So often, we—Americans especially—accept without questioning the idea that there isn't enough time in the day. And so we live in a near-constant state of rushing around, catching up, and feeling behind. (Just typing this gives me knots in my stomach.) Doing less overall would, of course, cut down on our racing to be here-there-everywhere, but making our days flow smoothly also gives us breathing room and the sense that we do have enough time. I like to give myself this gift by asking, "What can I do right now to make things easier later?" Here's how I do it.
Deal with it while it's in your hand.
Think of the papers you come in the door with: the school flyers, the junk mail, the coupons. Rather than dumping them on the kitchen counter, put each piece where it goes: recycling, Evernote, your to-do inbox on your desk. You save yourself the mental energy of thinking about doing it later and that special kind of dread that comes with watching a paper pile grow.
Add at least one extra step.
Chopping onions for spaghetti tonight? Grab two more for the fajitas you're making on Thursday. When that night comes, you're just a touch ahead of the game and you feel on top of it.
Think one day ahead.
Do not wait until the morning of the soccer game to look up what color jersey your child needs to wear and then sift through all the dirty and clean laundry trying to find it. It's the worst. And it might give you ulcers. Consider the activities of the following day and gather items and pack bags. Not scrambling feels like the luxury of more time.
Always give yourself a buffer.
You can plan ahead all you want but something unexpected is bound to happen sooner or later. When getting from point A to point B, make it a practice to always, always give yourself a 5-15 minute buffer so you avoid that I'm late I'm late I'm late torment.
Compartmentalize your time.
You'll always feel pressed for time if at any given moment you feel like there's something else you should be doing. Eliminate this stress from your life by having "a time for everything and everything in it's time." It's like a synergistic combination of organizing and budgeting your time, and, like nothing else, it will allow you to live your moments to their maximum potential. Example: you have 20 minutes set aside every Friday morning to go over your finances. This way, you won't be worried about what bills you need to pay while you're building train tracks with your kids.
Learn to say no and why to say yes.
Underpinning this practice is a thorough consideration of what is important to you in your life. Try to choose to spend your time on what's important to you, not on expectations imposed on you by others or yourself. This might mean buying cupcakes at the grocery store for your child's school birthday celebration instead of staying up until midnight making homemade ones, or it might mean saying no to GNO because you haven't gone on a date with your husband in months. Whatever it is, become aware of why you say yes and if the reason does not align with your personal values and choices at that time, learn to say no—without the guilt.
Hone your focus.
Being intently focused, especially if you compartmentalize your time (see above), will make your minutes count the most. An uninterrupted half hour is significantly more productive than an hour full of distraction. Your time is valuable; don't allow yourself to fritter it away. Practice this and you'll have more of it, guaranteed.
If you're anything like me, your surroundings influence your state-of-mind. This phenomenon becomes even more real when you have to be efficient with your time. Having a clear space without all the extras frees you up to know where to find what you need and allow you to get it without any digging or choice words. You'll get out the door so much happier.
There's a time and place for unabashed vegging, even when you still have to-dos. But finding ways to multitask when appropriate allows you to relax with less pressure of what you still need to do later. Some multitasking I'm fond of includes swiping down kitchen surfaces while chatting with a friend on the phone, folding laundry while I watch Netflix, and doing some yard work while watching the kids ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac.
(Image credits: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)