Time management tips for maximum productivity AND fun

I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt bored.

Perhaps it was in my early years of high school, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. All I know is that once I started taking AP classes and working part time, life got busy — fast. It only got busier in college and beyond.

My busy schedule, as well as my desire to have time for activities I enjoy, has necessitated I use my time wisely and productively.

My mom is always asking me, “How do you get so much done during the week?” She sighs and says, “I wish I could be more like you. You get to do so much on the weekends.”

After sharing a few tips with her on how I maximize my time, I realized she can’t be the only one yearning to find more time for work, chores, exercise, relaxation and fun. Here is some of what I’ve shared with my mom on how to make the most out of a day, a week and weekend:

View every minute as valuable time

We lose a lot of time during the day — driving, standing in line, waiting for appointments, etc. Rather than listening to music or scrolling through your social media feeds to kill that time, bring it back to life and use it in meaningful ways.

For example, I talk to my mom almost daily because I call her on my way home from work — I wouldn’t have time to talk to her that much otherwise. I talk to my sisters and father weekly, too, calling them when I’m walking my dogs, scrubbing down my bathroom or dusting my house. In waiting rooms or when sitting in the car, I usually pull out the book I have on hand and use that time to read and spur my creativity. When standing in line, I respond to important emails or let my mind wander and think up a new blog topic for the week. While I’m not a robot, and sometimes let my time die, I also look for ways to productively use what would be lost time when I’m having a busy week or day.

Don’t waste your own time

Unlike time you lose waiting for something or someone, or traveling to and from places, your free time is in your control. One of the biggest time-wasters these days is social media. The average person spends almost two hours a day browsing their feeds!

Unless you’re on social media to further your personal or professional goals, put down the phone or laptop and do something more useful with your free time. Gaining back two hours a day could drastically change what you’re able to accomplish!

Limit activities to a set amount of time

If you’re anything like me, your weeknights are busy. After work, I have a lot to get done: walk my dogs, exercise, shower, eat dinner and help my husband clean up (luckily, he does most of the cooking), and recently I had to add my physical therapy exercises into the mix. If I start thinking of all I have to get done in one evening, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, if I break it up and give myself a set amount of time to get these tasks done, it feels much more manageable.

While I would love to walk my dogs for hours now that the days are longer and warmer, I give myself 20 to 30 minutes to walk them, and while I would love to workout for hours at a time, especially after a stressful day, I give myself an hour in the evenings to move my body — saving longer workouts for the weekends.

Get chores done during the week

I have more time for fitness and other fun activities on the weekends because I do my chores during the week. After work, the last thing I want to do is dust my house or clean my bathroom — but I come straight home and immediately do it. I don’t think about it; I don’t let myself dread it. Instead, I force my body through the motions until suddenly my house is clean.

Doing the not-so-fun tasks during the week frees up my weekends for half- or full-day hikes, happy hours, writing and bike rides.

My other secret: I leave one chore for the weekend — grocery shopping. Instead of stopping by the store several times a week, I take an hour on Sunday mornings to plan out my meals and make a list for the week. Lately, I’ve been planning out the grocery list while my husband drives us home from a hike — really maximizing what would be lost time — and we stop by the store before returning home. Neither of us want to stop, but if we do it and make it a habit, then we get home and can relax after our hike without worrying about going out to the store later. We also try to get through the store as fast as possible. I like to write my list in order of the store to make getting in and out easy.

Give yourself both free time and unstructured time

Free time and unstructured time are not the same. Free time is time that’s not accounted for by something you have to do. It’s your time outside of work and personal or familial responsibilities. This is the time when I would recommend exercising, getting your chores done, making and cleaning up dinner, etc. In short, make a plan for your free time.

Unstructured time, however, means time without a plan. We all need a bit of unstructured time. While too much unstructured time can easily be wasted, the right amount will help you relax and reset for the next day. Set aside a half-hour to an hour of unstructured time at the end of your day: Read a book, watch TV, talk about your day with your spouse, etc. Use this time for whatever you please, and don’t feel guilty for what you choose to do.

While I’m a big advocate of anticipating your free time and planning how to best use it, we can’t go, go, go all day long. Save the last part of your day for whatever will make you happy and help you re-charge for the day ahead!

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