January 10th, 2013 § 1 Comment
Getting Things Done is a pretty popular topic – we’d all like to be more productive and whole blogs are dedicated to the task. A lot of them tell you how to get things done in the context of your day job and increasing productivity at work, but what if work isn’t the problem? What if the difficult thing is getting things done outside work, when there seems to be so little time to actually do it?
If you’re anything like me, even finding the time to go for a haircut is difficult when you work full time. From getting out of bed in the morning to getting home in the evening, the largest part of the day is dedicated to someone or something else. Weekdays are a habit that you get into, and by the time you get home all your mental and physical energy is used up. You might then have to cook dinner, tidy up, see to the kids (eep!), get ready for tomorrow…by the time all the everyday household tasks are done it’s time to set the alarm and go to bed.
If you go on like this, you’ll never achieve anything. Sure, you’re probably reaching career-related goals and you might even love your job, but as far as personal development goes there’s nothing happening. What if you want to start your own business, learn a new skill, even redecorate your living room? When – in the course of those 3-4 hours you have to yourself each day – do you fit all this in?
Make Your Life Easier
You only have a few hours a day when your time is your own, so make it count. You probably can’t spend ages cooking or cleaning anyway, but with a little planning ahead and organisation you can cut down the time spent on menial tasks at home. Here are a few really simple – and obvious when you think about it – tricks:
- Eat breakfast at work – there’s a good chance you already eat lunch at your desk, so why not have breakfast there too? It won’t affect your ability to read your morning emails, and it saves time at home when you could be doing something else.
- Make lunch at work – bring everything you’ll need with you and put it together at work. Whether it’s making a sandwich or heating something up in the office microwave, it’s time saved at home and it means you don’t have to spend your lunch break going to and from the shops in search of food.
- Plan dinner for the week – doing one big weekly shop and having all the ingredients ready is a great time-saver for when you get home after work, especially if your dinners are quick and easy to prepare.
- Pick up after yourself – cleaning as you go means your house will never get into a truly awful state
- Don’t procrastinate over cleaning – honestly, it doesn’t take that long to push the vac round or clean a bathroom. Just do it!
Work out When you Work Best
I’m not a morning person – it’s all I can do in the morning to get out of bed and roll into the car. You, on the other hand, may be really productive before 9am. If that’s the case, getting out of bed an hour earlier to go for a run/work on your business plan/do your Open University homework is a really good idea. If you’re an evening person (like me), you might want to…
Negotiate Your Working Hours
This can be a tricky one, but negotiating how or when you work can really free up time. Could you come into work half an hour earlier and leave half an hour earlier? Could you take a shorter lunch break and leave early? Having a little bit of extra time in the day makes a psychological difference that can be a great motivator. You’ll feel that you’ve got home early and there’s suddenly all this free time to play with.
Use Your Time Wisely
There are little bits of time throughout each working day that can be used better. Maybe you get to work 10 minutes early every day – instead of going to make a tea, why not make that really important phone call? The same goes for your lunch break – don’t take half an hour going to Tesco’s for a sandwich when you could do something useful instead. Think about your day and the parts of it you waste, and you might find you can fit quite a lot in.
Create Discrete Tasks
I suppose this is a classic tenet of Getting Things Done, but dividing up your goals into discrete tasks really does work. Write down all the people you have to phone, or all the things you need to buy, or all the things you have to research, and fit them into those bits of time I was talking about above. Small tasks can be done in the ten minutes before work, big tasks in the evening afterwards. You’ll feel better knowing you’ve got just one thing done that day, even if it’s something as little as firing off an email.
Involve Other People
Peer pressure is a great motivator. If your goals are learning-oriented, there’s no better way to start than by signing up for a course or joining a group of like-minded people. If you have to be at a certain place at a certain time, and you know people will be waiting for you, you’re more likely to go than if it’s something you just do by yourself at home. Interacting with people is also enjoyable – another motivator when it comes to getting things done. You can look forward to your class each week in the knowledge that each time you go you’re a little bit closer to reaching your goal.
In the interests of motivation, bribing yourself is okay in my book. You might decide to have tea only once you’ve finished writing that chapter of your book, or you might aim to get a run in before Downton Abbey starts. Whatever you look forward to, making yourself *do the important task first* makes it seem like a reward for good work.
If you can integrate some of these into your day-to-day life and be consistent about it, you’ll find that things start to happen a lot more quickly. Personal goals are important and they shouldn’t get discarded just because they don’t bring in any cash. If you can address the work/life balance in little ways each day, you’ll look back in a year and see just how much it’s shifted and just how much you’ve achieved.