3 Ways to Have More Free Time

[This post is the third in my Back to School Series]

So maybe now you’ve gotten organized, but you still feel like you have no time to do everything that you want to do! That’s no good at all. Ideally, wouldn’t you like to have enough time for school, work, volunteering, leisure, fun, chores and a ton of free time!? (“Yes please!!”) Me too. And although I haven’t really come close to perfecting this method, I’ve decided to compile a few techniques passed down to me from my family and friends into one handy dandy little post for you to peruse. I know there’s a procrastinator in all of us, but maybe, just maybe, by creating a routine that fits our lives, we’ll be able to avoid that wretched “I’m just way too busy to ______ {insert exercise, eat, sleep, keep in touch, etc here}!!” That’s not the type of life I want to lead! So let’s try out these little techniques, shall we? I know they’re my back to school resolutions!

1. Put first things first

Okay, so the very first technique (that I am absolutely in love with) is the most important (!) and requires taking a leaf out of Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s one of my mother’s all-time favourite books, and she told me about this wonderful solution. I encourage you to watch the video of the demonstration here. It’s really inspiring and I think it will really hit home.

What he proposes is one of my favourite metaphors:

Imagine you have a group of rocks in a variety of sizes, some sand, and a glass jar. You’re asked to fit as much of it into the jar as possible. How do you do it?

You put the big things in first. Once you do, the smaller rocks and sand can then settle down around them. If you don’t put the big rocks in, you’ll never be able to fit all the little things in.

Think of that as a metaphor for life! If you get too bogged down with all the little things, you’ll think you have no room for any of the big things.

When you start building your routine, think of what are the really important things to you and put them in first. The big things are things like:

  • School/studying
  • Food + nutrition + cooking
  • Exercise
  • Sleeping
  • Quality time with friends and family
  • etc

So make a list of your own big rocks! They can be anything you want, anything you feel is necessary in your life. Once you know what they are, the key is to then schedule in those activities first, as your number one priorities. They are the foundation of your life! Once you’ve done that, everything else can settle in around them.

So in your routine, you’ll now have sections of time devoted to the big things: you’ve signed up for an exercise class twice weekly, you’ve developed a schedule for studying in the evenings, you have a loose bedtime worked out, you’ve slotted in when you’re going to cook. These chunks of time are now set out, and now you have room to slot in smaller tasks into your daily routine. See how it works!? Scheduling in the big things first will give you more breathing room when it comes to dealing the other nagging little details of life, without feeling burnt out.


2. Clump like things together.

Photo thanks to mysza

Quick! Think of three things you really can’t stand doing (but have to!). For me, they would be cleaning my room/apartment, paying bills, and doing laundry. Ugh.

I don’t know why they bug me so much: whenever I get going on them, it passes fairly quickly and painlessly. But they’re just tasks I dislike, so it’s hard to motivate myself to do them at all.

My solution for this dilemma is to schedule them all in for one block of time, usually on Saturdays. I commit myself to doing all the nasty, unpleasant things in one fell swoop, so then I don’t have to worry about them until a full week from then. I find this is more pleasant for me than trying to clean throughout the week, or always having a nagging feeling I should pay my bills. As long as I schedule and commit to it in my mind or on my calendar, it’s there, I’ll do it and I’ll be done with it!

My favourite benefit about this system is that it will save you time! If you’re in cleaning mode, you can get all ready with all your supplies at the beginning of the hour, then just go from room to room cleaning. Since you’re clumping like things together, it won’t be as much effort as if you tried to clean one room every day. I find that by grouping like activities together, you’re able to get into the head space of those particular tasks, and you become much more efficient because of it. So just stick everything all in together, and finish it up more quickly!

Also try clumping together things you enjoy: ‘schedule’ yourself two hours for cooking, eating and reading, for example. I find it’s more enjoyable to have a stretch of time for leisure activities, rather than fifteen minutes of fun for every hour of work. Of course, you’re welcome to do it in a different way, but I really believe focusing on one activity at a time will give you more free time!


3. Don’t waste your time!

Photo thanks to Johan L

How many of you spend time every day on Facebook, flipping through photos and lurking people’s profiles? Me too. How many check their email twenty times a day, just for something to do on the computer? Me too. How many while away the hours watching television shows that they really don’t even care about? Me too.

Those are some of my time wasters. Some of my others include lingering on the computer, waiting for blogs to pop up on my rss reader, surfing the web aimlessly, and going on Facebook for no reason at all. It’s not as if I’m on Facebook to catch up with old friends or keep in touch, it’s usually just to see what other people are doing.

And if you enjoy spending your free time doing any of the things listed above, I completely understand. That’s your prerogative! But personally, I feel that those activities are a waste of my time. Those types of tasks are really not how I want to spend my free time; I’m not interested in being a zombie! I’d rather devote my spare time to reading, writing, cooking, skyping with my friends, taking photos and practicing yoga. And of course the activities you enjoy doing in your spare time will be different from mine, granted. But I’m sure you know what you’d love to be doing, “if only you had the time”.

So recognize these patterns! Think of how much time we waste with our eyes glazed over, consuming mountains of information about things we don’t actually care about: like the romantic lives of people from high school, or who will get kicked off ‘A Double Shot at Love’ (one of my low points in reality tv..). It’s ridiculous! And all the while we think we have no time for what would really give us true pleasure.

My challenge to you (and myself!) is to

  1. Recognize your time-wasters
  2. Remember what really makes you happy and fulfilled
  3. Make a conscious effort to cut back on #1 and up the ante on #2!


Tell me..

What are some techniques you use to schedule your life and create more free time? I’m constantly learning, and trying to improve on the way I’m doing things. Having enough time for all the things I want/need to do and have free time seems like a monumental challenge, but I think that committing more fully to these three simple steps will help with that dilemma a whole lot.

Good luck time management whiz kids!