{Strategy} | Use Your Time Wisely

We all only have 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year to get things done. And yet some people just seem to be so on top of their game! While others struggle just to get to work on time and put in their 9-to-5 to get paid.

In this article I discuss some strategies to make your 24 hours feel both meaningful and powerful! Let’s get productive, #femmebosssquad!

Step 1: Focus on your vision.

What are your larger goals? What would you like to accomplish in the next year? In the next 3 years? How about the next 5 years? How would you like your life to feel? Don’t be afraid to get super precise about it or super far-reaching. You need to challenge yourself and choose the scenario you can best visualize for yourself in order for this to work!

Honestly, following this approach, you’ll really surprise yourself how many of these goals you will be able to hammer out in the advantageous time span you set! That being said, don’t write down anything unsustainable, like “get to a point where I only function on 3 hours of sleep.” Focus more on what healthy and happy would look like to you!

Write all of this down and tweak it until it looks just right.

Step 2: Define your personal values.

In other words, what moral precepts must you uphold in order to get from where you are now to where you want to be without feeling miserable or guilty?  I’d suggest honing in on your top five values. Here are my personal values, which you can use to guide you. Choose what resonates with you, though, and maybe Google a bit to determine the differences between values and preferences.

My personal values:

  • Personal integrity
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Calm / Personal wellness
  • (Environmental) stewardship
  • Valuing the present moment

For me, personal integrity covers a lot of ground. For me, I find that clear communication, upholding commitments in my various relationships, not overextending myself to meet obligations, and finishing goals I start all fall under the category of personal integrity. Stewardship for me really pertains to valuing the things I already have, being grateful to the Universe for what I have already been able to achieve and gain. Stewardship for me also involves taking good care of my things and the environment around me. I find good stewardship of the environment to be important too because I think of it as a form of social equity – not only are we preserving the Earth for our own health, but also for the good of our posterity. We also know that pollution and contamination disproportionately affect marginalized people groups and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. In preserving and caring for the environment I find that I am also caring for the person next to me. I’m also intentionally valuing the present moment, because the environment is now.

Step 3: Hone in on the big goals you’d like to accomplish and when you’d roughly like to accomplish them by.

If you haven’t done so already, make a Google+ account. This will give you access to Google Drive, where I link this goals printable. Make a copy to store in your personal Drive account. Print out a copy or type directly into it. In it you’ll write out your 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year big goals that coincide with and accomplish your vision of yourself and your lifestyle that you created up in Step 1.

Step 4: Plan out your hours.

If you haven’t done so already in the previous step, make a Google+ account so you can get to this free printable Google Sheets worksheet. Make a copy to store in your personal Drive account. Open the sheet and proceed to the following steps:

  1. First, emphasize the importance of sleep – start by blocking out 8-10 hours per night depending on your personal needs.
  2. Plan at least 30 min before bed and 30 min in the morning to prepare for bed and to adjust to waking up (stretch, brush teeth, meds, wash face, etc.)
  3. Fill your obligations into the grid – work, family/social obligations, church/spiritual meetings, travel time, morning routine, etc.
  4. Once you’ve blocked out your travel time, meal times, bedtime and morning prep times, and work time, you may be surprised with how little (or how much) time you have left! This time is where you can now schedule in fun stuff, regular therapy or doctor appointments, grocery shopping, planning, meal prep, laundry, balancing your finances or budget, etc.
  5. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals (check this article for how to do this) for what you will accomplish during each hour block of your study time for your classes. This will get you to stop worrying about how and when your hw assignments and readings will get done. It works because you have indicated to yourself that you’ve already planned out ample time and space for this and any hiccups. This method of reassuring yourself through engineered control measures YOU have set for yourself is providing a safe atmosphere (environment) for your brain to relax. That way, when you study you will actually be much more efficient because you won’t experience pervasive panic thoughts or other intrusive/ADHD-type distractions.
  6. Look at this chart EVERY NIGHT before you go to bed. This prepares your brain for the next day. It will also help you feel much more in control of your life and your goals. You will worry less, and be more excited about the fun things you’ve scheduled. You’ll even start to enjoy the things you used to “dread” or get worried about because you now know they will be efficient, contained, easier, and manageable.

Step 4: Keep yourself accountable with Google Calendar.

If you followed the steps above, you should now have a Google+ account. Google+ accounts come with Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Blogger, and a whole suite of other productivity tools free to you to use. I’d suggest getting comfortable with the Google suite of features, because I personally believe that more companies will switch over to the Google infrastructure in the next couple decades, setting you as an employee ahead of the curve. In other words, Google is the future, so might as well embrace it now.

Anyhoo, go ahead and set up your Google Calendar here. You can also set it up by clicking on the icon that looks like 9 tiny boxes in a grid and scrolling down in that menu till you find the button that looks like a calendar card. Click on this to open Calendar. I’ve been told that Google Calendar works much smoother than Apple’s iCal analog, and it syncs automatically across all devices – whether they are Google, Apple, or Windows!

You can schedule all of the things you set up in your Google Sheets worksheet you made in Step 3. Click an empty space on the calendar screen to create a new event. Label it with an event title (e.g., “US history study time,” “work,” or “sleep”) and modify the time to reflect the entire block of time you’ll be doing that activity. Set these events up as recurring events if they happen every week. You can make custom recurring time blocks by clicking “Custom” in the Repeat every < > section of the event you’re creating. Once these are set, you now have a guideline to work with in case you need to cancel something during the actual week in which you are working.

In other words, we’ve basically created an ideal image of what our schedule would look like in Step 3. Now in Step 4, we’ve created a real-time working model of your actual schedule, where you can insert, adjust, tweak, and delete events as needed to accommodate the special circumstances of that week.

Now, at the end of every week, hold yourself accountable to your schedule. Did you find that something consistently wasn’t working for you time wise? Was there a task you kept rescheduling or deleting because it constantly felt overwhelming or in the way of something else that spilled over? Did everything fit into the allotted time blocks you scheduled for each activity? Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly so that you can get into a stable routine that actually works. Here it is better to be realistic than idealistic, because the real you has to accomplish these things every day. Comparing your ideal schedule with your real-time Google Calendar schedule gives you, in essence, a reality check – you can figure out if your expectations of what you are able to accomplish are realistic. You can also figure out how you can improve by seeing where your shortcomings fell that week.

Step 5: Repeat this process until it becomes second nature.

And in a year’s time you’ll be amazed at what all you were able to accomplish! Sometimes reflecting on what you’ve been getting done and not getting done unearths a lot of latent emotions and subconscious beliefs about yourself. You should sit with these feelings, however uncomfortable they may be. These feelings and beliefs tell you more about yourself and where you may be struggling in life. I’d highly recommend that you invest in some good self-help books (I discuss several of the ones I benefited from most here) and set aside a time each day – even just 10-15 minutes! – to read. You’ve gotta replace old habits and negative beliefs about yourself with positive ones, because just trying to chuck them with no adaptive (positive) replacement never works (that’s what the psychological research shows, anyway!).

Check out these other articles too if you’re looking for more assistance overcoming negative beliefs:

Please leave a comment below if you felt that this article was helpful or if you have any strategies you’d like to add that have worked for you!

Hannah Stringfellow is a freelance blogger and world traveler. She holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and cross-cultural competency.

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