Take Control of Your Schedule

Deep down, on a practical level, you know that there are 168 hours in a standard 7-day week, but you may be at a complete loss as to where they all go! Use this list to help you get started figuring out your schedule to that you control it rather than it controlling you.

See which activities you can perform more efficiently and which activities you may want to cut back on – or cut totally out of your schedule.

Necessities You Probably Want to Keep

1. Budget for sleep. Eight hours is still a good rule of thumb for most adults. Experiment to see if you function just as well on seven or six hours, or if you could use with a “booster” on the weekend. It’s worth removing or changing your other activities to make sure you get enough sleep.

2. Eat good food every day. Invent your own fast food. Cook chili or soups in batches and freeze single servings. Turn salads into a balanced meal by adding protein, like slices of chicken breast.

3. Hold onto your day job. Working and commuting take up a big chunk of most people’s lives. Depending on your situation, moving closer to work or telecommuting could free up some of that time and lower your stress levels.

4. Clean your house. Smart housekeeping goes a long way. Less clutter means less dust, and less stress for you! Get in the habit of cleaning a little each day to avoid making it a marathon effort. Wipe the refrigerator down while your coffee brews, or switch over loads of laundry in between other tasks or while cooking.

5. Groom yourself. Except for showering and brushing your teeth, most routines are discretionary. Use fewer products, stick with what works best for YOU, and get an easy care hairdo that works with your natural curl pattern and doesn’t force you to get up an hour earlier to “work it”.

6. Exercise regularly. An active lifestyle may extend your life, so why skimp here? Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week – whether it’s at the gym, or simply walking around your neighborhood. You could save some time by integrating exercise into your other daily routines, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator at your office, and parking further away to get in extra steps.

7. Learn new things. Lifelong learning is worth the investment of your time and your hard-earned money. Take a business class, try out a new crafting course, or visit a natural history museum.

8. Develop and pursue a healthy hobby. Time devoted to enhancing your creativity and accomplishments pays off in both increased skill and lower stress levels. Schedule time for yourself and your new hobby just as you schedule your other important appointments. Practice playing the piano or learn to draw.

9. Connect (or reconnect) with loved ones. Relationships with family and friends are central to our well-being and sense of enjoyment. Build a strong support network and take time to share experiences together.

10. Engage in spiritual practices. If you belong to a specific faith tradition, you know which teachings you aspire to live by. Whatever your beliefs, you can focus on values that give your life purpose.

Stuff You Could Probably Cut Back On – or Cut Out

1. Check your messages less often. Set a limit on how often you check emails and voice mails. Twice a day may be all you need.

2. Turn off the TV. Leave the TV off except for when you intend to watch a specific program – and try to make those programs positive and productive. It will cut down on channel surfing and mindless “veg out” time.

3. Get off the Internet. It’s easy to get carried away with browsing, social media or the latest online games and lose hours at a time. Calculate how much time you can spend online while still supporting your other goals (and your need for sleep) and gradually cut back until you meet your goals.

4. Abandon negative, nonproductive thinking. Catch yourself when you start to feel anxious or angry. Consider whether the event is worth your attention and if there is anything you can really do about it. Pretty soon you can be enjoying an audio book rather than fuming about traffic jams.

5. Streamline your errands. Do you find yourself making repeat trips to the supermarket because you forgot one item? Plan your weekly errands in advance so you cover everything you need with less driving time. Check which businesses have free or low cost delivery services that will spare you from any driving at all.

6. Prioritize your shopping. Each new possession represents something else you are going to need to take care of. Examine whether it’s more important for you to spend time with your family and friends, or own all the latest kitchen gadgets.

Managing your time more effectively will help you lead a happier and more meaningful life. Use these tips to free up your schedule for the endeavors closest to your heart.

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