How to Free Up Time for What Matters Most

How to Free Up Time for What Matters Most

by: Emily Thomas

Friends, have you listened to the most recent episode of our podcast yet? It debuted yesterday, and boy, it's a doozy! 

If you have listened to it, you're probably feeling all sorts of on fire to make the most of each day you've got. In the podcast, Lara encourages us to strike while the iron is hot - i.e. make some BOLD changes while we're still feeling the resonance of the "big picture" mindset shift she introduces us to.

So today, we're here to help you do just that! Because it's one thing to want to spend our days intentionally, and it's another to live that out, day after day, while our busy lives full of responsibilities and commitments (and laundry?!) continue to require our presence and attention.

The truth is that time is both precious and plentiful. To have as much time as we need for the things we want, we must be ruthless about not filling our time with things that aren't a priority for us.

Here are some of the best ways our team and this community has found to free up more time in our days for the things and people that matter most:

1. Stop watching (so much) TV. I love history, and I often think about how much our Founding Fathers accomplished in their lives (stay with me!). It sounds silly, but I have to think their industriousness was at least due in part to not having the time sucks available to them that we do! Because TV tends to pull us in for large chunks of time (i.e. a half hour, 45-minute, or hour-long block), turning it off is one of the best ways to get your time back. 

Sound scary? Try cutting it out for just one week - or even just one day! - and see what you're able to accomplish! TV isn't bad, per se, but it does take up time that could be spent on other things. (If you need encouragement, check out this episode of Young House Love's podcast, where they shared the positive effects of quitting TV for a week!)

2. Curb your social media scrolling. I put the hardest, but potentially most impactful, suggestions first! :) We all know the feeling of looking up from scrolling on our phones and realizing an entire hour has passed. That is the definition of missing your life, friend. There are so many tools these days to help curb your vice of choice - the ScreenTime settings on your phone, News Feed Eradicator, simply deleting the app except for certain hours of the day - so choose one and set some limits! Again, social media isn't bad, but mindlessly scrolling at the expense of taking action on the things that truly matter can be.

3. Use your "fringe hours." Our friend Jessica Turner wrote a whole book on this, but the idea is to recognize and put to good use the random pockets of your day instead of wasting them. For example, I always call my Mom (hands free!) on my commute home from work on Mondays, squeezing some extra goodness out of that half hour. I also keep a book in my bag so that I can read a few pages instead of scrolling through my phone when I'm waiting in line or at the doctor's office.

4. Set the scene. When you do get time to work on a goal or project, don't waste it by gathering supplies or clearing off a space to create - set yourself up to dive right in! Our designer Casey keeps a rolling cart from Ikea fully stocked with her Write the Word journals and watercolor supplies so it's ready whenever she is.

5. Batch tasks. Most of us will never fully be able to automate or delegate the mundane parts of life - paying bills, setting appointments, updating budgets, filing receipts, etc. Instead of tackling these small-but-important tasks one at a time (which means they'll constantly be taking up your mental load), batch as many of your recurring tasks as you can into one "duty day" once a week or once a month. Depending on your responsibilities and schedule, this could be three hours once a month, a full day once a month (maybe if you own your own business), or just one hour a week. See how our friend Diana organizes hers here.

A monthly prep day also works very well for staying on top of relationships, celebrations, and the fun parts of life - that's why we created our Celebrations Binder

6. Quit something. Have you read the viral burnout article that's been going around? While I think the author makes some good points, I disagree with what seems to be her fundamental premise - that we are not in control of our own lives. 

Of course, there are some things in our lives that are hard or impossible to change - but that shouldn't stop us from taking control of everything we can. If you don't have time for the things that matter to you, take a ruthless look at your calendar and quit something

7. Get out your NO list. In a similar vein, flip back through the Prep Work in your PowerSheets® and read through your NO list (the things you identified that you need to cut out to make what matters happen). Make sure you are actually saying NO to those things. NO lists are super personal (a priority for one person might not matter at all to another!), but you can peek at my NO list and our friend Rhiannon's for inspiration. Every "no" is a better "yes" you can say elsewhere!

Struggle to say no when someone asks you for help? Try this suggestion from PowerSheets user Valerie: "Thanks so much for thinking of me! I'm honored, but I can't give [whatever it is] the attention it deserves. Here are two other people who might be able to help."

8. Outsource or swap. Many PS users suggested this in answer to Megan's recent request for advice in the Facebook group. Do a meal exchange once a week with a neighborhood friend. Swap a morning of babysitting with another stay-at-home mom. Cut back in another area of your budget so that you can get your house deep cleaned every other month. Ask aunts and uncles or grandparents for an afternoon of babysitting in lieu of gifts.

9. Lower your standards and adjust your expectations. This was another common suggestion from our community! If you feel like you're constantly tidying, cleaning, and doing random household chores, maybe it's time to relax your standards just a bit. Perhaps the floor can be swept just once a week, or the sheets washed every other week. Ideal? Maybe not. Would it give you more time for the things that matter to you? Maybe so.

Also, and this is for my mama friends, be okay with doing chores while your kids are awake! Obviously this will look different based on the ages of your kids, but not every moment of your time together needs to be spent in hands-on, "enriching" activities. It's good for them to understand what it takes to run a household, and good for them to help! And, whatever you're able to tackle together means less for you to do after they go to bed - and more time for your other pursuits.

I loved this advice from seasoned mom Jeannie in the Facebook group: "Lower your standards - in cleanliness, attire, and meal prep. Pop Tarts make a fine meal now and then." :)

10. Declutter ruthlessly. The less you have, the less time you need to spend organizing, cleaning, repairing, renewing, replacing, tidying, and sorting. Allie Casazza wrote a powerful testament to this on our friend Robin's blog, including this gem: "Studies show a direct link between the amount of physical possessions in a house and the stress level of the female homeowner." If that's not motivation to get out some trash bags, I don't know what is!

11. Conserve your willpower. Studies also show that we each have a finite amount of willpower each day, and that it declines throughout the day. This means that by the end of the day, when we're most likely to have time to do the things that matter to us, we're battling a strong desire to just slump on the couch. So, be intentional about conserving your willpower throughout the day and make the best choice the easiest one. Don't keep the junk food in the house. Charge your phone in the other room. Sleep in your running clothes. Fill up a water bottle the night before and put it in the fridge. 

And, even if you're tired, promise yourself you'll spend just a half hour working on something on your Tending List. Set a timer and get to it! I'm guessing you might find a second wind and keep right on going even after the timer has beeped, but even if not, you'll have given yourself the gift of 30 minutes of progress. And that, my friends, adds up - little by little :)

I'd love to hear: how do you make time for the things that matter to you? Do you use any of these tips? What's on your NO list? Comment and tell me below!

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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