You have just 24 hours in your day—which may tempt you to cut back on sleep when life gets crazy busy. But when you squeeze in so much that you squeeze out your own well-being, health problems and stress may result. "If your mind is spinning like a hamster wheel at bedtime, your schedule is out of control," says Marcia Ramsland, author of Simplify Your Time (W Publishing, 2006). Here are her suggestions to make the most of your time.
- Pare down your to-do list. "When we write a to-do list, we tend to include everything we haven't done in the last month, plus everything we want to do in the next three years," Ramsland says. Keep yourself guilt free by creating a manageable to-do list (try six items) and relegating everything else to an ongoing project list. You'll still remember to clean the garage—but you won't feel bad for not getting to it today.
- Refocus. Treat yourself to a healthy, leisurely lunch or midday workout as a reward for your hard work. Paradoxically, it will actually make you more productive. "Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve tension and refocus," says Ramsland. "Then you'll be able to come back and do the hard task."
- Follow your own rhythm. For the next week, pay attention to when you're most productive, then tweak your schedule to take advantage of your natural ebb and flow. If you usually have a burst of energy on Wednesday mornings, leave your toughest tasks till then.