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Get MORE Out of Your Day

This past Sunday was Daylight Savings Time and I, for one, loved it.
Most mornings, I get out of bed feeling ... well, feeling like I’d like to get right back in again ...

But on Saturday night, I got into bed at midnight, which became 11:00 p.m., then slept until 8:00 a.m., which felt like 9:00 a.m.! I popped out of bed feeling as sprightly as a bunny.
What followed was an incredibly productive day. I exercised, went to the farmers’ market, made a delicious breakfast for B and I (scrambled eggs with zucchini, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese—on top of a slice of sprouted grain bread, served with a dash of sriracha hot sauce on the side), did laundry, met with a coworker to plan our after-school program, ate dinner with B (yummy falafel he brought home from some place in Williamsburg), watched a movie, and was back in bed by 10:00 p.m.
It felt like I finally had enough time in the day.
As our bodies readjust to the time change, and our “I’ll just hit the snooze button once more” instincts creep back in, it seems worthwhile to revisit some of the principles of time management. Lest we squander our gained hour.
The secret to managing your time is about working smarter, not harder. It is about prioritizing the important things and learning to use your time effectively.
Some of us, by nature, organize and get tasks out of the way before we relax, while others of us play first and work later. It is important to know which type you are and whether your style is allowing you to have the life you really want.
Maybe you are the super-organized type but need to learn to schedule more time for relaxing and fun.
Or perhaps you are a naturally less organized person who needs to click off the TV and write that grad-school application.
Rather than beating yourself up, realize that time management is an area of your life that you can strengthen. Like a new muscle, it takes practice and repetition to make it stronger. To help you get started, here are some steps to streamline your days at work and at home.

 * Allocate time for planning and organizing. Sunday afternoons are good for this. Create a to-do list for the week. Start by just listing everything you want to accomplish during the week from grocery shopping, to painting your toenails, to calling your grandmother. Then start breaking the list down by spreading the items out over the course of your week. Remember, we usually don’t get to everything on the list. Keep it manageable and put the most important things at the top.
 * Under-schedule your time: Leave time for the unexpected and for interruptions. When you estimate how long something will take, add on a third of that time.
 * Bundle like tasks together.
 * Look for hidden pockets of time: (waiting in line, subway rides, lunch breaks)
 * Practice the art of intelligent neglect: Eliminate trivial tasks.
 * Consider your biological prime time: At what time of day do you work best? Plan to do your most important work at that time.
 * Learn to say no and set boundaries around your time.
 * Where possible, ask for help and delegate.
 * In the evening, revisit your to-do list for that day and acknowledge yourself for what you have accomplished. Forgive yourself if you didn’t get to something. You’re human. Review the next days list so that you can end your day with a clear head (this can help a lot with nighttime anxiety and sleep problems).

Make sure to examine the biggest hindrances to using time effectively: procrastinating and lacking purpose.
Procrastinating: We usually procrastinate when a task seems too daunting and complex and we feel we won’t be able to handle it. When you get that “deer in the headlights” feeling, try “chunking”: break the large task into smaller, manageable action steps and start with the first one.
Lacking purpose: We often drag our heels when we view a task as boring or uninspired. Stay connected to how even the most menial tasks help you accomplish your larger goal. I may hate the act of balancing my finances, but I love when I have saved responsibly and can go and buy some new clothes. (Confession: I really should never be buying new clothes ... I have plenty ... See future post on learning how to say no to yourself!)

As you strengthen your new time management muscle, be patient and play around! Good time management can be your ticket to greater satisfaction, increased effectiveness and a more peaceful and fun-filled life.

What are the challenges you face in managing your time?