As we prepare to ring in a New Year, many are clinging to the idea of making life-changing resolutions for 2015.
Having a good grasp on your time doesn't only help you fit in a new goal like exercising more or keeping a clean house once January arrives. It also improves your chances of making these new habits last all year long. See what experts have to say about managing your time and life to help you achieve your goals and then see how the time you spend on work, shopping, sleep and other activites compares to the national average using our "Time Use Calculator" interactive.
Log Your Time
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Trying to declutter your mind and schedule starts with logging your time. People tend to be “ridiculously optimistic” about what they can do in a certain amount of time, according to Laura Vanderkam, author of “168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think.” Vanderkam suggests taking a look at an average week and timing each task—you will see your patterns and easily be able to pinpoint what can and can’t be changed. You may find that seemingly small tasks like cleaning out inboxes or checking up on Facebook add up, sucking up time that could be spent with a new client, project or goal. See how your time log compares to the average American using the time use calculator interactive below.
Write Things Down
“Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them,” says David Allen, author of time-management manual “Getting Things Done.” Your mind should not be used to hold all your tasks because your brain can’t multitask, according to Allen. Allen advises clearing your mind by having calendars and to-do lists for both long- and short-term goals and breaking down those goals step by step. By writing things down you are creating an "external brain," clearing space for more creative ideas. Instead of worrying about what time to pick up the kids from school, for example, your mind can be free to think of innovative ways to spend quality time with them.
The Magic Word Is “No”
“’No’ is the most empowering word in time management,” Tim Harper, The City University of New York journalism professor and project management consultant, said. “’No, but’ is the next best thing you can say.” It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when friends, bosses, or family members want to pull you in all directions. While saying “no” can be difficult, offering a counter plan may help soften the blow. A friend may ask you to go to their child’s birthday party after you already committed to spending time with your spouse. Tell your friend you can’t make the birthday party but suggest bringing a gift over next week. Saying “no” to obligations that aren’t important or urgent also gives you room to say “yes” to the things you actually want to do.
Schedule Leisure, Too
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about time management is the idea that every minute has to be filled with something, experts say.Scheduling your leisure time makes it easier to move things around and planning your time enough in advance gives you room for “things to fall into your lap," Harper contends. Resist the temptation to fill extra time with chores, Vanderkam says. She urges people to make a long list of the things they want to spend more time on, rather than asking what they want to spend less time on, then pursue those interests without feeling guilty. While it's difficult to place your own interests as a high priority, she writes, knowing your self-interests are worthy is key to living a fulfilling life.
See How You Compare
Do you shop, sleep or exercise more than your peers? See how your time log stacks up against the average American like you with this interactive calculator crafted using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey.
"Time Use Calculator" built by Kuang Keng Kuek Ser and Ellie Zhu.