In our digital-first, post-pandemic, WFH world, there seem to be two things we have in short supply: attention and time. While we can blame social media and information overload on the former, the latter comes down to how well we manage the hours in our day.
We’ve all got those big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAG). But to make them a reality, we need to plan better. These are our tips on how to manage your free time and use it productively to set and achieve those goals.
- Schedule your free time
The first rule of managing free time? Scheduling it! We block our calendars for team calls, check-ins with new employees, client calls, Zoom wine sessions…
So if you need to actually fix a time to focus on your goals, do it! Find a window of free time and set it aside for goal planning and execution. Pencil it into your calendar and add a reminder to all or any of your devices.
- Set weekly priorities, daily mini-goals, and tasks
Ask a professor or project manager how to manage your free time, and they’ll probably tell you that a weekly plan is a good place to start. You know the larger end goal. Now, give yourself a to-do list around that goal.
Set priorities for each week (the most pressing item from your list that you need to complete),
Set 1-2 daily mini-goals/tasks (that can help you finish what’s on priority).
- Tackle the tough things first
Motivational speaker and self-development guru Brian Tracy has a theory (and a book based on it): Eat that Frog. The saying goes that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can rest assured that it’s the worst thing you’ll do all day.
Tracy advocates handling your “frog” or the most challenging task at the start of your day and/or the beginning of your project. Getting the tough bits over and done with prevents you from procrastinating and makes effective use of the free time on hand.
- Start small, be consistent
We get it: you’re working from home, you may be attending to kids and pets and a dozen other things, and you may not have a whole afternoon to devote to your goals. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and you don’t need to do everything in one day, either. Start small.
If Brian Tracy believes in “eating that frog,” writer Anne Lamott advises writers, creatives, and everyone to attempt their projects “Bird by Bird.”
Some context: as a child, Lamott’s brother was stuck trying to write a science report on birds in the span of one day. As he panicked, Lamott’s father said: “Take it bird by bird, buddy.” The trick is to tackle your goal bird by bird: small tasks and actions done consistently till you reach the finish line.
- Work on your goals when you are the most productive
Here’s a tip on how to use free time productively: attend to your goals when your mind and body are most productive.
Some of us are morning larks; others are night owls. You know best when you are most productive, when your home or workspace is distraction-free and when you get that creative burst of energy. Use that time and don’t let anyone or anything interrupt it.
- Don’t use your free time for emails
Here’s our number one tip that most of us are guilty of ignoring - Don’t spend your free time on emails!
You may receive a few emails or dozens during your workday and when you’re in the thick of things, you don’t respond on time… which creates a backlog, and all your free time is wasted, replying to emails.
Instead of addressing emails in real-time or letting them pile up, allot specific time slots during the day when you can “bust it out” and reply to what needs urgent attention. When you learn how to manage your free time around those (sometimes pesky) emails, you’re set up for success.
- Focus on one thing at a time
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a serious case against multitasking. Studies indicate that when you toggle from task to task, you lose out (focus, concentration, your train of thought). When you focus on just one thing, you’ll find that things actually get done — and done better.
Once you’ve figured out how to manage your free time and identified the best time of the day to work on your goals, focus on one thing at a time from your weekly priority and daily mini-goal/task list and knock it out.
- Keep everything at your fingertips with OSlash
When you’re working on your goals (individually or with your team), keeping track of what you’re working on and having quick access to it makes a HUGE difference. Think about it: how much of your free time have you spent searching for links, documents, email threads, and other stuff?
Searching for links wastes time and is incredibly frustrating. Moreover, every time you forget you’ve created a document before, you start afresh and lose some more time and context.
OSlash keeps you organized by allowing you to convert URLs into simple words such as o/habit-tracker or o/content-calendar.
If home organizers preach “a place for everything and everything in its place,” OSlash works to keep it that way: with a link for everything, and everything linked to you!
Whether you are wondering how to manage your free time or how to use free time productively, OSlash can help by cutting down the time you waste on searching for information, resources, and everything important on the web! So whether it’s a draft of your novel on Google Drive or an inspiring TED Talk that someone sent you on Slack — create a simple shortcut and access it anytime, anywhere, in less than a second.