You may view every day as an endless string of chores, errands, and work assignments, among other plights. From that point of view, time may not seem like a resource, but some intangible matter that keeps slipping through your fingers as you desperately race to finish everything.
In line with that, you may often feel like you rarely manage to really finish everything you plan out to do. Your 24-hour day may seem like it could use an extra hour or two, just to help you keep your head above water.
What’s worse is that as a result of constant work, your health seems to suffer as well. After all, you can’t possibly manage to finish your work, run errands, and still have time to sleep, eat, relax and rejuvenate your mental health, right?
There are ways you can make time your friend, rather than your arch-enemy — and here are the top 3 tips on how you can do just that:
- Work according to your natural chronotype
- Be content with what you manage to accomplish
- Establish a work/life balance
In this article, we will further discuss how to make time your friend using these 3 tips.
1. Work According To Your Natural Chronotype
When I was a first-year at college, I used to get up at 6 a.m. to study for exams.
I’d get up, have breakfast, and check my emails. Then, I’d stare through the window thinking about how sleepy I am. Eventually, if I did not doze off, I’d probably start studying around 9. I’d usually progress slowly, and I’d get tired quickly.
As it turned out, the practice of getting up at 6 a.m. did not align well with my personal chronotype (i.e. my natural inclination in terms of when I need to sleep, or when I’m the most energetic and alert).
To identify your personal chronotype, just think about your current habits. Do you spend countless evenings pushing yourself to work late, only to find that you’re so tired you can barely concentrate? Then start going to bed earlier. You can also make it a habit to read a chapter of your favourite book before bed. Not only will a good book reduce your stress levels, but it will also help you fall asleep faster.
Do you spend countless mornings getting up at the crack of dawn, only to spend the next couple of hours snoozing?
If you can, simply start working later. You can also always prepare your breakfast the night before, and layout the clothes you’ll wear tomorrow next to your bed. This way, you’ll be able to sleep longer.
As soon as I started sleeping longer, I started being more productive. Sure, I’d get up at about 8 a.m., but I’d usually start studying by 8:30 a.m. I’d progress faster, and I’d remain alert throughout the day. Therefore, by paying more attention to my personal chronotype (rather than general expert advice), I learned to make time for school.
2. Be Content With What You Manage To Accomplish
“Overachieving” seems to be human nature. We often set improbable, near-impossible goals, and then get disappointed with the outcome if we fall short. But, if you want to make time your friend, you have to be easy on yourself first.
As Marissa Mayer, former president and CEO of Yahoo once said:
“You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you.”
So, instead of pushing yourself to power through 3 items in your list of goals, be content with finishing what is most important. And leave the rest for later.
Who cares if you haven’t been grocery shopping, answered all your emails, or managed to wash a mountain of dishes today? If you managed to organize your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, complete your key work project, or make excellent progress on any of your other top priorities, you have every reason to feel content.
It’s okay if you haven’t started your own independent, successful business by the age of 30. If you have a steady job you love, in a company where you’ve made great friends, that’s enough reason to call your life a success.
Sometimes it’s not about how fast you checkmark life goals, but whether you enjoy the life you’re living now. And, once you realize that, it won’t seem like you’re racing against time, but walking alongside it.
3. Establish A Work/Life Balance
Working all the time, or letting your personal life completely distract you from your work is likely to ruin all your efforts. In the first case, you’ll feel exhausted and overworked. In the second, you’ll feel distracted and unfocused.
When it comes to work, it’s important to remember that quality is more important than quantity. So, overworking yourself to exhaustion with endless assignments will likely make you perform subpar on most of your tasks. In line with that, it’s better to pick 1–2 of your most important and urgent tasks per day and focus solely on them. Then, after finishing your priorities, you can use some free time to relax, practice a hobby, or spend time with family and friends.
When it comes to leisure activities during work hours, it’s important to remember that playing with your pets during this time and cancelling work meetings to rush to your friend every time he has a crisis, won’t make you happy either. In the long run, it may even cause you to lose your job.
When it comes to the tempting call of everything else that isn’t your work (which gets especially loud when you’re doing an important, but tedious task), setting boundaries is key. If you work from home, inform your family and friends of your work hours, and explain to them that just because you don’t work in a traditional office, you cannot get off your work whenever.
If you work from an office, instruct loved ones that you’ll be available for them during breaks, or for emergencies. In the end, if you work when you’re supposed to work, and unwind after work hours, you’ll have a clear division between your work and your private life — which will ensure you have time for both.
If you work and live according to your chronotype, you’ll know what your ideal times to sleep and work are. So you’ll be able to schedule your day in a way that suits you.
By finding a way to be content with what you manage to accomplish, you’ll be able to take it easy on yourself. Ultimately, this will help you to not over complicate your life with unnecessary tasks and goals.
Lastly, by establishing a work/life balance, you’ll be able to say that you’re leading a fulfilled, happy life where you’re saving enough time for both your work and leisure activities.
Once you manage to do all that, you can say that you’ve made time your friend — because you’ll have a clear perspective of what spending and managing your time well really means.