Episode 19: How to Make More Time in the Day

Well, we’ve officially reached December. We’ve entered the last month of the year and the last four weeks of the decade! What?!

Time is certainly not slowing down, huh?

And while I don’t have the superpowers to help you make time go slower, I am here today to share my favorite strategies to find more time in your day and make the most of the time that you have.

And we’re going to do this by focusing specifically on the role of transitions in our lives.

Alright, let’s dive into my favorite strategies to help you make more time in your day, shall we?

Just click to listen to the podcast below!

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the full transcript.

Free Goals Training

But before we dive into all-things-transitions, I first want to tell you about a FREE goal setting mini-training that I just launched, which I am SO excited about.

If you have some big goals that you set for yourself this year, but you still haven’t reached them, then you need to check out this mini-training!

In 15 minutes or less, you’ll map out a strategy, create a concrete plan, and start taking action on that goal. If you want to sign up, just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/goals and grab your spot now!

Let’s do this!

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…

  • Why we struggle with both big and small transitions in our lives
  • The role transitions play in your productivity
  • My top three strategies to minimize transitions and boost your productivity today!

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

SUBSCRIBE AND REVIEW

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QUESTION:

Do you have any goals you’re working on before the end of the year? Do you ever struggle with transitions in your day? How do you maximize your time? Let me know below!


Transcript: How to Make More Time in the Day

You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 19.

Hey friends! How are things going for you? I hope you had a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving holiday. And for those of you living outside of the US who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving… I hope you had an awesome Thursday. 🙂 

Now, I have been thinking about the fact that we’ve officially reached December. We have now entered the last month of the year. And as I was thinking about that this morning, I also realized that this it’s not just the last month of the year, but it’s also the last four weeks of the entire decade!

And let me tell you, that fact made me stop and think: Whoa; time is certainly not slowing down. Though I’ve got to tell you, I definitely wish it would every once in a while.

In fact, that leads me to what I want to talk with you about today. Not necessarily slowing-down time; I don’t actually have those superpowers. But rather, I want to talk about how to find more time in your day, and how to make the most of the time that you have. And we’re going to do this by focusing specifically on the idea of transitions.

Free Goals Training

But before we dive into all-things-transitions, I want to tell you about a FREE goal setting mini-training that I just launched, which I am so excited about. If you have some big goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of 2019, and you still haven’t reached it, then you need to check out this mini-training!

In 15 minutes or less, you’ll map out a strategy, create a concrete plan, and start taking action on that goal. If you want to sign up, just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/goals and grab your spot now!

Need More Time in the Day?

Alright. Let’s dive into strategies to make more time in your day with a focus on transitions.

Now, this concept occurred to me on a busy Thursday a few weeks ago. I had a long day at work. I was out the door to start my day by 4:30 in the morning, and I didn’t get home until after 8 that night. And even though I was in my office for a significant portion of that time on Thursday, and even though I had every intention of getting a lot of work done, my productivity was pretty terrible throughout the entire day. I definitely did not get everything done on my to-do list — not even close — and I was feeling super frustrated about the situation.

Now, whenever this happens — whenever I completely miss the mark in terms of my productivity for the day — I like to take some time to reflect on what’s going on. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for learning and growth when you are mindful of what’s going on in your life both in terms of positive situations and negative situations. 

And of course, I’m not just talking about productivity, but really in any area of your life; when you have especially positive or especially negative situations going on, they often provide you with a great opportunity to look inward and figure out what’s going on in your brain and what might be helping or hindering you from moving forward

Now, here’s the deal. After a 15+ hour workday with not much to show for it, I was definitely seeing this as a negative situation. At first, I was super frustrated with myself.

But rather than just getting angry and declaring it a wasted day, I really spent some time exploring what was going on. I took some time to reflect on why I was having such a hard time staying focused, and why I wasn’t sticking with the time blocking schedule that I created for myself.

Time Management with Transitions

And I realized that it all came down to transitions

In general, when we think about a transition, it simply means changing from one thing to the next. In fact, Google defines a transition as a process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

And of course, we deal with both big and small transitions in our lives all of the time, whether we are transitioning jobs, transitioning where we live, transitioning seasons, transitioning routines, etc. we all work through transitions pretty regularly.

And I’m not going to lie. I am terrible at transitions. I’m super type-A. I thrive on routines. And I despise unpredictability. Seriously, I hate it. I’ve always known this about myself.

And when I reflected on my schedule at the end of the day those few weeks ago, I realized that even though my day was organized and clearly time blocked, it was also filled with transitions. And with each of those transitions, came an interruption in my workflow. It turns out, that is a major hurdle for me.

My Challenge with Transitions

Now I won’t give you an entire play-by-play of my day, but I do want to highlight the role transitions played throughout my day in order to demonstrate how they impacted my productivity levels.

So throughout the day, I had seven different meetings as well as a computer refresh in my office. (What I mean by a computer refresh is that my entire department was getting new computers, and so we had to be in our offices for a 4-hour time block while the IT people came in and out transferring data from one computer to the next. )

The way that my schedule unfolded throughout the day, I had some type of meeting roughly every hour to hour and a half, in addition to this 4-hour window when people were coming in and out of my office constantly asking questions and needing passwords and everything associated with the refresh.

And while I had scheduled these meetings in my calendar, and I scheduled my tasks in between the meetings with time blocking, due to the constant transitions in and out of my workflow, I had a really hard time getting focused. I couldn’t get in the zone in order to produce the results I wanted by the end of the day.

Distraction was a major challenge. I struggled to remember what I was working on after getting interrupted by one thing or the next. And it was one of those frustrating situations where at the end of the day I had basically nothing to show for it aside from attending seven different meetings.

How to Get Rid of Distractions

Now, I’m willing to bet that you have been in a similar situation like this before. Maybe it’s not seven different meetings in the day — heck, maybe it’s way more than that — or maybe you work from home and your little girl also needs your attention throughout the day. Or maybe you are in an office position where you get phone calls throughout the day that interrupt your workflow. Whatever it is, I’m willing to bet that you’ve been here before.

Am I right? 

But why is this?

Why is it that we have such a hard time with these transitions? Because we’re certainly not alone. There are plenty of articles and research out there that reinforce the importance of uninterrupted work time for maximum productivity. Heck. I’ve talked multiple times on this podcast about the importance of single-tasking and focusing on one thing at a time.

How to Handle Big Life Transitions

Well, let’s start by talking about the bigger life transitions that I mentioned at the beginning of the episode. Why do we find these bigger transitions difficult? 

As we’ve talked about in earlier podcasts, our brains really don’t like change. We’ve evolved and survived as a human species over thousands of years because at times we played it safe. We knew to hunker down in the cave around the fire when it was cold so we wouldn’t freeze. We knew to hide from the Lion. And we followed what everyone else in our tribe did in order to maintain acceptance. Because if we were cast out from the tribe, that often meant isolation and death. 

So we have been trained over thousands of years to play it safe.

Now, today most of us don’t need to worry about lions or freezing to death all too often. Nevertheless, our brains keep looking for things to be afraid of, because that’s what brains do. And for many of us, one of those things that our brains find uncomfortable are transitions to something new.

Examples of big life transitions

So if we are changing jobs, we often experience fear of the unknown. If we are moving locations, we feel uncomfortable about leaving behind our regular routines. If we adopt a new habit, our brains fight against the unfamiliar.

Because of this, we often experience negative thoughts about change. Our brain is thinking, “No! Warning! Danger! Unfamiliar territory here,” which is then followed by some kind of negative emotion. And to counteract that negative emotion, many of us often distract ourselves or buffer those negative emotions with something to help lessen the discomfort.

For example, maybe we waste hours on Facebook instead of packing up the house if we’re moving. As humans, we have all of these ways of distracting or buffering away these uncomfortable emotions.

So how does this example tie in with my to-do list? And how on Earth does any of this help you uncover more time in your day? Don’t worry. We’re getting there.

How Small Daily Transitions Reduce Productivity

Just like many of us struggle with these bigger life transitions, we also get uncomfortable from the smaller everyday transitions in our lives. We struggle with shifting from one task to the next, from one topic to the next, and from one idea to the next. And every time we do transition from one activity to the next, our brains require a rather significant amount of time to refocus on the new task at hand. 

In fact, most studies show that it takes you between 20 and 25 minutes to get back on track after experiencing a transition or a distraction.

25 minutes!

No wonder I wasn’t able to get anything done with all of the constant interruptions and transitions during that busy Thursday. 

How to Transitions Smoothly Between Tasks

Now, of course, having regular distractions or several different meetings scheduled throughout the day are not the only ways that we deal with transitions. And in fact, one of the things I hear most often from my clients is the pain point between completing one task and transitioning to the next one. They get stuck in that transition period.

We keep our lengthy to-do list with tons of different things that we could work on. But for some reason, when we finish one activity, we have a hard time jumping immediately into the next one. We struggle in the transition of deciding what we want to do next, how much time we have to focus on that particular project, which projects actually sound appealing, etc…

Again, our brain hates transition, so it is going to grab onto any excuse it can by thinking, “I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to do, or simply — I don’t want to do that.”

So what can we do? How can we hack the system?

Get Organized and Reduce Transition Fatigue

First and foremost, create a plan for your day. You see, many of us tend to work straight from our never-ending to-do list. You know the list I’m talking about, right? It’s the one that never gets any shorter because you continually add more tasks faster than you can check them off. 

Now please hear me, I’m not saying it’s bad to have that list. I have one too. But it is not the list that I use for my daily tasks. And there are a couple of reasons for this.

Decide what “done” looks like to you

A few podcasts ago, I talked about the importance of deciding what “done” looks like before you begin your day. Because if you sit down at the beginning of the day with your never-ending to-do list, and you just start working with the intention of getting as much done as possible, it’s very easy for our brains to slip into the thought that we never get enough done. 

When we decide at the beginning of the day what “done” looks like, however, then we have an easier time knowing when we’ve reached the end of the workday. So if we decide that done looks like completing five tasks from that list, or that we will complete the most challenging project in the morning and run errands in the afternoon, then once we’ve completed those tasks, we know we are done for the day.

Stop Decision Fatigue

The other reason why it is so important to have a list of what you want to accomplish that day — and more importantly, to list it in the order in which you want to accomplish it — is because it alleviates decision-making and transition time. 

If you sit down for the day with a list of five things that you want to accomplish, but you don’t take the time to decide what you want to do first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, then you are going to waste valuable time deliberating over the order of these tasks.

You won’t know which task you want to start first so you will waste time deciding on that, and then when you finish that first task, you’ll do the same thing for the second, third, and fourth, tasks as well. And that deliberation time may not seem significant, but I’m telling you, it can really add up.  

Create a concrete plan

On the other hand, by having a clear order in which you are going to complete your tasks for the day, you can move seamlessly from one activity to the next, and you can eliminate the unnecessary lag time between the tasks. 

Now, my favorite way to do this is through time-blocking, and I have a couple of different podcast episodes that explore the concept of time blocking if you’re unfamiliar with it. Be sure to check out episode 3 which does a deep dive into time blocking and episode 11, which offers more specific strategies to make time blocking work for you.

I will link to both of them in the show notes. And I will also link to my free time blocking templates, which you can download and print out. They will help you create that ideal schedule that helps you reduce transition time, stay focused, and get things done. Just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/episode19 and you will find all of the information there.

Batching: How to Batch Work Your Tasks to Increase Productivity

Now the second strategy to lessen transitions and uncover more time for your projects is to batch work your time. And when I reflected on my schedule from a few weeks ago, I realized that this is the strategy I should have used to help me reduce the transition times throughout my day.

Batch working your time is a productivity tactic that allows you to get into the zone and stay there for an extended period of time. Essentially, it means dividing your tasks up in terms of similar topics or workflows, so that you’re not bouncing from one activity to something completely different next, followed by yet another different task after that. Instead, you group similar projects together, and you work on them for a longer amount of time.

Batching Ideas

A traditional example of batch working for me is grading tests or papers. I sit down, I block off 3 hours, and I get into the grading zone. I don’t break up that grading time with meetings or with answering emails. Instead, I just sit down and get it done without interrupting my workflow.

So if you’re a blogger or one of the tasks for your job is to write content, then maybe you set aside a large chunk of time dedicated specifically to content creation of blog posts. Then perhaps one day you spend time writing the content for a month’s worth of blog posts. Then the next day you spend time creating the images. And on the last day, you format everything on your website. When you approach it this way, rather than writing the copy, creating images, and formating your website all at once, you can get in the zone and get things done more efficiently. 

What I should have done myself on that busy day, is schedule all of my meetings during the computer refresh when people were coming in and out of my office anyway. It was such a distracting time in my workspace that I struggled to get any focused work done, so I should have used that time more wisely by batch working my meetings during that four-hour block. That would have opened up many more hours of focused work outside of that four-hour chunk of time.

So if you find yourself bouncing from one task to the next throughout the day, take a look at your overarching to-do list. Ask yourself, are there tasks that you could group together? Are there things that you could pair up to lessen the transition time? It’s worth considering because the amount of time you save it’s pretty substantial.

Create a Morning Routine Before Work

The last strategy I want to suggest today to help reduce transition time is through establishing a morning routine.

Now, I am using the term routine loosely here. I am not necessarily talking about a rigid, inflexible, unchanging, routine that you must follow to the T every single day – unless that’s what works for you.

Instead, I am talking about the importance of establishing some sort of regular practice that you follow each morning to help you start the day off on the right foot.

Benefits of a Morning Routine

Because here’s the deal…When you follow a morning routine, you’re essentially establishing a set of tasks that you follow each day in a relatively consistent order. And when you do this, you’re reducing the amount of wasted time between activities. You’re not wasting those valuable morning hours wondering what you should do next or getting lost down the rabbit hole of social media when you could be focusing on something that is more important to you.

Instead, you have a set routine, which helps you transition smoothly from task to task, so you can get more done in the time you have.

In addition, you’re also accomplishing several tasks before the “real day” even begins. You’re taking time for you. You’re spending time on tasks that help you feel better and show up ready for the day. And this feeling of achievement first thing in the morning strengthens your motivation, and it gears you up for your day ahead.

And again, there are studies that further support this idea. For example, one of the reasons soldiers make their bed each morning is because it provides the opportunity for a small achievement before the day even starts. Completing that small task gives you a sense of pride and encourages you to move on to the next task. 

Seriously, just think about this for a minute. If simply making your bed creates a small sense of pride, which leads to bigger and bigger accomplishments, just think how great you will feel after completing your daily morning routine. Heck, you’ll be ready to take on the world.

Morning Routine Ideas

Okay, so now you might be wondering what kind of routine you could follow that helps you ease transitions and find more time in your day. First of all, remember that morning routines differ widely from one person to the next. A stay-at-home-mom of 11-month twins has a much different morning schedule than a senior in college finishing her student teaching. And both of those women have a markedly different routine from the doctor at Children’s Hospital with two kids in high school.

So to figure out what kind of morning routine works best for you and your current situation, I recommend asking yourself three questions. And by the way, I’ve created a free morning routine workbook that has a handful of different prompts and tips in it to help you create a morning routine that’s perfect for you. I’ve linked it up in the show notes imbusybeingawesome.com/episode19 if you want to grab your copy.

Three questions to ask yourself 

First: what type of morning person am I?

Second, just fill in the blank: If I had just 10-20 more minutes in the day, I would definitely spend it doing X.

Third: Realistically, how much time can I allow for my morning routine?

So let’s talk through these questions.

What type of morning person am I, and what type of routine do I need?

In order to create a morning routine that serves you, it is so important to answer this question for yourself. Are you a person who wants a peaceful, relaxing wake-up? Do you like time for meditation and 10 minutes of reading with a cup of coffee? Or are you a person who wants to jump out of bed directly into your gym clothes, head straight to your early morning class, and follow up with a cup of coffee and journaling? 

By answering this very basic question, you’re helping create a routine that’s perfect for you. There’s no sense in forcing a routine that doesn’t add value to your day, because then you’re just wasting time. Think about what you want to start your day off right.

Fill in the blank: “If I just had 10-20 more minutes in the day, I would absolutely do ____.”

What is it that’s so important to you that it’s worth waking up 20 minutes before the rest of the household to make sure you get it in? Because it’s often those little moments of “me time” – reading, journaling, meditation, yoga – that are the first to go when your day fills up with “must-dos.”  What do you miss the most since your life has gotten increasingly busy? What has been pushed to the wayside? What would add value to your life if you did them again? Choose 1, 2, or 3 things, and include them in your routine.

Realistically, how much time can I allow for my morning routine?

If your normal morning is a 30-minute frenzy packed from the moment you get out of bed to the moment you get in the car, you probably shouldn’t create a morning routine that’s an additional 60 minutes long. That’s probably unrealistic at first. So if a morning routine is new to you, I encourage you to keep the time frame reasonable so you actually fit it in. You can always add more once you’ve made it a habit.

Start Planning Your Morning Routine

Once you’ve answered the above three questions, then start planning your morning routine!

First, make a list of things you need to include (getting ready for the day, eating breakfast, getting the kids ready for school, letting out the dog, etc.) and the things you want to include (a 30 minute run, 10 minutes of journaling, reading the newspaper, sitting down for an actual breakfast, etc.)

Next, figure out how long each of these activities will take.

Then, working backward from the time you need to “begin the workday,” decide what time you need to wake up.

And finally, I recommend adding in an extra 10 minutes of wiggle room.

I’m telling you, when you take the time to establish that morning routine, and in you include things that bring you joy, you will have a much easier time transitioning from task to task, and ultimately accomplish more in less time. Not only does that help you find more time for you, but it also helps clear your mind and put you in the right mindset to start the day off on the right foot, ready to tackle the day ahead.

Recap!

So if you’re looking for strategies to find more time in the day, then I can’t stress enough the importance of easing transitions between your tasks. When you do this, your brain will have an easier time staying focused and getting things done efficiently, which in turn, frees up more time for you.

So start by creating a plan for the day. Don’t just look at that running list of to-dos. Instead, put it in your time blocking calendar, decide what “done” looks like for the day, and get to work moving directly from one task to the next.

Second, try to batch work your projects as much as possible. When you can group together like-items, whether it’s answering emails, grading papers, filing expense reports, or cleaning different areas of the house, you’ll ease those transitions and get more done in less time.

And finally, try establishing a morning routine for yourself. Having a relatively consistent routine will help you transition easier from task to task while also making time for you each morning to start the day off right. 

And again, if you would like to grab my free morning routine planner, be sure to head over to the show notes at imbusybeingawesome.com/episode19.

Quote of the week

And before we end this week’s episode, I want to share with you this week’s quote of the week by William Penn, which reads: “Time is what we want most and what we use worst.”

Now William Penn made this statement waaaay back in 1682. And guess what, my friends. It’s still true today. So many of us are not mindful about how we spend our time.

But I am telling you, time is the most valuable resource we have. It is the one thing that we can’t get back.

And if you’re ready to uplevel your life and start reaching those big dreams of yours, getting a handle on your time and using it wisely is the first step.

Which, by the way, is why I created my free goals mini-training. So if you haven’t signed up for that yet, be sure to head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/goals and in 15 minutes or less you’ll be creating a concrete, actionable, step by step plan that has you making the most of your time as you work toward those goals of yours. 

Alright my friends, that’s going to do it for us this week. So tell me, are you busy being awesome? If so, be sure to snap a picture, throw it up on your Instagram stories, and be sure to tag me @imbusybeingawesome. I would love to cheer you on!

Also, if you want to keep getting more great strategies to increase your productivity, manage your time, and start living your best life, then be sure to hit the subscribe button on your podcast app now. And while you’re there, would you leave me a quick review?

And finally, do you know of anyone who would benefit from hearing this message? Then be a rockstar and share it with a friend! 

Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk to you soon.

26 thoughts on “Episode 19: How to Make More Time in the Day”

  1. I really can’t believe it’s December! For me, routine helps with my productivity. I also love the idea of batching tasks.

  2. This is awesome. I admit, I procrastinate a ton, so this will help keep me focused. Then I’ll have more time to complete tasks.

  3. Yes, I could definitely use more time! I sacrifice my sleep to get things done, but I need to be more efficient. Sleepdeprivation is no fun!!!

  4. Yes. I definitely need more time in the day and in the year/decade. I can’t believe we’re 4 weeks away from a new decade!

  5. I really like what you said about decision fatigue. I have so many lists and tend to get easily distracted by everything I need/want to get accomplished for the day. Starting a blog calendar has really helped me focus on a few tasks each day. The things I don’t finish get carried over to another day.

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