Don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m wondering if there are actually enough hours in a day to get everything done we’re supposed to get done. With studying for exams, a job, a blog, a social life, an apartment that needs maintaining and a body that needs gym I’m not exactly prone to boredom. If you have or want to get a lot done in your daily life as well this post is for you. Today I’ll share with you my top strategies for getting your shit done – because in fact there ARE enough hours in a day! There are basically two factors that are crucial to getting your shit done: time and motivation. In this post we’ll cover both how to free more time during your day as well as how to actually put this time to good use. So let’s get started!
Reflect on why you want to do it
The first thing you want to do is to actually go over everything you have to get done during your everyday life and ask yourself why you’re doing it. If we consciously recap WHY we’re doing something it’s way easier to stay on track even if the task itself is unpleasant. Most people don’t actually enjoy studying for hours but they do in the end want that degree. Some people find it hard to go to the gym regularly. If you do want to stay fit and healthy though you know you’ll have to get your butt in gear. If there are tasks in your life though that you hate and you can’t really pinpoint the true underlying goal you should consider getting rid of them. Getting your shit done gets so much more bearable if you’re working towards something that’s truly important to you in the long run. As always your mindset makes all the difference: view your tasks as steps you are proactively taking towards your goal, not as annoying chores that were burdened on you because life is cruel.
Start getting your shit done at night. No, not literally 😀 Make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest so you’re ready to tackle your tasks during the day. Get up at a decent time so you don’t lose half the day lying in bed. Make sure you have the right equipment ready for getting the things on your to do list done, be it a laptop or a vacuum cleaner. This is important so you won’t have to waste time looking for the right equipment or grappling with tools that aren’t fit for their purpose.
Planning is key if you want to get your shit done
I personally feel stressed out easily by having to keep a whole bunch of tasks on my mind. Making a plan will help you keep track of your tasks and organize them. Not only will this help you not to forget anything, it will also make you feel more at ease as you can drop all these things from your mind. Find a way of planning your tasks that works for you – be it a calendar, your phone, a daily/weekly/monthly to do list or all of these. I make to do lists every day as they are probably the most simple, yet effective way of keeping track of your tasks. I will break down larger tasks into smaller ones so I can clearly see which individual steps I have to take. For example I would not just write down “Blog post” but smaller steps such as “Curate outfits”, “Select shooting location”, “Take photos”, “Edit photos”, “Write blog post”, “Post to Blog / Lookbook / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram” and so on. This also makes it easier to estimate how much time you’ll need for each task. If a task can’t be completed on one day be sure to move it to tomorrow’s to do list. Having a weekly and monthly to do list will help you keep track of which tasks are coming up and have to be scheduled in.
I use a calendar/workbook for appointments as well as additional notes. I’ll also have my appointments in my phone so it can remind me. This is especially useful if you have an appointment coming up in a couple of weeks or months and are therefore likely to forget it. I will then set the reminder a whole week in advance so I can prepare or reschedule should I really have forgotten about the appointment. What really helps me a lot is including repeating tasks into my school timetable. So in addition to my lectures I will also add things like study group, gym, home office hours or cooking. It’s a great way to visualize your tasks, to spot empty time slots and to get a feel for how much you can get done within a certain time frame. Also, tasks on my timetable always appear to be more mandatory. That’s because a) they seem to be equal to my lectures at uni and b) ever since first grade everything that was on a school timetable simply HAD to be done – and old habits die hard 😀
Some might worry that planning ahead will take the spontaneity out of their lives. I personally find that planning the things you must do gives you a lot more freedom for the things you want to do.
Schedule in relaxation
Be sure to also add your free time activities to your schedule. This way these activities and other to dos can’t get in each other’s way as you always know what’s going to happen when. Plus it’s also important to give yourself a break every now and again. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate and take breaks when you actually shouldn’t because you know that there’ll be a time specifically dedicated to relaxation.
Planning ahead (see no. 1) has a side effect that comes in very handy: it allows you to be efficient, which is crucial for getting your shit done. What does efficiency mean? It means to cut down on unnecessary work and wasted time. This could mean that every time you’re going somewhere you will go about everything you could do or get on the way. My gym is right next to the supermarket. So before I leave for the gym I will just take a couple of minutes to thoroughly go over things I might have to buy (Dish washing liquid? Toilet paper? Tea?) and pick them up on my way home. It’s far more efficient to invest 5 minutes to figure out if and where you need to get something than investing an hour to go again. Same goes for your own household: leaving the house? Take the garbage with you. Going to the bathroom? Take that towel that’s lying around and put it back where it belongs. It takes a bit of practice but efficient behavior will quickly become a habit and save you a lot of time.
Efficiency can also mean taking full advantage of what’s offered to you: If you’re a student make sure to attend your lectures, take notes and do your homework. Is there any kind of free tutoring offered at your school? Yes, please! Why am I saying this? Because I’m totally adulting here. But more importantly because these are fantastic opportunities to save time and energy. Attending lectures gives you the chance to have someone explain the subject matter to you and to ask as many questions as you want. Every piece of information you can understand and revise during lectures is something you won’t have to wrap your head around at home all by yourself. So instead of spending hours googleing for the critical piece of info before the exam make sure to get everything straight while you have the chance to ask.
Another very efficient habit is meal prepping. I’m sure you’ve heard of this before. It basically means preparing your meals for several days or even the whole week at once and storing them in the fridge or freezer. I meal prep every week and I’m a huge fan. Now of course cooking several dishes at once will take you more time than cooking just one. However, if the cooking process is scheduled efficiently your cooking for the whole week will probably be done within 2 hours. Considering that even cooking something simple will take me at least half an hour per meal you’ll quickly find that this can save a lot of time. But it doesn’t stop there. I’ll only have to go grocery shopping once a week and I’ll only have to do the cleaning after the cooking process once. In total this saves me precious hours every week.
Cut everything out that’s wasting your time
These can be very different things for different people. Maybe you just want to watch that one tutorial / recipe / review on YouTube and start binge watching for hours. Maybe you stay in bed until noon although you got enough sleep. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about the things we’re doing for relaxation purposes. If watching YouTube or staying in bed is part of your weekend, something you love to do and are looking forward to then there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m talking about the situations we find ourselves in for no apparent reason; the ones that make us get angry with ourselves afterwards. Identify the situations you’re wasting time in and make a conscious effort to end the time wasting behavior right when you become aware of it.
Although this may sound a bit harsh – sometimes there are even people in our lives that tend to waste our time. The one friend who sounds like a broken record when they talk about their on-off relationship every single time you meet them. People you find yourself spending time with regularly although you don’t actually enjoy their company for whatever reason. The ex blind date that keeps messaging you although it turned into a lukewarm no-relationship-and-actually-not-even-friendship kind of thing a long time ago. You get the idea. If you feel like being with those people is wasting your time it is perfectly alright to reduce the time you’re spending with them or to cut them out of your life altogether. This is your life.
An especially nasty specimen is people who prefer to waste other people’s time instead of their own. You know, the ones who ask you stuff they could have easily googled themselves. The ones who ask you to send files again because they’re too lazy to search their inbox. The ones who ask you favors that are far beyond what you can expect from someone who doesn’t get anything in return. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about helping others or doing them a favor. That’s an important part of every friendship and we all need help every now and again. What I’m saying is: don’t fall into this trap and identify the people who are trying to saddle you with their tasks although they’re perfectly capable of completing them themselves. It’s alright to say no – nobody is entitled to your time and energy.
Focus your energy
I have often met people in my life who were simply not very good at being economical with their energy and resources in general. So instead of actually getting shit done they would waste their time and energy complaining about how hard it is to get shit done. Instead of investing their energy into getting started on something they spent hours and hours looking for some kind of shady shortcut to reach their goal. There’s nothing wrong with looking for an easier or more efficient (!) way of doing something. But there are some things that just have to be done. There’s no way around working out if you want to get fit. If you want to complete a project there’s no way around working on it. So instead of wasting your time on trying to find a way around it or on constantly complaining about it focus your energy on actually getting it done. Also, by complaining about a task you keep demotivating yourself which will just drain even more of your energy. Instead, focus on the fact that every completed task gets you closer to a goal and that everything you get done now will free time for more pleasant things later.
Visualize the alternatives
This one seriously works wonders for me and maybe it will help you too. Whenever I have to start or work on a task but just can’t get motivated this voice in my head will pop up.
“No, it’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to work on the project now. You can just do it in June when it’s 30° C outside and your friends are having a BBQ.”
I will visualize this perfect warm summer evening, with blue skies and a gentle warm wind blowing. My hair’s still wet from a day spent swimming and relaxing by the lake. Music is playing and all my friends are there and the BBQ is already being prepared.
Seriously, just how much would it suck to trade THIS for working on a school project because I was too lazy to work on it on a cold, rainy March afternoon? Visualizing what you will gain by getting your shit done now instead of later can go a long way when it comes to getting motivated. If all else fails the prospect of a fantastic summer gets me going – no matter what. So make sure to visualize how you will spend the free time you’ll gain by not procrastinating and getting your shit done right now.
Oh and by the way…
“It’s alright. You don’t have to do it now. Just leave the dirty dishes in the sink. Scraping off the dried up pasta sauce will be so much more fun tonight after a long workday.”
You can still quit
I mentioned this tip in my post about achieving your New Year’s goals. When I can’t get motived I will tell myself that I’m just going to start and do X for 10 minutes. If it’s still horrible and unbearable I can still stop. Starting isn’t that bad if you know you can stop working on that task any time. Then again, getting started is the hardest part so once you started you’re actually likely to keep going. Sometimes we really have to trick ourselves a little.
Seize the opportunity
There are times in our lives that actually make getting shit done easier than others. Complete tasks on a rainy day instead of a sunny one. Sure, the tasks are still there and still have to be completed. But this will leave you more satisfied in general as unpleasant tasks won’t suddenly be due on a day you would actually love to spend with your friends / partner / family / dog…
This doesn’t only apply to the weather. Your friend cancelled your Saturday night activities? Fine, appreciate the free time instead of fretting about it and get something done. Having a bad cold? Alright, let’s do everything that can be done in bed with a laptop and a cup of tea. You get the idea. When some super annoying parcel service made me wait 4 hours for a parcel that eventually wasn’t even delivered I would usually have been furious. However, as I was forced to stay in my apartment anyway I got so much done I probably would have postponed in favor of lying in the sun.
Tackle important and unpleasant tasks first
Most people will probably agree when it comes to important tasks. The consequences will be more severe if you fail to complete an important task. Tackling them first thing in the morning will simply reduce the risk of anything unexpected getting in the way or distracting you. If a task is truly important there should always be some slack time in case things don’t go as planned.
Now what about unpleasant tasks? These are the ones we actually prefer to postpone again and again. However, completing them first offers two major benefits: Firstly, it simply feels fantastic to check off an unpleasant task. Your day will instantly get better knowing that the worst part is already over. Man, did I feel good after I had finally fumbled a thick nest of long red hair out of the brush roll in my vacuum cleaner (#adultlife). Secondly, the longer you wait the less likely you are to start the task at all. Other activities will require energy and concentration so the later it gets the less energy you’ll have left. You’ll have even less motivation to get started on an unpleasant task when you’re exhausted. So you’ll wake up the next morning with the unpleasant task still on your to do list and you’ll hate past-you for it. Having an unpleasant task looming over you all day is far more annoying than actually completing it.
When working on a task it can be useful to set a timer on your phone. I usually work for about an hour or an hour and a half, then I’ll take a little break. If anything else comes to your mind during your working time quickly write it down and deal with it later. This way you won’t get distracted by other to dos popping up in your head while working. Also, make sure to get your drink / coffee / snack and all work utensils ready before you start so you won’t have to interrupt your work for getting them. And of course Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc. are for the break times. Period.
Let’s get this straight: we shouldn’t procrastinate at all. As we’re humans and not machines though it sometimes simply happens. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves. So when I just can’t bring myself to get started on a nasty task I’ll make a deal with myself: while I’m not completing THIS task I have to complete other tasks on my to do list. Maybe the more pleasant ones or the easier ones. But something useful has to be done. This usually provides at least some peace of mind and at the end of the day we don’t feel completely useless. Is the weather too nice to sit inside and study? Fine, go outside but do a little workout / get groceries / take your lecture notes with you and read in the park. Can’t concentrate? Okay, then tidy up the flat / do laundry / prepare dinner, grab a cup of coffee and try again.
Make use of waiting times
Waiting times inevitably occur in our lives. It’s incredible how much we can get done in situations we would usually spend sitting around bored on the train / in a doctor’s waiting room / lined up in a queue. So whenever I visit my parents I will take my lecture notes on the 30 min train ride. Going there and back pretty much every weekend makes 2 x 4 x 30 mins = 4 hours of extra study per month. Really short waiting times are great for deleting unnecessary pictures on your phone, looking something up or quickly replying to a message. Of course these times can also be great to relax, stare out of the window and do nothing and that’s fine. If you’re struggling to get your shit done though you should make use of them.
Do it right away
You’ve probably heard this one before: if something takes less than 2 minutes do it right away. I already mentioned this tip in my post about how to be tidy for messy people and it is also super helpful when it comes to getting your shit done in general. The major benefit is obviously that whatever it is, it is done. But it also helps as you don’t have to keep it on your mind any longer and tiny uncompleted tasks can’t accumulate to a point when they become huge and stressful. This quickly becomes a habit so you’ll barely notice that you’re doing something while actually getting way more done. I personally often overestimate how long it will actually take me to complete a task. Things like writing an email often seem like such a big deal but are eventually done in less than 5 minutes.
Getting your shit done is a habit
Getting started with something is often hard. But you’ve probably noticed that there are things in your life that you’ve been doing a certain way for a very long time. They’re easy and you barely have to think about them anymore. It doesn’t even feel like you’re making an effort anymore. It has become a habit. Believe it or not – getting your shit done can be a habit as well. As I mentioned, completing small tasks right away is a great example. Staying motivated might be hard during the first couple of weeks or so but once you’ve become used to sticking to a certain schedule and have incorporated certain tasks into your daily routine you’ll barely perceive them as actual tasks anymore. Plus, tasks that have become a habit require less mental and physical energy and therefore free more energy for something else.
Hope you guys find these tips helpful! Which are your top hacks for getting your shit done? Please let me know in the comments!