How to Find Time (When You Don’t Have Any)

finding time for greater productivity

If there’s one thing we’re all strapped for it’s time. Time to do this. Time to do that. And on top of an already busy life, we’re bloggers trying to find time to write, to get noticed, to make money. Whatever your reasons for blogging, I’m pretty sure you have uttered “I need more time” out loud at some point (even if no one was around to hear it).

I don’t profess to have all the time in the world. But over the past year, between blogging and my part-time gig and now writing a book, I’ve learned a few tricks to find time out of thin air. You probably already know a few of these. But hey- a reminder never hurts.

So whether you’re trying to find more time to complete a particular project (at home or blogging-related) or just find more time in general, here are a few ways to find some coveted minutes from your day:

Walk Away

That’s right. Get up, step back from the computer, and walk away for a while. Sometimes we get stuck on a project, a blog post, or something else and we spin our wheels fighting with it. Instead of greco wrestling your productivity, stepping away can clear your head and maybe even bring you that word or idea you were grasping for. You may even have to sit on something overnight. I do that when I have something big to edit. I have to step away from my writing, let it clear my head and only then can I do my best at self-editing.

When you sit back down you’ll feel a little refreshed and work more productively, saving some precious time.

Just make sure you actually come back. That’s kinda important.

Get Up Early

I used to roll my eyes when people mentioned getting up early in an article. As if! Pfft! Phooey! I’m a night owl and I love sleeping in (which with kids is about 7 am and 8 on the weekend if I’m lucky). However, as I’ve been writing Blog Design for Dummies, there are some nights I’m not sitting down to write until 9:30 or 10 pm and I’m flippin’ EXHAUSTED.

Consider getting up early from time to time. Set your coffee pot to automatic timer so a fresh pot is ready for you. Grab a cup and savor a few glorious minutes to yourself. You don’t even have to be peppy, just slightly awake. Then get to work! I’ve found I can write wayyyy faster in the morning without any distractions or tiredness from the day hanging over me. The morning getting-up-early tiredness seems to wear off a lot faster than the oh-my-gah-what-a-day evening tiredness.

Give Up Something

We all want something for nothing, don’t we? If a day suddenly became 27 hours then I’m sure we’d all rejoice. But that isn’t gonna happen. *cry*

Finding more time in the 24 hours we have is about making choices. That means you might have to give something up. Give up watching TV, be content with a slightly messier house, go out to eat so you don’t have to clean up dishes (or keep it a one-pot meal with paper plates).

One thing I gave up was making my kindergartener’s lunch every day. Even though my hubby and I both do this, I found that letting him buy lunch 2-3 times a week helps with freeing up time during the week.

As I’m writing this book, I let go of responding to emails in a timely manner. GASP. If you were to email my Momcomm email address, you’d receive this out of office reply:

Well, hi! While I’d love to respond right away to your email, I’m currently holed up (with food and water) writing my first book, Blog Design for Dummies.

Being in writing-editing-deadline mode, I go in and out of hiding as I meet each deadline (like one of those whack-a-mole things). If I don’t get back to you in a few weeks, please feel free to ping me again or @ me on Twitter.

I still think you’re awesome.

In my writing hole,

At least, I’m letting people know, right?

You don’t have to go all out and starve yourself from all the things you love and need to do. Even giving up PART of something can still free up time for you. For example, you really don’t HAVE to respond to pitches you receive if you’re going to say no. Companies don’t expect everyone to respond. Be selective about those you respond to (like there’s potential to do other projects). Make choices and DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. No one cares as much as you do, I’ve learned.

Shut Down Social Media and Your Email

(as if you don’t know this)

Do I really need to tell you this? We all KNOW we should get out of Facebook, Twitter and even close our email when we’re working on something. But we don’t always do that, do we? Next thing we know, we check everything from each notification and tweet to every email ding and text du-du-dup!

Exercise a little self-control (I know it’s hard!) and stay away from social media and email when you’re trying to get work done. All of those toggles from screen to screen, a quick Like here and a little tweet there add up.

Stop having FOMO (fear of missing out) and gain a little willpower. You’ll have some time back into your day immediately.

Eat the Frog

I learned the concept of eating the frog many, many years ago as a marketing director. What in the world does it mean? It simply means this: do the thing that’s causing you the most angst and GET IT OUT OF THE WAY. If you had a frog sitting before you that you HAD to eat, wasting time fretting about it or ignoring it doesn’t change the fact it has to be eaten… so get it over with! (Don’t ask me WHO’s making you eat that frog. I didn’t make this metaphor up.)

Doing the most painful thing first (at the start of your day, when you sit down to blog and so on) is surprisingly motivating. Instead of dreading to do “that thing,” you knock it out first then move on. Your mind and even your body get fueled with the feeling that you accomplished something. Then you seem to magically work smarter, harder, and save time in the process.

Say No

You don’t have to be a hero. Make choices. Set priorities. Say yes to the things that matter the most.

Your kid doesn’t have to go to EVERY kids’ birthday party in his class. Stick with the friends he or she knows the best.

You don’t have to fulfill every Pinterest fantasy.

You don’t have to volunteer for EVERY single thing at your kids’ school.

You don’t have to accept every pitch that comes your way.

When it comes to blogging, I realized in order to move forward, I had to say no to things. I turned down a review here or an opportunity there because I was busy building something BIG… Content Brew. I turned down money and clients because I knew I had something big brewing (dangit, a pun!). Sometimes saying no is a path to a much bigger yes.

Don’t be afraid of that two-letter word.

Plan, Plan, Plan

One of the first business seminars I ever went to was about project management. That was over 10 years ago and I still remember one thing the facilitator said:

Ten minutes in planning saves hours in putting out fires.

Ain’t that the truth! If you’re short on time, put a little effort in planning. Planning out your content calendar (*cough* Content Brew *cough*), plan your meals a week or two at a time, plan, plan, plan.

Of course, don’t get in the trap of planning so much you don’t get anything done (um, I’ve been there). But planning in the areas of your life that take the longest amount of time saves time in the long run.

Anything else to add? What tip resonates most with you?

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  1. says

    You always give out the best tips, Mel. February has been one of the busiest months I’ve experienced in a long time; the promotional roller-coaster I’ve been on has me longing for an extra 3 hrs in the day, too!! It’s all good. Busy IS exhausting, but it’s a great feeling to accomplish something. My brain shuts down once the kids are in bed, so your advice to get up early & attack things right away may be my key to sanity.
    Happy writing!!!!! So happy for you — I’m excited to read your book!

  2. says

    Eating the frog is HARD! But, it often slows me down because I know something is hanging over my head. The opposite is hard, though, too. And I find if I promise myself (or better yet, schedule in) a time to do that one thing that I’m dying to do – instead of get down to business – I am able to let it go and actually accomplish some things.

  3. says

    Now, I need to know: will the frog turn into a prince once eaten? Or should I stick to smooching that amphibian? :) Love it.

    I bought (for not a lot) the Freedom and the Anti-Social app. They turn off web access for however long you stipulate. The internet connection will be restored if you tutn your computer off, then on again — but that little bit of bother is enough to stop you! :)

    This is a cheering post, thank you.

  4. says

    Uh, yeah, pretty much pure awesomeness right here. While yes I did know most of these, the reminder was inspiring in itself. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed but this was perfect. :)

  5. says

    Great tips as always Mel! Love the “eat the frog” analogy. I’m a huge fan of getting up early (even though I curse my alarm clock when it buzzes at an ungodly hour). Can’t wait to read this new book of yours!

  6. says

    Great advice! I am a pretty good planner, and over the years I’ve gotten better and better at saying no. This is, however, the first time I’ve heard about Eat The Frog. Now that I’ve heard it, I won’t ever forget it! (and it’s actually a fantastic thing to do!!) :)
    Great Post!
    Good luck with the book!

  7. says

    Saying no is a big one for me. I’ve turned down many guest post opportunities and sponsored post requests, simply because my focus and priorities are elsewhere.

    I also write down a daily to-do list, it keeps me accountable, and on track.

    Great tips, as always!

  8. says

    Awesome tips! The one I find hardest is turning off social media. But, luckily, I am a *very* early riser, and social media isn’t that much of a distraction.

  9. says

    Shutting down social media has been a huge time saver for me. I really had no idea how much time I was wasting on Facebook until I closed it out for a few days. Now, I open it only to take care of promoting the post I need to promote, handle my interaction that’s pending, and then close it. I try to limit checking/responding to three times a day. I’m amazed at how much more I get done.

  10. says

    This post is very timely for me because I’m about to undertake a huge project myself and have been stressing about how to fit it into my already jam-packed days. I have people-pleasing tendencies, so I always go out of my way to respond to even the lamest pitches I get with a thoughtful reply–that needs to go!

  11. says

    Just walk away! I love it and I do it all the time, well, maybe not actually walking away but I will move on to a different project or go reply to an email, or even just take a bathroom break. Those few minutes are usually just enough to get my brain sidetracked enough that I can get back on task (sounds counter-intuitive but it works). That is unless it is a real thinker then I call it a day and just sleep on it. 😉

  12. says

    These are great, solid tips, and I certainly need the reminders. Especially to stay off of social media. Also to plan- It’s really incredible how much time and angst it can save when you feel like you’re even slightly organized.

  13. says

    Eat the frog and get up early. I definitely tend to put off the thing I dread. But I can’t tell you the number of times it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I anticipated. Then I feel kind of silly for making it into such a big deal.

    And I am not a morning person at all. I don’t really stay up late, either. I’m a day person. But I don’t have enough time and “getting up early” seems to be the thing that I keep hearing. I guess it’s a sign. So time to set the alarm instead of getting up whenever. Sign. I’m sure dreading it. I hope the payoff is worth it!

  14. says

    I was searching for someone to tell me how to strike a balance between life and blogging. All I have been doing is blogging and my family is about to kill me lol. Then you posted your article today and it was so helpful and now I see light at the end of the tunnel now. I am going to do a review on your article because I think so many other’s whether they are bloggers or not have a hard time striking a balance.

  15. says

    Ah…that magic word, “no.” Still not part of my vocabulary like it should be, but I’m working on it.

    I’ve learned along the way that saying no helps to avoid opportunity costs in the form of time spent working for others vs working on/for yourself. This post was a good reminder.

  16. says

    Love, love, LOVE this post! The getting up early makes a huge difference and is my favorite of those tips. Actually, in October, I made it one of my monthly challenges to get up early every single day. I told myself that I just had to get up early but that I could do ANYTHING I wanted when I was up – I wasn’t going to force myself to get up early to work out, or get work done, or anything like that. It made it a lot easier to make the baby step of just getting up early, while having the incentive of getting to do anything I wanted in that time. Now, I’ve become an early bird and can make that time productive! I think baby steps to change really go a long way.

  17. says

    I love this. I find myself being pulled in a million different ways a day with things I “NEED” to do. But question is do I really need to do them

  18. says

    These are great tips. The getting up early thing is hardest for me. I want to, really I do, but when the alarm goes off it’s as if I’m physically incapable of doing it. I just hate it so much! On the flip side…I really like shutting down FB for a while. It’s so freeing to not feel that rock around my neck. Then when I do go back to it the next day it turns out I really didn’t miss anything.

  19. says

    such timely advise. I am juggling quite a bit and could use some extra time.The one I really want to apply is eat the frog. I let the task that I resist the most weigh me down. By the time I get around to doing it I realize it wasn’t that bad after all. thanks!

  20. says

    I limit my time on social media and industry related blogs to one hour per day. I set a timer and then get to it. It’s amazing how quickly that hour flies! And since I only have a very limited amount of time each day, I only engage with people/content that’s meaningful and can advance my work. So I really gain a lot more time each day because I’m not just cruising Facebook when I need a distraction or when I’m between tasks.

  21. says

    Melissa, Thanks so much for these reminders….And, yes, I am posting 2 weeks later, but, well, I’ve been busy! Now, I don’t feel so guilty about not getting EVERYTHING done!

  22. says

    Thank you!!! Thank you!!! As much as it seems like common sense. I have been finally learning to manage my time a little better. The BIGGEST change, getting up early and stepping away. You hit the nail on the head. THANK YOU for the reminders.

  23. says

    Planning! It always comes down to the planning! In order to “give” myself more time, I did print off a nifty blog planner and starting this week, I have allocated myself 45 minutes to determine my goals for the week. So far, it has been wonderful! Like a menu plan, I am not wondering what I am going to “eat” for dinner on a particular night – I have already told myself what to do! Not only that, but I have started to use the schedule feature of my newsletter app, which allows me to plug them in once a week, month, whatever and then – WALK AWAY FROM IT! Yep! I don’t have to worry about crossing that off the list because it is AUTOMATED for me already! YaY!

    Thanks for the great tips!