“I’d love to, but I’m just so busy these days!” How often do you hear this? Or, more importantly, how often do you say it? With the expansion of technology, people have had increased access to work tools, which can naturally lead to a longer workday, whether we intend to work longer hours or not.
The glorification of being busy has created unrealistic—not to mention unhealthy—effects on people’s minds, bodies and relationships. “Busy” does not necessarily mean “productive,” which is why we have 5 tips for decluttering your schedule with actionable steps to take to help you live a healthier, more productive life.
1. Determine how much time you (really) have
This one can stump a lot of people. You may think you have a lot more time than you actually do. Instead of adding things to your schedule whenever they come up, take inventory of everything you already have going on. Some things to consider:
- Administrative responsibilities
- Team trainings
- Professional development and coaching
- Internal & external meetings
- Clarity Breaks™
After you’ve taken a realistic look at the time that your calendar has already claimed, that 8-hour workday can start to feel too short. Thinking you can just add hours to your workday by staying late every day? Mmm… not so fast. Don’t forget to consider the commitments you have in your personal life too:
- Spending time with friends & family
- Focusing on passions & hobbies
- Personal development & education
- Running errands
- House work/chores
- Meal time
- Sleep (often forgotten!)
The point here is, taking stock of your personal and professional commitments is crucial in understanding where tasks can fit, and where you need to consider making cuts.
2. Locate the essential tasks… and be honest with yourself
Now that you’ve taken a good hard look at exactly how much time you really have, you can get a better idea of what should stay and what can go. Go through your schedule and categorize each commitment with high, medium and low priority (the only rule is you cannot label everything as high priority!).
If you have trouble adding priority levels to each item, ask yourself:
- Does it immediately impact company success?
- Does it immediately impact your career?
- Will it affect any personal commitments?
- Is it time sensitive?
- Are you the only person who can do this?
If you answered “no” to most or all of these, consider moving the deadline, finding someone else to work on it or cutting it from the to-do list completely.
3. Be picky with your calendar invites
Do you ever see “Invitation” in the subject line of an email, and you accept the meeting invitation before even reading what it’s about? Yeah… it’s a really common habit. The thing is, once we started actually reading what the invitations are for, we realized that several of those “send to: all” emails don’t even apply to us.
It’s definitely a good idea to stay involved and up to date with what’s going on in your company. But you’re not doing anyone any favors if you attend every single meeting on everyone’s agenda when your time would be more valuable elsewhere.
Read your calendar invites. Then, take it a step further and actually think about it. How will you contribute to this meeting? Consider how your presence benefits everyone, and not just your own schedule. Maybe your input is valued, but you can use email or your company’s messaging system to relay the information without needing to overexert your own schedule.
4. Keep track of how much time you’re spending on tasks
Did you schedule an hour to write that proposal for your boss? Awesome! Great time management skills! The thing is, if you don’t actually keep track of the time you’re trying to manage, that one hour can turn into several in no time. When that happens, you’re creeping into time you’ve already reserved for other tasks, which will need to be pushed back. Then the tasks after THAT will need to be pushed back… do you see where we’re going with this?
Set time limits and try your best to honor them. This is where that prioritization comes back into play. Determine if there’s space in your schedule to push back other deadlines, or remove from your schedule entirely. Tracking time allows you to keep a record of how much time you should schedule for similar projects in the future.
5. Expand the declutter beyond just your schedule
Clearing out your schedule isn’t just great for work productivity. It can have seriously positive effects on your overall mental health as well. When it comes to decluttering, we strongly encourage you to apply strategies similar to what’s outlined here to other areas of your daily routine:
- Prioritize your personal commitments
- Declutter your desk/home office/workspace
- Learn to clear your mind
Here at Traction Tools, we don’t separate “work life” and “personal life,” because at the end of the day, it’s all part of your life. That’s why it’s so important to consider your personal capacity throughout all facets of your life, whether it’s personal or professional.