How to manage your time effectively

Work-life balance. It’s something we all try to make a priority, but sometimes commitments pile up and life just gets in the way. It can often be hard to manage our time efficiently in order to make room in our busy schedules for what matters.

But it’s so important to make time to do something that makes you happy. 

For me, this usually means picking my favourite cycle route and pedalling solo for an hour, just breathing fresh air and enjoying being outdoors. I’m a firm believer that getting outside is one of the best remedies available and, even better, it’s free. An hour spent pedalling through the British countryside magically lifted my outlook on the rest of my life, as I knew it would. And all it took was to tell myself: ‘Right now, it’s time to pause and get some fresh air.’

But as human beings we are all unique, so you might prefer to use your time for something else, perhaps baking, visiting friends or getting stuck into a good book. Life can be hectic at times, but there is always a way to use your time more efficiently.

Okay, give me an example. 

I often draw on the time I trained for my first marathon. I was balancing a university degree with a number of other commitments, so naturally was unsure of whether I should also be marathon training. But guess what? I made the time. In fact, marathon training only took up an average of 6-7 hours per week and looked similar to this:

Monday
Tuesday 4 mile run + stretches 45min
Wednesday 7 mile run + stretches 1hr 15min
Thursday
Friday 6 mile run + stretches 1hr
Saturday
Sunday 18 mile run + stretches 3hrs 15 min

I would leave the house for my run at 7am, which meant that on weekdays I was done by 8am. I would feel so much better for having started my day positively, too.

But it’s not that simple. 

Granted, our lives vary from day to day and sometimes it can be a real challenge to find extra time. But, even when time is short, there are ways to utilise little moments in a positive way.

I recently watched a TED Talk called ‘How to gain control of your free time’ by Laura Vanderkam. In Laura’s words, ‘We don’t build the lives we want by saving time, we build the lives we want and then time saves itself.’ She explains how time is a choice and gives some real-life examples from years of research that make you think about how time can be stretched.

Laura points out that when we say ‘I don’t have time’, what we really mean is ‘It’s not a priority’. What we prioritise is up to us, and by putting our top priorities into our schedules first, we can make the most of every day.

‘We have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.’

So let’s take a look at the 168 hours per week available to us. As Laura identifies in her talk, if you’re working for 40 hours per week and sleeping for 56 hours per week (8 hours per night), that leaves 72 hours for other things. 72 hours. Surely there’s enough time in there to allow you the freedom to make time for what matters?

Right, so what can I do about it? 

Start by thinking about what matters most to you. You have the power to create time for whatever that may be. From cooking nutritious meals to training for a marathon to spending more time with family, the possibilities are endless. Time doesn’t have to be restricting. Let’s choose to instead view it as an opportunity.

Now, for some practical strategies to help you put this into practice, I challenge you to find 12 minutes to watch the above TED Talk.

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