“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” — Douglas Adams
Yesterday, I made a three course meal for my family’s dinner. On a weeknight.
I also took my daughter to the pool to swim some practice laps with her, worked, exercised, crocheted a few rows on a project I’m working on (until I ran out of yarn) and read a few chapters of a book.
When I tell people that’s how my days sometimes look (and, believe me, not every day looks like this) they’re often wildly impressed. They wonder how I get so much done in a single day.
But I’m no superwoman. I also sat and watched an episode of my show on Netflix and faffed around on Facebook yesterday. I didn’t get a project done that I had hoped to finish for work. And my husband did the dishes. 😉
The point is, yes, it’s about time and how I use it, but it’s also about the perception of that time.
Colleagues and people on my team often ask me how I get so much done in a work day, and my first inclination is to tell them… I don’t. My own perception is that I don’t actually get as much accomplished as people think, but from what people tell me, it certainly looks like I do.
So a few things I’ve learned about Time:
Last week, I went to lunch with a friend who admitted she’d been having a rough few months. Both her kids are in school all day for the first time, and she had imagined that she would have time to read books, go to a yoga class, keep her house the way she wants to, volunteer at their school, etc. But that wasn’t happening.
She’s definitely not alone. I’ve seen this same complaint crop up with other moms of my acquaintance. And when I was facing my first year of having a kid in school full time, a very smart entrepreneur friend told me something that made all the difference:
Make a plan for what you will do with your time, or your work will expand to fill it.
One of the methods I’ve used to get my average day closer to my ideal day is to actually sit down and plan out what my ideal week looks like.
I use Google Calendar, so I simply created a new calendar and called it “ideal schedule”. I plugged in and plotted out exactly how I wanted my average week to look like — from taking my daughter to school, to exercise, to work, and so on.
The point is not to stick to that ideal schedule every moment of every day — that would be impossible. Instead, I use it to remind myself of what I could be doing whenever I say yes to an appointment or settle down to binge watch something on Netflix. (Don’t judge.)
I recommended it to my friend to try to help her reclaim some of her supposedly free time.
I’ve been trying to make an exercise routine stick for most of my adult life.
I tried just about every habit trick and hack in the book. I tried exercising with friends (accountability), sleeping in my workout clothes, paying for a class or gym membership… all sorts of different tricks. But they never stuck.
I also tried exercising at many different times of day. I tried getting up early so I could exercise before having coffee with my husband and waking up my kiddo. That lasted until it got cold and dark in the mornings and it was a lot easier to stay in bed until the coffee was brewed. I tried working out in the afternoon, after work before picking up the kiddo, but I was always working a little longer or ending up mentally exhausted and wanting to sit and watch Netflix. (Are you sensing a theme?)
It wasn’t until I found the right time that it became second nature.
Now, I walk my daughter to school in the morning and… just keep walking. Either a long walk with the dog, or I walk to the gym to lift heavy things. It’s been months and I’ve rarely missed a day.
The thing is, those other times of day required something extra of me: willpower. I didn’t want to get up early, so it took willpower to get up early. I didn’t want to exercise after a long day of working, so it took willpower to put my shoes on and go walk in the afternoon.
But I was already walking my girl to school every day, so it requires almost no willpower at all to just keep going. But I did have to give myself permission to start work an hour later. And you know what? It’s all worked out just fine.
Be like Oprah
Everybody’s got the same 24 hours in a day. Oprah, Beyoncé, Barak Obama, and your favorite hustlin’ entrepreneur all have the same amount of time that you do.
So what’s the difference between you and them?
My guess would be priorities.
(Sure, they’ve got more money than I do, too, but how did they get their fortunes? Priorities…)
The thing is, my priority has always been to live my life. I don’t want to work 24/7, so making a lot more money or growing my business a lot in a short amount of time isn’t really a priority. That’s why my ideal schedule only has me working 4 or 5 hours a day. And that’s why I gave myself permission to start work an hour later so that I can adopt a healthy habit and take care of my body.
Got any great time hacks to share? Don’t hold out on us; spill in the comments below.