How To Take Control Of Your Time This Year
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Getting through another year of the pandemic may be your biggest win last year. But chances are you got a lot more checked off on your to-do list than you give yourself credit for.
While you look forward to 2023, you may also look back at what you didn't get done in 2022 – resolutions you broke, goals you have not met, and healthy habits you quit practicing.
When you think back to why your enthusiasm and commitment to goals faded, there's a good chance you'll say – I just didn't have the time. And that makes sense. You're busy!
Yet, it likely bothers you because each of those resolutions, goals, or habits was important to you too.
You know that successfully achieving your goals this year will require you to find more time.
Gaining Control Of Your Time
I get it. I'm guilty of using “not enough time” as an excuse for not meeting some reasonable goals I've set over the years too. In an effort to ditch excuses, I finally decided to look for new ways to take more control of my days.
Last year I came across a 2016 TedWomen Talk with more than 12 million views – Laura Vanderkam's – How to gain control of your free time. And it was well worth my time!
I'll highlight a few key takeaways. But if you struggle to find space in your busy schedule, do yourself a favor and give Laura's 11 minute talk a listen.
I don't have time = It's not a priority.
You might not totally agree with that point, but I'll admit it's definitely true for me.
Laura does point out that some people have it much harder than others, and life challenges may prevent them from reaching their goals.
But for many people, this is also true… If you don't have the time, you don't really want to do it.
I had plenty of time; I'd just been lazy about priorities.
I wasn't spending enough time prioritizing what matters and when I did, I would get easily distracted and involved with time wasters.
Then, I'd make excuses for things not getting done when it really was poor time management, so hours were wasted.
Laura explains how to take charge of your free time. She gets you thinking by showing the number of hours available each week.
7 days/week x 24 hours/day = 168 hours/week
When you add up how much you work, sleep, side hustle, and take care of routine household jobs like laundry, cooking, and shopping – you might be surprised by how many hours you have left (aka discretionary time)!
Even if you have 60 hours of work/side gigs (which Laura points out can often be exaggerated), 56 hours of sleep (8 hours a night!), 7 hours of exercise (1 hour a day), and 21 hours of “miscellaneous” each week (3 hours a day), it still leaves you with 24 hours of “free” time.
(Note: If you have kids or aging parents to care for, you might only have a few hours of “free” time each week – or less, which might explain why you're struggling to meet your goals! But keep in mind, it also gives you information to help you make more realistic goals in the future.)
Remember, we don't need much time to do amazing things.
Whether you have one hour a week or twenty (or more) of discretionary time, you can make progress if you decide to make a goal a priority.
Even if your free time is broken up into a few minutes here and there each day, Laura says to consider this mindset – small moments can have great power. I can use my bits of time for bits of joy！
Instead of getting frustrated about not having time to do everything you want in the hours or minutes you have, prioritize something you can do in those minutes.
Take a short walk, read a few pages of a book, meditate – whatever brings you joy and moves you forward.
A New Way To Approach A New Year
You'll still be reflecting and determining what goals you want to accomplish next year. But Laura suggests an approach you probably haven't used in the past.
Write Next Year's Performance Review and Holiday Letter Now
Before you make a list of professional or career-related goals for the upcoming year, write next year's performance review now.
By the end of December next year, what do you want to accomplish?
Make a list of 3-5 things that would make it a great year for you professionally. (If your “free” time is minimal, you might list one or two things!)
- Apply for and land a promotion
- Make four professional or Toastmasters speeches
- Take an online course
- Attend networking events
- Obtain a professional certification
- Start a new side business
You've probably received holiday cards with letters tucked inside that share wonderful things your family members or friends did during the year. Write your own “holiday letter” a year ahead of time for your personal goals.
Make a list of 3-5 things that would show your significant personal life accomplishments for next year.
- Read a book for pleasure each month
- Learn to speak a new language
- Take your child to the local library each month
- Train for your first 5K race
- Visit a national or state park
- Max out your 401(k), IRA, other retirement accounts
- Adopt a more minimalist lifestyle
- Pay off all credit card debt or a student loan
- Get your financial house organized
Manage Your Free Time To Do What Matters
When you've determined the 6-10 things that really matter to you – your list of priorities – you can now figure out how to find extra time to make them happen.
Once your priorities are set, determine the steps you need to meet each goal.
So that you don't leave anything or anyone important out, Laura suggests your planning involve a three-category priority list – Career, Relationships, and Self.
Each week, jot down what steps you'll take to work toward your goals in each of the three areas.
Then, consider time blocking when adding them to your weekly calendar before anything else you want to do.
Friday afternoons are a great period to plan out the following week.
Still according to Laura, it really doesn't matter when you do it – as long as you follow through, focus on your priorities, and take steps each week to achieve them.
“When we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we've got. We don't build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.” Laura Vanderkam
I've spent plenty of hours thinking about resolutions, personal and professional goals, and growing positive habits. But I haven't always been successful in meeting some of the goals I sought to achieve or habits I wanted to stick with for the long term.
In my daily routines, I get urgent tasks done. But I wasn't using blocks of time or scheduling consistent time to work on my resolutions or goals. Nor was I giving a time limit to mindlessly scrolling social media or checking emails.
I like the idea of “writing” my success story and then working backward to make it happen. It's called backward design in my career field, and it's a very successful strategy when done correctly.
We all need periods of time for self-care, creativity, personal growth, and relationships outside of our career goals and daily tasks.
Learning to schedule time to work on a habit or daily goal will help you make better use of the minutes in your days. And with effective scheduling, you'll improve your productivity.
The hours you spend on a challenging task, larger projects, and minor daily routine tasks alike will become more efficient, and you'll have no problem listing out a number of your accomplishments at the end of next year.
2023 is the perfect time to give Laura's ideas a try for better time management skills, to build stronger habits, to finish a project, and meet your SMART goals because it doesn't make much sense to keep doing something the way you've always done if it isn't working.
Give some thought to the following questions and watch Laura's video to help gain more time in your day.
Do you struggle to meet your goals?
Do you put everyone else first?
How can you shift your mindset to take quality time for yourself and achieve the things you really want to do?
What time management techniques or tools work for you that you'll continue?
What else can you do to protect your time?
Want to read more by Laura Vanderkam? Check out some of her books below.
- 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
- Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
- I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings—and Life
- Juliet's School of Possibilities: A Little Story About the Power of Priorities
Article written by Vicki, Co-Founder of Women Who Money