3 Simple Tricks I Use To Help Save Time – And Mental Energy

I have noticed lately that the 2 biggest complaints people have is:

– there’s not enough time, and

– there’s so much to remember, read, do, think about, etc.

I have come up with 3 things that are simple, and yet have helped me immensely in the battle against time and energy.  I hope they help you too.

1.  Write down the big items of the day the night before

Like laying out your clothes for work the night before (full disclosure: I work at the end of our bed at a little rolltop desk in the bedroom, so I throw on a simple outfit – the only people to see me usually are the cat and couriers), writing out what the most important things to do the following day helps in many ways:

It gives you mind a chance to relax because you’re not worrying about trying to remember what you’ve got to do tomorrow. It’s on a list in your bag or on your desk.

By doing these things that you’ve deemed important, you feel like you’re accomplishing things and at least keeping up, despite that looming list of tasks that remains on your computer, in your agenda, etc.

See, the problem is that our lists have become so big that to try and do 25 a day has become a test we can rarely pass.  With only the big things on our list (I find it helps to keep this list separate than anything else – it helps keeps your focus on just the tasks at hand), we can go through them and feel good, instead of that overwhelming feeling of never finishing anything.

2.  Take a break

There have been many days where I feel like I just can’t take a break.  I’ve got all of this work to do and because I’m the boss, receptionist and employee, I feel like, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

This is nonsense.  Taking a break means that you’ll be more productive and be able to work those long hours without getting burned out.

I’ve made a promise to myself that I will go for a walk a day, no matter what, even if it’s just to the library or grocery store.  To get outside, stretch my legs and take in fresh air also gets me away from whatever I’m thinking about and when I get back, I’m able to see things better and differently.  Often, I’ve come home with a solution (as well as dinner ingredients) in hand.

I know a lot of people struggle with this, but I have really found that a simple walk makes all the difference in my day.  You can read a book, have a bath – whatever takes you away from what you’re doing.

3. Look ahead

It’s so busy that you can barely think about what to do for dinner tonight, never mind look ahead in your calendar.

But like writing out your important tasks the night before, looking ahead will save you an incredible amount of time, energy and worry in the end.

At the end of every month, I look ahead to the next month’s calendar and see:

– what deadlines are coming up

– who has a birthday/anniversary/etc.

– what social events I’ve got

Then I go to my daily planner and next actions list and start to come up with a plan.

For example, this month includes a couple of birthdays, some courses I’m taking, the book club meetings I’m hosting, as well as some media events that I’ll be covering for work.  Then there are my writing deadlines and goals to work on.

So I make a list of birthday presents to buy, the things I need to do for the book club, writing work, etc.  I work this into my schedule so that I’ve chunked out time for everything so I’m not scrambling at the last minute.

Despite the amount of steps and work this looks like above, it only takes a few minutes and yet, I’ve mapped out an entire month’s work and activities.  I feel prepared and in control.  In fact, I feel like I’m on top of my game and the month hasn’t even begun.

Three little things and yet, it makes all the difference in the world.

Stephanie Dickison is the author of the recent book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home, which covers her career as book, music and restaurant critic.  She has been a journalist for over a decade and now spends much of her time writing about travel, food, beauty, style and celebrities for various publications and websites.

When she’s not writing, she’s eating, cooking, organizing, filing, making lists in sumptuous notebooks (you must use your beautiful journals) and colour-coding her ever evolving calendar.

She is one of the few writers still using technology AND paper.  But at least her paper is organized into pretty file folders…