Weekdays. Weekends. Early morning. Late at night. If you are wondering what the difference is because you have every ounce of time filled up, maybe its time to stop and put more balance into work and personal life.
With cutbacks, layoffs, and general uncertainty in the economy, people are putting in extra time in a variety of areas. But even if you have a full time job and you can’t reduce your hours, there are ways to spend more time focusing in on what is truly important to you.
Here are 5 ways to help take back the control in your life.
1. Build more downtime into your schedule
Calendars are wonderful things. With a glance, you can easily tell all the things you have to do, and whether or not something new will fit in.
The problem is we tend to use calendars for scheduling other people’s events and routines. When your daughter’s school has a fundraiser on Thursday night, it goes on the calendar. Weekly soccer practices and games go on the calendar too.
But what about an hour for a daily run? Or a night out with your spouse for dinner and a movie? Or even a Sunday afternoon lying on the couch with a good book?
We tend not to put things like this on the calendar – we’ll do it when we have time. But the only real way to make sure you have personal time to do the things you truly want to do is to schedule it.
2. Drop your time wasters
Do you have any activities that you hate to do? Maybe you spend several hours one day a month at a club meeting, and you really don’t enjoy it anymore. Or you’re on a committee at work, and you no longer enjoy the meetings or the work produced from the committee.
Instead of doing it because you’ve always done it, make a change.
Reevaluate where your time is going every month, and how much you truly enjoy doing each item. If its no longer top of your priority list, find something that can be. Its easy to get sucked into things and have them become habits. Break the habits, and gain back several hours each month.
3. Rethink your errands
How many times a week do you run out for something quick? Down to the lab to pick up photographs. To the office supply store to pick up a few items. To the post office to mail customer orders and pick up stamps.
What may seem like small errands can quickly wind up into huge time wasters. What sounds like one hours worth of time can quickly grow to two or three when you hit long lines, construction problems on the roads, and unexpected delays.
One of the simplest ways to cut down on time away from the office is to schedule an errand day, and only head out once per week. Create a list of everything you need to do, then create a map that will get you from location to location in the quickest way possible.
You can also find ways to have more of your services come to you. Almost every business has some type of delivery service available. You can get stamps delivered to your door, a lab to deliver and pick up orders daily, and even office supplies can be shipped directly.
4. Quit procrastinating
A little planning can save hours worth of time over the course of a month.
Think back to the last time you had an “emergency”. You had to print out a contract to get it into the mail, only to find you have no more paper for the printer. So you stop everything to run to the office supply store. A quick task quickly adds up to more than an hour in time.
Instead of waiting until you have to have something, create a system that will keep you well supplied. For the paper example, buy two reams the next time you are out. When you open the last ream, put it on your list for the next time you are out. If you always keep a spare in place, you’ll never reach “emergency” status around an every day, routine task.
5. Build your perfect schedule
Whether you are a part time or full time photographer, you have a routine to fit in all of your work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change around your routine, and have it fit within the lifestyle you desire.
If clients need to meet you in evening hours, or on the weekends, decide what hours you will work. Wednesday evenings until 9pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. Make these your normal hours, and have your clients fit within them. When you adjust for one client, you’ll quickly adjust for all of them, so it’s important to establish rules early on and stick with them.
You can also build in personal time into your regular working hours. If you want to take a yoga class on Tuesday mornings from 9 until 10, schedule it. If it’s on the calendar, you’ll quickly learn to book clients around that time-frame.
When you have your own business, it’s easy to get sucked into the 24/7/365 mentality. It’s always there, and there will always be more to do. Its up to you to make sure you have the time to fit everything in, and enjoy life along the way.