I can't find a scientific survey to back me up on this, but I'm fairly certain that women have less time than men in their lives to do the things they want to do. Or at least they think and feel that they do. Why is this? Women tend to do more of the household upkeep than men do - whether it's cleaning the house or taking a larger share of parenting responsibilities. In the last year women who work in senior corporate and governmental positions have come under the spotlight. Whether it's the Don’t Try to Have It All debate that took place through the Atlantic, or Marissa Mayer (the Yahoo CEO) having a baby and returning to work two weeks later, and more recently ending telecommuting women and work/life balance is hot news. When you read or hear about these topics and events you probably tend to have one of a few reactions. Some people think - how on earth can these women go so much done in a day? They must be superwomen. Or, others look at these examples and point to the exceptions in these women's' lives that make them able to do so much (such as having a stay-at-home husband or a in-office nursery).
The reality is that we seek out differences - to form an "us vs. them" dichotomy - as this makes us feel better. If I believe that I could really do everything I wanted to - if only I made $500,000, or had a stay-at-home spouse, or didn't live so far from my job, or could work-from home, or owned my own business - then I feel better about the things I’m not able to do.
A better solution is to stop feeling guilty about what you can't get done and instead start doing the things the matter the most to you. So, how do you do this?
1. Cross Things Off Your List (Without Doing Them)
Make a list of everything you want to or think you should get done in a day. Write down everything that you could possibly want to or need to do each day. This could be as basic as drinking coffee to taking a shower to billing 8 hours at your job, to exercising for an hour, to taking your kids to the park and your dogs for a walk.
If you use your email as an inbox, open that up as well. Now, cross things off (or delete emails) that you don't actually need to do every day or are ok not doing everyday. For example, one of my friends takes a shower every other day. Some people find this gross. Others "need" a shower to wake up in the morning. But you would never ever know that this woman only showers every other day unless she told you. She found other things in her life to be a priority.
When going through your inbox, delete stuff. Instead of reading the emails that don't require a personal response, just delete them. Chances are great that your life won't be better off because you read or responded to an email with a link to a sale at your favorite clothing store or read a blog post from one of your favorite authors. Life will go on if you delete these emails.
Just not doing things that don't absolutely need to be done or avoiding doing things that you would rather not do is probably the biggest way to find more time in your day.
2. Work Out
Richard Branson is famous for saying that working out gives him four extra productive hours in his day. People who regularly exercise swear that hitting the gym actually gives them more free time, not less. Personally, I’ve also found this to be true. When I work out I actually am able to accomplish more in my day than I am if I don’t exercise. If you don’t believe this, do an experiment. Go to the gym, do a workout video, get outside for a run -- try any form of exercise -- 5 days a week for a full three weeks. Compare your productivity and overall happiness from before and after this experiment. If you don’t gain extra time by exercising, and you honestly don’t have time more it, then quit. But you owe yourself the chance.
3. Eat Better
One of my favorite books on time management and productivity is The Power of Full Engagement (Amz aff.). Of of the biggest takeaways from the book is that you need energy in order to be productive. (And when you’re more productive you’ll have more time.) Energy comes from four sources: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And the cornerstone is physical energy (because if you don’t have physical energy you likely won’t have the other forms either.) In order to have physical energy you need to eat well. Experiment with eating health meals and see if that changes how much you can get done each day.
4. Stop Drinking
A huge part of American culture is heading to happy hour after work or cracking open a beer after a long day. There are days when nothing sounds after a stressful day at the office. But the reality is that drinking alcohol drains energy. If you are trying to find more time in your day and increase your productivity, stop drinking - at least on the nights you want to be productive.
5. Use The Early Morning (or Late Evening) Time
Some of the most productive writers either get up extremely early or stay up unbelievably late as they find this is when they get their best work done. Personally, I'm a morning person. Even in college I would rather get up at 4 am to finish a paper than to write past 8:30 or 9 at night. (Thankfully I only procrastinated this severely on a handful of occasions.) Even now when I have something that must get done, I get to the office before the sun comes up rather than work into the night. But, I would still rather sleep in. So, I’ve developed a habit of waking up early to find more time. Before the sun comes up (and my son wakes up) I can get a lot more done. Figure out whether you’re a morning person or a night person and then make a habit of working during those hours. There are fewer distractions and you'll get a lot more done with your time.
6. Work (or Relax) During Lunch
Many people are required to take lunch breaks during work. What do they do with their breaks? They tend to sit around with their co-workers chatting about something relatively minor and unimportant. It’s, of course, extremely important to socialize with your coworkers most days of the week if this is your coworkers' normal routine as it’s usually important for career advancement. But, consider shifting your habits and spend one to two days a week doing something else during your lunch break. Eat quickly by yourself and then take a 15 minute walk. Read a book. Go to the gym. Or sit with a pen and paper and work on something that will increase your income. Lunch breaks take up a lot of valuable time and are best used to either take a real break from your work (which means not socializing with coworkers) and either relax 100% of the way or spend your time doing something you'd rather do.
7. Consider Your Commute as A Way to Be Productive Or Escape
Another huge time suck for many people is their commute. Listening to the radio is enjoyable, but it's also filled with ads, songs you might not like, or talk shows that aren't so great. Instead, use your commute to really escape. I highly recommend books on tape. For days you want to be productive during your commute try learning to dictate. Dictate emails, letters, blog posts, or business plans during your drive. If you take public transportation, reading or books on tape are excellent ways to decompress. But checking Facebook or responding to emails probably isn't the best use of your time. You’ll find yourself happier and more productive when you return home from work if you use your commute to either relax or actually accomplish a task.
The bottom line is that you should break your time into three categories: Time that is 100% Productive, time that is 100% relaxing; and time that is neither productive nor relaxing.
Try to minimize this third category of time. Chances are you think you're relaxing, but you aren't really getting the full benefits of total relaxing. For example, checking Facebook or watching an extended amount of TV falls in this third category. You probably think you’re relaxing, but you aren’t totally relaxed. I would guess that you’d find a warm bath, a brisk walk, a cup of hot cocoa, or playing with your kids much more relaxing. So do these things instead.
Photo Credit: abnormalbeauty