3 simple tips to having a better day

The times I’m late & frazzled are the times when I think I can get so much more done than I have time for. Just one more load of wash, one more email, tweet an oh so witty observation, run just one quick errand before I have to be somewhere. Just one last thing before….oh crap….and I’m late. But I’ve become a lot better at this, and other time management issues, because I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.

1. Be realistic about how much time something takes you. It make take me only a minute to respond to an email but it may take you 5. I may obsess for 10 minutes over the perfect cup of coffee but you just pour out of the pot your significant other made at 5AM. If you need to travel from Point A to Point B, time it the next time. Is it truly a 5 minute trip or is it really more like 20? Take the time to measure the real time something actually needs to be accomplished. Once you know that (and write it down if you need to), then schedule it into the time you really have.

A recent client couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t pick up her son from school on time – she was always late and it was causing a problem for her with the staff. So we sat down and mapped out her route, looked at what she was doing on the way, and estimated the time it would take for each thing she did before she got to the school. Now we live in the same neighborhood and travel the same roads. I knew there was no way on earth she was making it to a particular intersection in 10 minutes when I travel it several times a week and have never made it in less than 25. Unless she had secret transportation technology I wasn’t aware of. Once we timed out everything, she realized that what she thought could be done in 2 hours was really more like 6. No wonder she was always late and stressed out!

2. Review your day the night before. So many of my clients are exhausted at the end of the day – who isn’t? But taking just 10 minutes to look at your calendar (you do have one, right?), check your tasks (grocery list, errands, phone calls, etc.), and write them down gives you a clear visual of your day. This can be in a digital form or paper. Personally, as much as I love technology and keep everything tracked that way, I write my day out in a simple notebook every night. My clients, errands to run, people to call (including their phone numbers!), etc. I take that little notebook with me and scribble in it all day. Then any info gets put onto my digital world to start again for the next day.

And by knowing how much time each task will take (see #1) makes the planning so much more effective!

One significant benefit of doing this is that you won’t have all those worries bouncing around in your head keeping you from sleeping all night. It’s all on paper and waiting for you in the morning. Wouldn’t that be nice?

A client of mine told me a few weeks ago that when she started doing her planning the night before like this (using the same day planner she had been using) it made all the difference in the world. She had been scrambling in the morning but with the kids, husband and trying to get to the office, she ended up forgetting things and getting to town missing half the stuff she needed. By planning at night, she could stash things in the car she was going to use the next day, or have them in her briefcase or by the door.  She said it was like gaining an extra hour or two every day.

3. Plan your day with efficiency in mind. I didn’t realize for a long time that not everyone mapped out their trips by figuring the end point and what could be done on each side of the road on the way there and on the way back. By reviewing and planning the day the night before, it is much easier to a. not forget stuff that needs to get done, b. not backtrack wasting time and gas, and c. have everything with me that I need (library books, client materials, label maker, grocery bags, etc.). Flying by the seat of your pants will only work for so long. As our lives become more complex, we reach a sort of tipping point where we can’t keep it all in our heads or rely on the traffic gods to get us where we need to be on time.

Lay out your day the night before. See clearly what you have to do. Time it. Map it. And at the end of it all, you’ll be glad you did.

What do you do to make your day go easier?