I’m going to take a guess that your “wanna-do” list is probably about a large as mine. And guess what? You have just as many hours in one day as everyone else does! How does it all get done? Or will it ever?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer those questions. However, in the past few years, I have found some things to be very helpful in making my personal time more useful and productive. Ready for them? I can’t promise they’ll change your life. But they may help a little. ;)
1. Start the day with God
Giving the first-fruits of my day to God does something. It’s not some “magic potion” for success or anything. I just personally believe that God honors those who seek Him. Plus, how will we know what needs to go on our to-do list if we don’t even ask Him?
2. Serve others
The saying goes “JOY=Jesus, Others, You.” Though Luke 9:23 applies in many spiritual ways, I have seen that when I try to “save” my time, it’s like walking into sinking sand. However, when I “lose myself” to others, God seems to always multiply my minutes.
3. Make a to-do list
Once we’ve done the first two things on our list, what happens when we get to “our” time? First things first: make a to-do list. If I wait to do this until my day is mostly over, I find myself treading water, piddling around, and yep, wasting time. I make my lists either the night before or the morning of so that way, as soon as I’m ready for it, it’s there, waiting for me to tackle.
4. Have accountability partners
Differently people use accountability partners different ways. I began by having an accountability partner for writing. Next thing I knew, this friend became my to-do list accountability partner. It helps to have someone to text (even if they won’t reply immediately) and say, “Hey, for the next hour, I’m going to write…ask me later if I kept to that!”
5. Limit distractions
The #1 time sucker is distractions. For many people, it has to do with online interaction (FaceBook, blog hopping, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it). Other times, distractions come with texting instead of working (think about it: if you worked a normal 9-5 job, you’d not be allowed to text unless you were on lunch break). There are a few different ways to limit these distractions. Turn off the internet. Sign out of social media. Set a timer and don’t pick up your phone until the timer goes off. Or set a timer and only be on the internet/phone until the timer rings. Whatever works for you.
6. Notice spare minutes and use them
We daily waste hours of spare minutes. It’s not always easy to realize what gets wasted. Having a to-do list here helps a lot. For example, the other day I needed my brother to bring something upstairs for me to use. While I was waiting, I began correcting a student’s theory work. I was able to get a dozen pages corrected before he came up (which was more than on my to-do list). I could have easily picked up my phone and squandered those few minutes scrolling through social media (but what kind of example would that have made for this point, right? ;) ). It isn’t always easy to see these spare minutes. We have to train ourselves to see them.
7. Prioritize and narrow down
One of the important things to realize is what needs to be done today. What are others expecting me to do? What deadlines do I have coming up? What commitments have I made? Sometimes, when I prioritize (or make micro-lists), I find it helpful to narrow things down. Instead of just having “blog post” on my list, I might have it narrowed down to “write post, create graphics, schedule.” Doing this helps my brain to focus on the steps needed to get things done. At the same time…
8. Be realistic
Here, I speak to the over-achievers (guiltily I raise my hand!). What does not have to be done today? For me, on lesson days, I can’t expect to write 1,000 words, reply to five emails, plan for next week’s lessons (usually 10+ songs), create a music video (micro list: edit song, practice and record, upload to Sheet Music Plus and With a Joyful Noise websites, and create the video), design a book cover, beta-read five chapters for someone else, do things needed for my family, and teach for seven hours. Cramming a to-do list is also a good way to add extra stress to our lives, so we need to be realistic.
Part of being realistic is to reschedule. I suppose “be flexible” could also be in here. If something else comes up that needs our time and attention, it’s okay to move part or all of our to-do list to another day. This also goes with prioritizing. If we know what doesn’t need to be done today, it won’t hurt as much to move it.
10. Make free time
Enough said, right? Ahem…here is where I don’t practice what I preach super often: give yourself a break. It is possible to overwork ourselves, whereas if we just took a break, it would relax our minds to be able to refocus and get back to work. When I work, I work hard. It gets a lot accomplished, yes, but it also wears me out physically. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not some sort of superwoman. ;) I’m flesh and blood and God has made me with limitations. He also gives rest to the weary. Do I take it?
I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface for all that’s helpful in being productive, so I’d love to hear from you!
Have you implemented any of these tips?
What have you found helpful?
What would you add to this list?