let the vortex devour precious time better spent elsewhere.
3. Cancel unnecessary obligations
Review your commitments. There may have been a time when you fully enjoyed serving on a particular board or committee, but times and priorities can change. If you’re currently involved in something that feels more of a chore than a joy, it’s time to move on.
You’re not doing yourself or the commitment any favours if your heart isn’t in it. Politely step down and use the time for a new endeavour that you’re passionate about.
Or simply enjoy the extra time.
4. Just say no
The best way to avoid cluttered activity in your diary is by denying it access in the first place. It’s not always easy to say no. But if we don’t, we risk filling our time with other people’s priorities, not our own.
By all means say yes when it’s necessary to do so, or if the request is in sync with your objectives. But always ask: “If I say ‘yes’, what in my diary will have to shift or go away to make the space?”
Equally, it’s important to not over-commit your energy. Just because you may have the time available, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the energy to match. So avoid filling every ‘free evening’ just because your calendar shows an empty time slot.
Saying ‘no’ means saying ‘yes’ to a better-balanced schedule.
5. Fill your pockets
Put your day under a magnifying glass and you’ll see it’s dotted with pockets of downtime: A couple of minutes as the kettle boils, downloading a lengthy computer install, commuting or travel time. How about minutes waiting on an appointment, or commercial breaks if you’re watching telly?
Small pockets here and there may not seem worth the trouble, but it’s surprising what you can get done in those blips that will save you time. Perhaps it’s drafting emails during a train commute or doing dishes during commercial breaks. Even closing your eyes to relax during a ten-minute interlude is time well spent.
Fill those pockets strategically and the rest of your day will benefit.
6. Keep the goal, change the activity
You may find you’ve become bored or uninspired with an activity that technically fulfils one of your goals. But if something really isn’t working for you, then change it!
For example, say fitness is one of your goals. Just because you’ve always gone to the gym doesn’t mean it’s the only way to keep fit. If the fluorescent lights are drowning your spirits, try getting outside instead. A change in scenery may be just what you need for inspiration. We all get burnt out from time to time. Don’t make it worse by simply going through the motions.
Your goals should challenge and motivate you, and the path to reach them should be equally inspiring.
7. Time to think
Like cupboards and shelves in a home, just because we have the space doesn’t mean we have to fill it to the gills! The same applies to our diaries. It’s common to want to pack everything in. The issue is when sensory overload leaves no time for valuable thinking space.
Ring-fence time each day for complete silence and solitude. It doesn’t have to be long, fifteen minutes is plenty. But take the time to disconnect from the day without fail: a few minutes before the day begins, an afternoon retreat or an evening reprieve.
Creating time to breathe mentally will re-connect you with the present, clear your mind and give you fresh perspective.
Spring is an excellent time for a diary revamp, but it’s not the only time. Priorities may shift, and your goals may change! I recommend you spring clean your schedule every few months to stay current.
Be true to yourself and ensure your activities support your true goals and lifestyle.
Life’s too short for anything else!
If Cory’s post has inspired you to get more organised, you can find your local professional organiser here!