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Practical ways to make the most of your time

Time is precious. Setting ourselves up to be able to enjoy as much of it as possible with the people and activities that matter most is one of the most beautiful things we can do for ourselves.

I’m on a mission to use my time better. I want to be efficient and effective. I don’t want to waste time but rather use it intentionally to get things done and have plenty of space to focus on what I cherish.

I plan to dig into this topic more in 2020. Using time wisely is a critical component of self-care. For now, here are a few practical strategies for making more of our minutes count.

1. Do just one thing.

Forget about the epic to-do list. Pick one priority item. One thing that — if you were to get it done — would feel really good at the end of the day. Do that.

Our days get blown up all the time. A kid gets sick. A meeting runs long. Someone needs help. It’s also annoyingly easy to do all the stupid little stuff on your to-do list and continuously punt on what’s actually important.

The “just do one thing” approach is a way to at least put a dent in something critical, if not actually complete it. It’s a recipe for feeling less burdened and being more meaningfully productive.

2. Implement a weekly power hour.

This idea is from Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project.” The gist: Once a week, for one hour, focus on the random stuff that’s not urgent and not super important but would be good to do before the end of time. It’s earmarked space for the pesky tasks that you’re tempted to postpone indefinitely, except you know that some action will eventually be necessary. Also, completing them would feel really good.

I bought frames and blew up photos of the kids to hang on the wall a few months ago. When the prints came back with funny coloring, I lost motivation. So, the pile of supplies and the thought “I’ve gotta fix those photos” has been lingering for about three months. It’s going on the power-hour list.

Power hour is for nonrecurring, diverse tasks that have no deadline. It’s not for paying bills or anything imminent. Think dropping off donations and cleaning your closet.

3. Follow the one-minute rule.

This one is also from Gretchen Rubin. Immediately do any chore in front of you if it takes less than one-minute to complete. Put your shoes in the shoe rack. Take out the trash. Put your clothes in the hamper. Respond to quick-question emails.

I love this because outer order facilitates inner order. It’s a simple way to promote tidiness so that fewer things are lost and less time and energy is wasted sifting through mess.

4. When your list is too full and you feel overwhelmed, ask yourself three questions.

Kate Northrup, author of “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Ambitious Women,” shares this approach. To filter out a gargantuan to-do list, ask yourself:

  Does this truly need to be done?

Guilt and outside influences aside, is this item actually important?

I asked myself this question about Christmas shopping this year. Yes, I feel a little guilty about it, but I decided that shopping for presents was not essential. My kids are young enough to not notice. We’re not swimming in cash. No one on my list actually needs anything. I have a lot going on. Conclusion: I’m putting guilt aside and I’m just not doing it.

  Does this need to be done by me?

Letting go of control and accepting help can take practice, but it’s liberating as heck. Outsource, delegate, and ask for help as much as you can. Chances are you can let go of more than it may immediately seem.

  Does this need to be done right now?

Be honest with yourself about what’s imminent and what’s power hour material.

January is a fabulous time to implement healthy new habits. I’m not into lofty resolutions, but little tweaks applied consistently add up. So, cheers to a discreetly more productive and passion-filled New Year!

Marci Izard Sharif is an author, yoga teacher, meditation facilitator, and mother. In Feeling Matters, she writes about self-love, sharing self-care tools, stories and resources that center around knowing and being kind to yourself.

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