Should I be thankful for the middle of the night insomniac reading binges I’ve had lately? Maybe so, because I think that’s the only reason I’ve completed a couple of good reads recently, one being Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, a newly published book by time management expert, Laura Vanderkam.
In it she explains why time can seem to stretch out luxuriously (or irritatingly) and why it also can zip by unfathomably fast.
Needless to say, I’m in a very full season of life right now and I enjoyed learning some tricks to ensure I make the most of my time – whether that’s at work or with my family or on my own.
Below are the top takeaways I plan to try and implement. Whether you read the book or not, I think you’ll find some of these ideas worthy of experimenting with in your life, too!
- Time management is like gardening. It takes vigilant cultivation but the work is worth it. With any garden you first make a plan. Similarly with your weekly schedule, ask yourself, what do I want my week to look like? Then plant the seeds. As items crop up prune extensively. Try out some journaling questions to help you focus on the harvest not the weeds: What did I like most about today? What would I like to have spent more time doing? What would I like to have spent less time doing? How can I make that happen?
- Make life memorable. Many people say they want more time when what they mean is they want more happy memories. Memories that stand out tend to be because of novelty or emotional intensity. Find adventure in your daily routine. Not all weeks can can be peak experience after peak experience (that would just be exhausting) but making mental note of how you feel about small ordinary pleasurable occurrences can help retrieve the fuller experience of your “regular” days. Here are some ideas: Journal and/or scrapbook, then look over past entries. Connect your senses to the present moment such as using a special fragrant soap on a vacation or making a seasonal playlist that you listen to everyday. Call a friend and talk about your intention for the day.
- Don’t fill time. Open space is important. It means you have avoided the trap of becoming busy only to look important or feel productive. At work think: is this meeting necessary? Could I tack on this agenda item to another meeting or can the issue be solved over email? At home think: is the scrolling through pictures of other people’s dinner parties adding value to my life? (May better is to take time to plan and execute your own dinner party!) Open space invites opportunity. Create time dividends: investing now pays back more later (the time you took to plan that dinner pays back when you get to linger over the meal with people you care about, deepening those relationships and creating memories). Another way to invest time that will payback later… When you review your week ask yourself, will I ever do this particular activity again? Is there a system I could develop to make future instances faster or easier?
- Get off your phone already! Put it on airplane mode when you get home. Turn off notifications. If you do go on social media or email, ask yourself first, “What is my purpose for being on this app?” Is it to post? Scroll? Update someone about something important? Know why you’re on and when that action has been completed, get off the app and put the phone down.
- Linger and savor. Plan a “daily vacation.” Time spent doing something you love even if it is only for 10 or 20 minutes, such as calling a friend, reading in a cafe, going for a walk in nature. can feel like leisure time and makes it feel like your day has been open or luxurious, even when you still have a full to do list.
- Even a little bit matters. “Dripping water hollows our stone.” -Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto IV. Just do what you can do. It adds up. Manage your expectations in addition to your time. Unchecked suffering is time wasted. “Lowering expectations to the point of no resistance is what makes bigger things possible.”
- People are an excellent use of time. Simply said, choose people over anything else if you have the opportunity to do so.
Read my review of Vanderkam’s best-selling book, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast here.