It’s midnight and I, a confirmed morning person, am staring at a blank computer screen again, trying to finish writing a blog post that should have been done yesterday. That was after declaring it another ‘breakfast for dinner” night because I was busy this morning and forgot to pull something out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner, though I’m not sure how tasty of meal I could have made with half a smoked sausage and a bag of frozen peas.
Do you have days like this? I hate having more to-do’s than I have hours in my day. Fortunately, there is a solution. Really. It’s not take-out and it’s not a full-time cook and housekeeper, though if you’ve got the budget for it, I say go for it. With a little practice, and a little creativity, there are ways you can gain more free time every day. To get you started, here are five that have worked well for me.
Plan Your Evening the Night Before and Your Week on Sunday Evening
Take 10 minutes each evening to review your calendar and to-do list for the next day. Make sure you haven’t overloaded it, double booked yourself or failed to allow enough time for what’s on your list. If you need to rearrange, now is the time to do it instead of 5 minutes after you needed to be somewhere.
Take a few minutes on Sunday evening to do the same for your week. Knowing what’s coming up will help you avoid being blindsided by appointments or events that you’ve forgotten, and allow you to space out your to-do list over the week.
Learn to Say No
“No” is not a four-letter word. It’s a good word, and really useful when you don’t want to spend your days running from to-do to to-do and never feeling done. When someone asks you to do something that you don’t have time for, doesn’t fit with your priorities or doesn’t fit with your schedule, you are allowed to say no. No matter how much they guilt you, just say no. You know you’re going to be miserable if you don’t, and you’re going to say goodbye to your free time.
Learn to Delegate
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Share your to-do list with the people you live with—your family. Even if your children are little, they can still help out around the house. And the bigger they are, the more they can do. Do not be swayed by the “I don’t have time” argument. If they have time for TV, video games or their phones, they have time to help with dinner, help with laundry and help with other household chores. If you’ve developed the bad habit of doing all the housework yourself, now is the time to change that if you want to gain more free time every day.
The same thing goes for your job. Delegate everything you can so you can focus on the most important tasks and make the best use of your time.
Plan Your Menus a Week at a Time. Shop only One Day a week
Meal preparation might just be the biggest time suck of all—or at least it feels that way. And no, takeout isn’t the answer. It might save you a little time but it’s going to kill your budget—and your waistline. Plan out a week’s worth of meals at one time, and then shop for it all at once. If you’re really ambitious, you can plan a month at a time—that’s what I do. Doing your grocery shopping only once a week instead of stopping at the market every night on the way home from work and then trying to figure out what to have for dinner will definitely help you gain more free time every day.
When you start on a task, minimize the distractions. Turn off the TV, close all the social media tabs on your computer, and if you really need to focus, turn off your phone. If you’re working in an office, close the door. If you can really focus on the task at hand, you’ll finish it much more quickly than if you keep getting interrupted or distracted.
These are just 5 of the ways you can gain more free time every day. Once you incorporate these into your daily routine, you’ll find more ways to simplify, eliminate distractions, gain more time, be less stressed and enjoy your life more.