Before we know it, we’ll be going from relaxing summer days to busy fall schedules. With school, sports practices, extracurricular activities, meetings, and more, it can easily become overwhelming.
We’ve researched some effective ways to take control of our busy schedules. Follow these tips and, hopefully, you’ll find some much-needed time for yourself, too.
Stay on top of the little things so they don’t create last minute rushes.
Stop for gas before the tank is nearly empty. Do your laundry so you don’t have to search for that clean shirt. Go food shopping so you have items to pack for lunch. If you put off the small things, they can become big stressors and throw off your schedule.
Use the one-minute rule. If a task will take you one minute or less, do it now.
Hang up your coat. Put your dishes in the dishwasher. Put away all the groceries when you bring them home, even the ones that don’t need refrigeration. Putting off these smaller tasks will just add to your to-do list.
Make large tasks more manageable by doing them in stages.
If you have a big project at work, you probably break it down into smaller parts. Do the same with your household tasks. Clean the bathroom on Monday, the toilet on Tuesday, and so on. Break up larger projects so that it’s easier to fit them into your schedule.
Make sure everything in your house has a home.
You have five minutes before you must leave, and you can’t find your keys. When you declutter, it’s a lot easier to find the things you need at a moment’s notice. Do that not only for your house but for your car and workspace too.
Schedule tasks for the time that you are most productive.
Are you an early morning person or a night owl? Plan tasks for the times that you have the most energy or can focus the best. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish.
Plan for downtime as you wait for pickups or in lines.
Use waiting time for answering emails, reading brief articles, or doing other tasks that take 10-15 minutes. Prepare a list of smaller tasks that you can complete during this time. Some downtime, however, such as sitting in traffic is not right for multitasking. Don’t text and drive, even if your car is not moving.
Create a to-do list with time estimates.
Don’t rely on your memory. Prepare a daily to-do list. Include an estimate of the time each task will take. Star or highlight the tasks that take priority. Then make an informed decision about which tasks you’ll tackle first. Keep your to-do list in sight where you can easily see it.
Pro Tip: Plan the next day’s to-do list at the end of the previous day so you’ll be ready to go.
Reflect and reprioritize.
New tasks pop up all the time. Take a moment midday to reflect on your to-do list. See where you are and what you have yet to do. Update your priorities to tackle the most important tasks.
Create a master calendar for a visual representation of your schedule.
While a to-do list helps with tasks, a calendar displays your daily, weekly, and monthly commitments at-a-glance. Block out activities on your calendar. Color code your calendar by work/personal/family/child. Allow for travel time and make sure to include breaks/downtime.
Set aside different days of the week for different tasks.
Maybe Saturday is for errands. Sunday is for meal prep. Organizing your schedule in this way helps consolidate the same types of tasks. That way, you’re not running to the food store three times a week for groceries. It will end up being a big timesaver.
Reduce time in meetings.
Consider whether a meeting needs to be in person, or if it could be virtual (no travel time). Maybe it could be a call or email. If you do have the meeting, share the agenda in advance. Include times for topics and stick to the schedule.
Avoid distractions from tasks at hand.
Texts and emails can interrupt your workday and family time. Put your phone on silent or wear headphones. Wait until your break to check your phone. Considering checking email at a designated time (e.g., every hour or every couple of hours) rather than all the time.
Don’t be afraid to delegate.
You don’t have to do everything. Don’t accept more responsibility than you can realistically handle. See if there is someone at work or in your family who can take over some of your workload. Consider paying a professional to handle some of your tasks. There are services that handle errands, housekeeping, meal prep, and more.
Use digital tools.
Schedule time for yourself.
You do everything for everyone. Make sure you make time to relax and recharge. Block off time for lunch. Schedule time for self-care, including favorite hobbies, time with friends, and time away. You’ll emerge refreshed and ready to take on a new day.
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