When you're working, raising kids, and are retired with an endless number of things on your plate, it's common to feel like your days keep getting away from you. Mixing a few of these hacks and habits into your schedule can help you take back some control of your time and meet your personal and professional responsibilities with more energy and purpose. Many of these apply whether you are working or are already retired.
1. Make the most of your mornings.
Several studies have found that "morning people" are less likely to feel depressed than "night owls." And although our sleep patterns and preferences are partially genetic, there are things you can do to feel more energized when your feet hit the floor.
Try waking up an hour early and filling that time with some physical, mental, or spiritual exercise. Work on your painting or hammer away at that novel. Brightening the mornings by throwing open the shades or eating your breakfast outside can also tell your body that it's time to get going.
Once you've found a morning routine that energizes you, stick to it. You may never become a morning person, but you'll enjoy your mornings a lot more and feel more prepared for the rest of your day.
If you are like me – a night owl – the only way to make this work is to get to bed earlier! Perhaps I need to stop playing a few rounds of euchre on my phone before I snooze.
2. Take a break – and not just at lunch.
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But many of us secretly place a bigger emphasis on lunch. We need that midday break to unplug from work and enjoy a long walk or a favorite podcast with our meal.
Adding some minibreaks to your day can give you a more consistent recharge than trying to cram all your rest into your lunch hour. One popular technique, the Pomodoro Timer, suggests taking a five-minute break every twenty-five minutes. If that's not practical at your job, just try something simple like getting up out of your chair every half hour to stretch, walk around the office to chat with coworkers, or grab a breath of fresh air. If you work remotely on your own, this will require even more discipline but perhaps you will have more options, e.g.,taking the dog for a short walk, shooting some hoops, grabbing the mail.
3. Minimize your multitasking.
Do you pride yourself on your ability to juggle multiple projects at once? More and more research suggests that maybe you shouldn't. Multitasking can overload your brain, raise your stress levels, and result in sloppy work.
The Pareto Principle says that 20% of our efforts yield 80% of our results. Rather than scattering your time across several projects at once, try to organize your to-do list and identify those 20% of tasks that are going to drive your most important results by the end of the day. You'll head home feeling more accomplished and more confident about where to focus your energy tomorrow. If you are retired, then you likely are still multi-tasking. Creating efficiency in retirement is still important and can lead to more rewarding days.
4. Don't work after work.
The work from home revolution has added some valuable flexibility to how we get things done. But when the boundaries between home and work get too blurry, many of us have a tendency to err on the side of work. Is all that unpaid overtime helping you get ahead? Or is your job's takeover of the kitchen table slimming down family time more than it should?
Multitasking at home is often every bit as inefficient as multitasking at work. When you clock out for the day, toss your laptop in your bag, power down your work phone, and give the most important people and passions in your life the attention that they deserve.
I am guilty of this one as work bleeds into the waning hours of the day sometime. If you have to force yourself to get away from “work”, set personal time on the calendar and honor that commitment. Even if you enjoy your work and feel like you have found your calling (as we have), getting balance in your life will provide the refresher that you need which will allow you to be even more productive during your normal work hours.
Whether you're just starting your financial planning journey or preparing for retirement, our interactive tools can help you get the most out of your most precious assets, including your time. Let's talk soon about how you can plan to spend more time improving your Return on Life.