We asked the experts—from life coaches to leaders of Fortune 500 companies—how they find more minutes in the day, and they spared a few to share their answers.
If there's one thing we probably have in common, it's that we wish we had more time—for work and play, to read and cook, to relax and sleep (definitely to sleep). A quick internet search says it all: Google "how to get more free time" and you'll find no shortage of results, from limiting distractions to decluttering to writing your to-do list on an index card (which forces you to prioritize tasks since not everything will fit on a teeny card). There are countless strategies designed to help you eke out a few additional minutes—or, dare we say it, hours—in the day. Time is proving to be more important than extra money, as, according to one 2016 study by researchers at The University of British Columbia, valuing time over the almighty buck leads to greater happiness.
Well, if time buys happiness, where does that leave us? Super busy with work, kids, relationships and responsibilities—that's where. We know we're overscheduled and technology-obsessed, and we're definitely lacking downtime. There are only 24 hours—a mere 1,440 minutes or a scant 86,400 seconds—in a day, and the bad news is we can't change that. But the good news is there are lots of tangible ways to make and save time. And no, we're not talking about brushing your teeth in the shower while listening to voice messages, shaving your legs and scrubbing grout. (FYI: Multitasking doesn't always save you time, as you're less focused and more likely to make errors, to name a couple of reasons.)
So how do the busiest among us do it? What do experts such as CEOs, life coaches and counsellors recommend for carving out a few more moments in the day? We picked their brains for advice, and they shared their secrets to scheduling success.
Say no to people-pleasing
Potential time gained: 30+ minutes per week
"The people who have the hardest time saying no tend to be people-pleasers," says Kira Lynne, a Vancouver-based counsellor and life coach. "These people are generally very giving, want others to be happy and work hard to keep the peace. Over time, working hard to look after everyone else and putting yourself last can cause exhaustion and resentment." If you're a yes person, consider trying "no" on for size. "Every time you say yes to something, you're unwillingly saying no to many other things. If you can start to say no, you get to choose what you want to say yes to, and this is magical," says Brittany Forsyth, senior vice-president of human relations at the Canadian e-commerce company Shopify. You don't have to turn down every project at work or every favour for friends, but know when to draw the line. "If you want to say yes and help someone, do it only if your tank is full," says Lynne.
Don't wake up to Facebook
Potential time gained: 30 minutes per day (10 minutes for each of the three biggies: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)
Put up your hand if the first thing you look at in the morning after turning off your alarm is your social media feeds (#truth). We all know what a time suck these platforms are. "I'm most productive in the morning, so I put off any social media browsing until later in the afternoon, when I need some downtime," says Lynne.
Silence your phone
Potential time gained: 7 hours per week
You know what's distracting? The ding that goes off every three minutes, begging you to check your email and text messages. Lynne says there are long periods each day when she turns off her notifications (but keeps the ringer on) and sets time aside to review her messages or glances at her phone only when she has a few minutes.
Potential time gained: 6-10 hours per week
Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Express Canada, says she blocks out three to five unplanned hours a week at work, plus three to five unplanned hours a week for personal time. "I call this my pause-and-reflection time. At work, I use it to reflect on my goals, the progress my team is making and so on. At home, I use it for 'me' time—to meet a friend for coffee, go to a hot-yoga class, walk my dogs or read a book," she says.
Commit to family time
Potential time gained: 14 hours per week
Andrea Stairs Krishnappa, general manager of eBay Canada and Latin America, blocks off more than two hours per day (at least one in the morning and one in the evening) to spend with her five- and seven-year-olds. During those times, she puts everything else on the back burner. The takeaway? Don't get sucked into giving up this special time. "No one will respect it if you don't enforce it," she says.
Send tasks to the proverbial parking lot
Potential time gained: 3-4 hours per week
Before she starts her week, Forsyth makes a to-do list. Because it can quickly become what she calls the "everything bucket," Forsyth categorizes high-priority tasks and parking-lot tasks. "High-priority tasks must get done, while the rest can be carried over to another week if needed," she says. "If something is in the parking lot for a few weeks, I cross it off; if it hasn't got the time of day yet, chances are it isn't impactful enough to get attention in the future."
Potential time gained: 7-8 hours per week
"When looking at your to-do list, ask yourself two questions: 'Can I delegate this?' and 'Is it appropriate to delegate this?' " says Caroline Riseboro, president and CEO of Plan International Canada, an organization that works to advance the rights of kids and equality for girls. "I don't view delegation as 'getting rid' of work. Too often, our inability or unwillingness to share tasks stems from the fear that we'll become irrelevant." In short, she says, get over it. "You'll create a lot more freedom for yourself."