Actively implement any or all of these 7 tips to get your time back.
1. Eliminate the background noise. Ever set out to do something specific and get distracted and sidetracked? Sometimes for hours? Happens to me often when I’m online. Right in the middle of researching something specific, I’ll see an interesting article that leads me down another rabbit hole. An hour later, I’ve emerged from the endless tunnels of curiosity I’d traveled in the process of looking for just one simple thing. Figure out what’s serving as your background noise. Is it the third activity you’ve signed your child up for? Social media? TV? Incoming texts and calls when you really want to focus on something else? Pick an hour a day (ideally two) when you can shut all those distractions down and focus on your goal. If you really want to go hardcore, get a password-protected TV timer like the what’s offered at www.familysafemedia.com.
2. Limit the Media. This includes online (social or otherwise), radio and TV. One strategy that strangely works for me is to log out of my social media accounts. Something about the convenience of having them logged in all the time feeds into my curiosity about what’s going on in “virtual Friendsville”. The act of logging into them makes me more conscious of what I’m doing. I’m sure Facebook is well aware of this small bit of consciousness because they’ve made it super-easy for users to log into their app now. Just click your picture. (No thanks.) Same with TV. If you find yourself channel surfing to find something interesting, you probably could be doing something more meaningful. TV is a time-suck and a diversion. Focus on your own reality show.
3. Eat slowly. Not as easy as it sounds. Most people are so distracted when they eat that they barely notice they’ve eaten. Even if you’re forced to eat on the go (totally not preferable), chew slowly and savor each bite as though you’re a food critic trying to taste each ingredient, texture and flavor. If you’re sitting somewhere and can close your eyes, great. If you can eat in silence, even better. If not, at minimum, stay off the phone concentrate on your meal. Be a food critic. Just TRY IT. It’s been working for me. I managed to lose two pounds last week and my only change was eating more slowly and concentrating on tasting my food, so I really think it works!
4. Let something go. By the time we reach our middle years, we have a host of responsibilities that can easily border on overwhelm. Some of these obligations are beyond our control, but most are fully within our realm of discernment. In the latter case, that’s nothing but EGO telling us we must juggle all those things. What’s really going on there? Guilt? Comparison? Stubbornness? Perfectionism? What would really happen if you let something go?
5. Leave work early. Most companies offer sick and personal days for a reason. They know people need them. There are days you may not feel your best and days you just need to regroup. Use what you have a right to take. At minimum, leave work early. Just pick a day to clear your calendar, work half the day (or night, if you work nights), take yourself to lunch, a movie or just go home. If home is chaotic, go to someplace quiet where you can be alone like a bookstore or library. Get a massage or just take a walk in the park. Make your time off all about YOU.
6. Get in touch with nature. Two summers ago, I started sitting in my backyard every night and listen to nature’s day shift turn to night. The birds became silent as the frogs and crickets began their chorus. Nothing is more beautiful to me. I gaze up at the darkening sky and understand how small my worries are in the grand scheme of things. How beautiful and precious life is and how much beauty we bypass and ignore as we rush through life with lists full of ‘musts’. At minimum, leave your desk and look out the window, sit in your car or take a walk outside. No phone calls, texting or gossiping coworker in tow. Just you and nature.
7. Ask for help. Despite what our egos tell us, we really do need help sometimes. We do it all the time, but we don’t necessarily consider it reaching out for help. If we bought takeout on a given busy day, it means we needed someone to cook for us for that meal. Sitting the kids in front of a movie means we needed a sitter in that moment. It’s harder asking friends for favors. Ego gets in the way. If you can gather a group of five honest friends, work out a schedule of favors for the year (one each month) to support each other, great. Else, pick a service that will help lighten your load, like Peapod or Hello Fresh, which can shop and deliver your groceries or meals, or Lyft that can help with commuting conflicts. Figure out where you’re most pressed for time and find help.