Editor’s Note: This story is part of our special New Year’s package “Your Future Self,” click here to read the full series.
When you say that you “don’t have enough time,” what you’re really saying is that you don’t have time for the activities that you want or need to do. You can’t actually create more time. We’ve all got a fixed 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. But in 2019, you can feel like you have more time every week by making different choices about how you allocate your hours.
Here are tips from my own experience as well as working with time management coaching clients around the world to help you feel like you have more time in the New Year.
The start of a year is a great time for you to reassess why you’re doing what you’re doing, and to let go of activities that no longer make sense. One of the fastest, easiest ways to take back your time in 2019 is to quit something. Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush. Quit a leadership position. Quit a program. Just stop. Many of these responsibilities easily take two hours a week, if not many more. By taking them out of your life, you automatically open up space.
Sometimes you can’t or don’t want to completely eliminate activities from your life. But you can open up more space in your life by setting firmer boundaries around them so that you still have space for other items that matter. For example, you might limit the amount of time you spend on email by checking it three times a day instead of constantly having it open. Or you might limit the amount of time you spend on phone apps to a certain number of minutes each day. Or you might limit how late you stay at work. Or limit the number of hours you watch Netflix.
These limits where you say, effectively, “this much and no more,” keep certain activities in their proper place. Even limiting activities by 30 minutes a day leads to an extra 3.5 hours a week and 14 hours a month. That in turn opens up hours of your day for other items like exercise, reading, sleeping, or getting more substantive work done.
The feeling of never having a moment to stop and breathe can play a large role in feeling time-poor. So the antidote can simply look like giving yourself permission to take a break. For example, choosing to eat lunch away from your computer can give you a sense of peace and space, even if you’re away from your desk for only 10 minutes. Or going on a walk in the middle of the day. Or giving yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there’s no time to slow down.
Another way to have extra time in 2019 is to delegate activities that you don’t need to do yourself. At work, that could look like delegating more to a colleague, assistant, or contractor. As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead? At home, that could look like recruiting assistance from your fellow household members or looking into services for everything from running errands to grocery shopping to cleaning. You can save yourself at least four to five hours a week by having others help.
Finally, if you want more time to do something you “never have time for,” start putting that activity first. Add an exercise class, book a trip, plan a get-together with friends—and don’t cancel it. When you put first the activities you really want to do, the other tasks in life have a way of fitting in around them.
With these strategies you can gain back five, 10, or even 15 hours each week to reallocate toward what matters most to you in the New Year.