Learning how to use your hours better enables all sorts of other changes. If you want to reach any of your goals this year, you'll need to become more productive. Here's how to get started.
By Laura Vanderkam
“Use my time better” is not one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Nonetheless, a life is lived in hours, and using your hours better enables all sorts of other changes. It’s hard to lose weight if you’re so rushed and harried that you’re constantly hitting the drive-through.
Fortunately, acquiring better time management skills is pretty straightforward--and probably easier than swearing off the fries. Here are a few tweaks that can make 2014 a more productive year.
1. Keep a time log for 24 hours.
Try writing down exactly how you’re spending your time. Keeping track of a week (168 hours) is ideal--that’s the cycle of life as we live it--but even a day or two is helpful. You’ll start to see patterns: a morning routine that always takes longer than you want it to, fragmented work in the afternoon because you didn’t take a real break for lunch. The first step to spending your time better is knowing how you’re spending it now.
2. Stop saying “I don’t have time.”
You may think you don’t have time to exercise, but if someone offered to pay you $250,000 to exercise five times a week this year, you would likely find time make it happen. So it’s not a matter of lacking time. A more accurate statement is “it’s not a priority.” Every time you’re tempted to claim a lack of time, try using this language instead. Talking about priorities instead of time reminds you that time is a choice, and if you’re not happy with how you’re spending your time now, you can choose differently.
3. Stop hitting snooze.
Don’t spend your precious willpower fighting a battle with yourself before breakfast. Either set your alarm for the time you actually intend to get up, or recreate “snooze” time the night before by getting in bed earlier, and allowing yourself to slowly drift off.
4. Write major priorities on your calendar.
Want to find a new job? Schedule an hour, two to three times per week, for searching and networking. Want to write a book? It’s unlikely to…