Essays & Confessions/Work/Life Balance

4 Tiny Habit Tweaks That Gave Me More Time During The Workday

By | Tuesday, August 11, 2020

We all wish the day was longer than 24 hours. Even in the midst of a pandemic, it still sometimes feels like there just isn’t enough time. Still, here are a few tiny changes that have allowed me to create a bit more time in my day, even if it’s just to take a quick breath and reset, mentally, before the next task on my to-do list. 

1. Wake Up Just a Tiny Bit Earlier

It seems like a no-brainer to wake up earlier if you have a busy day ahead of you. An hour or two earlier can interrupt your sleep cycle, but thirty minutes is an easier adjustment to make, both in terms of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. And waking up just a tiny bit earlier than you typically do, even if your day isn’t more busy than usual, can be a complete game-changer. 

For one, it isn’t particularly difficult to do. Plus, I always find that having more time to myself in the morning, before I go about the rest of my day, helps to keep me grounded and energize me so that I’m able to complete tasks quicker, with a more alert mind. Moreover, an extra thirty minutes means that so many of the small items on your to-do list, whether it’s to thaw items from the freezer or throw out the trash, can just be crossed off earlier in the day. I always feel better, and more productive, if I’m starting the day off that way. 

2. Put a Time Limit on Your To-Do List

Working from home has meant that in-between meetings, reports, and other deliverables, I’m often tackling my own personal to-do list, as well. Anything from grocery shopping to vacuuming often winds up getting squeezed between my meals and other mandatory activities, which honestly, is just exhausting. I’ve taken to allocating thirty minutes on my calendar, just blocking off times where I know I won’t have meetings or need to cook my meals, to just sit down and tackle some of these tasks. When I have a time limit on it, I feel motivated to cross off items on my to-do list, such as my budget or responding to e-mails. I’ve found that when I plan to simply do it in-between other tasks, I’m not usually particularly productive and nor do I have enough time for a single task. If I don’t put a time limit on these tasks, then I wind up getting caught up in those chores versus other, more pressing priorities. As such, a time limit has been such a life-saver. 

3. Buffer 15 Minutes Between Meetings

I typically don’t have too much sway over my meeting calendar—after all, I’m not the boss—but this summer, I’ve been managing interns and the freedom of setting my own meetings with them has taught me to buffer at least 15 minutes between. Not only does this give me a little break to fill up my water bottle or grab another cup of tea and use the restroom, but it also gives me a chance to mentally reset. I can simply sit for a moment or two and take a breather. Then, I can rewire my brain back to meeting mode, reviewing the notes for the upcoming appointment, feeling refreshed. With back-to-back meetings, I feel endlessly rushed and never quite myself. I found that this small buffer can go a long way to helping you feel less frazzled, which ultimately will help make you more productive and free up some extra time in the evening when you won’t feel burnt out from a packed workday. 

4. Visualize Your Next Day Before Bed

I often find myself falling asleep with a list of items I need to tackle the next day and waking up in a bit of a panic, wondering if I’m remembering them all. Or, in the middle of the day, something will strike me and I’ll have to scramble to reorganize my priorities. It just throws off my day and often means I wake up stressed, which is never a good sign. 

Instead, I’ve taken to setting aside just 5-10 minutes in the evening, sometime after dinner but before bed, where I’ll make a list of my top priorities for the next day. I don’t just write down what immediately comes to my mind; I also take some time to really think through and visualize the next day so I make a doable plan of action. Not only does this ensure that I don’t forget to add important items, but it means that some of the tasks I’m not looking forward to doing actually get done. For whatever reason, visualizing myself completing those activities gives me the boost I need to actually settle down and do them. 

It also just feels satisfying to know that your day went as planned, which of course doesn’t always happen, but I find this exercise makes my day go by much smoother, regardless of whether I hit all my target goals or not. I don’t waste time trying to remember what I needed to do or feeling anxious about forgetting important tasks. 

These are small changes, and I’m sure we can all find a bit of time to prioritize these new habits. And if we do, we’re likely to save time and mental, emotional energy the next day. 

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Pexels

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