You’re taking online classes. You’re working. You’ve got children who need your attention, a social life you shouldn’t miss out on, or all of the above. You might think with so much to do, scheduling your day and prioritizing your commitments would be a no-brainer, but sometimes things get lost in the whirlwind. Losing track of time has less to do with disorganization and more to do with only being able to do so much. The key is focusing on what you can do today and recognize that each checked off item on your to-do list is its own success. You can’t stretch 24 hours into 36, but you can do things so that it doesn’t feel like 12. Here are 8 ways to get the most out of your day.
1) START YOUR DAY A LITTLE EARLY
According to Forbes, studies have linked waking up early to success. We’ve all experienced the hectic morning that ensues when we set our alarm for the last possible minute—or even worse, oversleep. Rushing in the morning, especially if you have small children to get ready, leaves you frazzled before you even begin your day.
People who wake up early can ease into their day. A 2010 Harvard study, according to Forbes, discovered that early birds identified with statements like “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.” They experience increased productivity, a higher GPA, more energy, better organizational skills, and a positive outlook.
2) KNOW YOUR CHILDREN’S DAY
If you have children, your day will be easier if you know from the start where they will be, who they’ll be with, and what they’ll be doing. For very young children, planning childcare arrangements in advanced means you spend less time scrambling or worrying and can focus on being productive.
3) DO WHAT YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME
You’ll be amazed how much time is spent on small tasks. Deciding what to wear, taking out trash, laying out your kids’ clothes. They add up. Do anything you can do ahead of time. Many people choose their outfits the night before. Why not plan two or three days of outfits? Iron and lay everything out so you can dress quickly in the morning. Do you cook daily? Consider cooking enough for a couple of meals to cut down on the time you spend over the stove each day. And never leave a sink full of dishes to do in the morning.
4) TIME CHUNK
Chunking is a technique for improving memory by grouping smaller pieces of information into a larger pneumonic device to help you remember them. However, chunking as a form of time management has emerged as a popular technique. “Time chunking” involves breaking your day into chunks of time to complete specific tasks.
At work, you can allot chunks of time for your job-related tasks, and outside of work, you can break the rest of your day into time for studying, chores, and family. Strictly adhere to each chunk of time to stay organized and prevent yourself from spending too much time on one thing and neglecting everything else.
5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SHORT STUDY OPPORTUNITIES
A lot of people think cramming is the only way to study. This doesn’t just mean studying everything the night before a test, but also doing all your homework in one sitting. Instead of doing everything in one prolonged session, break up each assignment into small pieces. If you take public transportation, read on the commute. If you drive, consider recording yourself reading from your notes or a textbook and playing it on the drive. By the time you actually sit down to do the bulk of your homework, you’ll find much of your workload is lightened.
6) GO TO BED AT THE SAME TIME EVERY NIGHT
The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends going to bed at the same time every night, including weekends, to ensure quality sleep. Ending your day at the same time each night gets your body into a rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up more refreshed. This makes it easier to wake up at the same time each day and even a little earlier!
7) SPEND AN HOUR ON FACEBOOK
Say what? So often, people warn you to stay away from social media altogether. But social media is hard to avoid. Instead of forcing yourself off your favorite sites completely, monitoring the time you spend can drastically improve your productivity.
The time you spend checking in on your favorite sites can quickly add up. Five minutes here. Fifteen minutes there. Instead of logging on sporadically throughout the day, spend a solid chunk of time getting your social media “fix”. If you’re having trouble, there are different apps and programs that actually let you block Facebook and other sites from your device for a set amount of time.
8) LEARN FROM EACH DAY
There’s always room for improvement. Successful people continually learn from their experiences and refine their behavior. Each night, reflect on that day to prepare yourself for the next. What worked? What didn’t? What do you wish you had more time for, and what did you spend too much time on? Turn this into a list: use it to make your to-do list for the next day and lay out your objectives and goals for tomorrow. Looking back helps with tomorrow’s reflection, because it gives you an actual list to check things off —to look back and ask “did I do that?”
Getting the most out of your day is about ensuring that every aspect of your life is in sync, working smoothly and working for you. With so many demands on your attention things can get lost in the fray. Don’t let this overwhelm you. Take a step back to visualize a successful day in your mind and what you need to get there. Your time is valuable—get the most value out of it!