This time of year time feels a little bit sped up with all the events and meetings and to-do lists and whoa! Wait a minute! All of a sudden, we're freaking out about all that's on our mind/calendar/list/plate.
Want to get stuff done and gain more time? Here are eight ways to gain more time without actual time travel.
1. Take a deep breath. It really is the first step in calming yourself down when your mind is swirling about. Perhaps you're saying, But I don't have time to take a deep breath! And that deep breath stuff is so cliché, anyway. And I'm saying really, you do. And if you do, you might actually feel time expand a tiny bit. And if you take a few, deep breaths, you might feel it expand even more. So, pause what you're doing. Whatever it is. And for a minute or two, just concentrate on breathing. You'll oxygenate your body and mind and give yourself a chance to approach things more calmly, which will in fact feel like time expanding. No matter where you are, pause and take a deep breath or a few. Really intentional, big, deep breaths.
2. Make a list and get out of your head. Rather than letting all the things you have to do swirl about in your head uncontrollably and continuously, make a list. The list frees your brain from overwhelm and puts all the things you need to do in front of you where you can see them, approach them and deal with them. One. By. One. So you can slowly get them all done. Put your list on paper or on your phone or wherever it will be most helpful. And when you've got the list in use, you'll see that many of the things that swirl so furiously and continuously in your head aren't really that big of a deal and might only take minutes to accomplish. So, letting them take up so much mental space is a waste. For me, the beauty of the paper list vs. the electronic list is that you get the satisfaction of crossing things out with a very animated, intentional swipe of your pen. Once they're crossed off you can see just how much you've done, turning your to-do list into a done list.
3. Cross something off. I don't mean cross it off because it's done. I mean cross it off as in don't do it. Surely there's one thing on your list that doesn't really NEED to get done. Maybe it's an event that you really aren't OBLIGATED to attend. Or maybe it's an activity that you realize you don't really need to do. Whatever it is, on almost everyone's list, there is something that can be deleted. Or at least delayed until another time when you have more time.
4. Combine efforts. There are different ways you can approach this combination of efforts. Try to schedule things so that all your activities fall back to back on the same day -- making for a busy day, yes, but also leaving other days of the week open for you to feel more spacious. If you're meeting someone for coffee one morning, segue immediately into the next -- maybe with a 15-minute window just for yourself. If you're volunteering at school or elsewhere in the community, schedule it so that another errand or task is done immediately afterward. This not only blocks your time nicely, but also gives definitive end times to each activity. You can also block things by time of day, scheduling all your extra activities in a certain time frame each morning or evening leaving the rest of the day free for your own personal or work-related efforts. On the days that are for your projects only, be sure to put it on the calendar so that space and time doesn't get absorbed by other activities.
5. Schedule less. To this you might say, "duh" but really, if overwhelm is becoming a regular state of mind, perhaps you ought to think about doing less. If it's making you stressed or anxious, then maybe it really is too much. What activities are putting you closer to your goals or your family or your own thoughts? Consider eliminating things in the short term and the long term. Maybe you're on too many committees or in too many groups. Whatever it is, they will be there when you're ready but know that you're not serving anyone by completely overextending yourself.
6. Eliminate guilt. Guilt really doesn't serve anyone. If you're doing something because you feel guilty, you're probably not bringing your best self to the role. And if you're not doing it but you signed up to do it and you just don't have the time, realize the first part of this, that if you go solely based on guilt, you are not bringing your best self to the role. So, get over it and look to the next step.
7. Delegate. Surely you don't need to do everything yourself. If you've got the funds, hire someone to take on some of your tasks. Think of yourself as a job creator helping your local economy. Don't have the money for that? Look to friends, coworkers or family members who might pick up some of the slack, either straight up or in exchange for other tasks that you're doing anyway. Ask your partner to take on one of your tasks. Or ask your kids to chip in a little more with things. Try doing things co-operatively such as child care or errands or meal making or whatever is on your list. No point in all of us doing all of it. Share, trade, barter, bargain. Whatever you can do to make things feel more efficient and fun.
8. Get more sleep. Sure, it seems funny to think of sleeping more as giving you more time, but seriously, when you are well-rested you're a much more efficient machine. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Leave something undone that night. If you're a parent, you won't ever get it ALL done anyway, so leave some of it undone in the name of a good night's rest. SO worth it. And truly, you'll feel stronger, more capable, more efficient and more joyful too so you can get more done more joyfully.
9. Decide to be Done. On a regular basis, you need to sometimes just call it good. You can't possibly do everything that needs doing. In any household there are so many tasks -- endless tasks, really. At some point every day you just need to call it good. Call it done on the weekends in order to have more time hanging out with your family. Call it done in the evenings in order to take a little one-on-one with your partner or your kids. Call it done at bedtime in order to take a few minutes to yourself. There is no finished. So, declare it for yourself BEFORE you get to the breaking point.
You hear that sound? That is the sound of time expanding. Deep breaths everyone.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.