Discovering how to have more time is a key ingredient to living a blissful life, which is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s a process, not a one-off event. And more importantly, because it’s a life makeover, it never really ends.
Intimidated? A totally normal reaction.
We were too. Until we realised that if we remained scared because of the enormity of the task involved, we would never start it let alone finish it.
But remember Bishop Desmond Tutu talking about eating an elephant? You can only do so, he said, one bite at a time. A big undertaking doesn’t seem too terrifying once you break it down into small, bite-sized pieces.
And that’s what we do here at Live A Blissful Life. We break down the big task of how to actually live a blissful life and start small. What do you really need before you can even start measuring where you’re at and developing a plan of action to get to where you want to be?
We believe there is only one thing, without which you’ll most likely fail or get frustrated and burnt out before you can even actually start with your life improvement project.
Ready for it?
T-I-M-E. You need more time.
You might be thinking, “Well then, we’re kinda screwed!”
Yes, yes, there are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t really make more time out of thin air. So, what else can you do? Easy-peasy answer: track your time.
How’s that supposed to help? Believe it or not, time tracking actually has quite a lot of benefits. One of the most important benefits for our purpose is that you actually come face-to-face with those lovely but pointless activities we engage in simply because we are bored. Or we just don’t have a plan for the day. Or we’re procrastinating.
See those 6 hours we spent yesterday doing nothing but reading Twitter rants about a certain action star’s story of revenge? Could we have cut that in half and freed 3 hours to maybe, you know, answer a few questionnaires to determine baselines in one of the 4 key areas of domestic bliss?
We know, we know. It’s so easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole that is social media. And we’re not just saying that. There were many, many times when Jade had to ask Kevin to confiscate her phone if she’s still awake by 1AM, reading Twitter or Facebook rants. And just as many times when Kevin had to give up his phone because he couldn’t stop watching those video clips on Facebook about inventions that could change your life. It’s like your thumb just keeps moving, doesn’t it?
So, how the heck do you do this magic? Here’s a curated list of the tools we use and can highly recommend.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate or referral links. Our really boring disclosure policy is available here.
What you need to create more time
I don’t know how we survived for so long without this nifty little thing. We have it installed on our laptop as a Google Chrome Extension and on our phones as an app. Now, when we’re doing anything work-related, we usually just click on the Toggl icon at the upper right corner of the browser, add in a description for whatever task we’re doing and then start working.
Toggl has a lot of different features but what we find especially useful is its integration with the Pomodoro technique (more on that below).
Another benefit for us is the fact that we know we’re actually accomplishing the task we’ve set out to do and usually in the least amount of time it takes to complete it. No more over- or underestimating how much time we need for a specific task. We can actually look back and say that it takes us approximately 1.5 hours to write a lengthy post so in the future, we can plan our time a lot more effectively.
The Pomodoro technique isn’t so much a time-tracking tool as a complete time-management system. It says it’s a life-changing system and for us, it really is. Not only is it effective (especially when integrated with Toggl) but it’s also very easy to implement.
There are only six steps involved in the Pomodoro Technique.
Select your task.
The first step is obviously to set which task you’ll be doing for a particular time.
Set your timer.
To do that, you can just click on the Toggl icon or use the free app you can download off Google Play or the App Store. Or, if you prefer an analog timer, we use this.
Focus on the task.
The third step involves bearing down and focusing on the task you have set. For 25 minutes, that’s all you think about. You don’t multi-task with the Pomodoro Technique. You give one task your all for the time you have set. If you suddenly remember another task you have to do, write it down on a piece of paper and keep going with the original task.
Honour your breaks.
Fourth, when the Pomodoro rings, you put a checkmark on your to-do list and celebrate for five minutes. This 5 minute-break is your fifth step. Congratulations! You have just completed one interruption-less Pomodoro session.
Give yourself a longer break.
The final step is really just to give yourself a longer break. After four Pomodoro sessions, you can give yourself a 20-30 minute break during which you think or do something completely unrelated to the task at hand. This will help your brain assimilate the information you’ve gathered and refresh you for the next round of intensive work.
Sounds simple? That’s because it is. When we use it, we found that because we know we only have 25 minutes to work with, we keep going without any interruption.
A note about our personal use of this technique. We have a high-needs active toddler, which means he needs a lot of attention. We found that he can wait 25 minutes for us to finish a task but then needs some one-on-one time afterwards. Sometimes, we end up having to take longer breaks (10 minutes or so instead of 5, for example) to give him the positive attention he needs. Otherwise, he’ll start trying to get our attention by acting up – resulting in frustration on our part and tantrums on his. So to set us all up for success, we give him positive attention as intervention instead of waiting for him to act up and then giving him negative attention.
If you’re trying to cut back on your use of electronics, there’s no internet or you just don’t like working with an app, you can’t go wrong with Laura Vanderkam‘s time management worksheet. You just need a pen to write down your tasks, which are divided in 30 minute-intervals and you’re good to go. This is a great way to ease into time tracking if you’re easily distracted by electronic notifications or if you’re working somewhere with no WiFi or data available.
When you want to set reminders for important dates, Google’s calendar is very useful and quite easy to use. You simply key in the event name, date and time, set the reminder you need (all day or for a set number of hours) and you’re ready to go.
Because it’s just the two of us involved at K&J, we only really use Google Calendar for reminders but actually, it’s got a lot of features that can work for individuals as well as teams. For a list of 18 powerful Google Calendar Features and how to use them, take a look at this Hubspot article.
5. Startamomblog’s Weekly Schedule System
Probably the simplest weekly scheduling system we’ve ever seen, it’s a wonder that not everybody is using it. You just need a pen, a ruler, super sticky Post-It Notes and a white background to make the post-its stand out. Suzi uses a white poster board like this. We use a magnetic board for no other reason than we have two of them lying around unused and we didn’t want to bin them.
The actual system itself is simple enough. On Sunday night, you write down all tasks and appointments you have for the week in different coloured post-its. You write down events with set times that you can’t change on WHITE post-its and then place them on the board. Big tasks that take at least 2 hours go on PINK post-its and then onto the board. BLUE post-its are for medium tasks that take about an hour or two to complete. Finally, you get the really quick tasks that you tend to put off but that you actually need to do(like sorting out the bills) and put them on YELLOW post-its. Rinse and repeat every week. For the original post, hop on over to Startamomblog.
6. Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal
The premise for the Bullet Journal (Bujo) is quite simple. More than a time management system, Bujo is, according to its company website, a methodology, “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system”.
All you need is a journal (we love the dotted one), a ruler (stencil ruler all the way) and a pen (Jade has used this pen since 2001!). Because it’s flexible, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it, as long as it has an Index Page, a Future Log, a Monthly Log and a Daily Log. And, the system is in the name because you’ll be writing everything down in bullet form.
This is a very new system for us so we’ll have to review it in-depth in another post. That said, if you are interested in viewing the practice itself, take a look at the below video:
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Time
Most of the time we act as if time is an enemy. It’s something we are running against, something we need to beat. Or it’s something we need to spend, fill, utilise.
All this knowing that time is finite. We only have 24 hours in any given day. We don’t get any do-overs and we can’t increase or decrease it. It just is. As a result, we are often stressed, frustrated and burnt out.
However, when we work with time, we don’t feel any of these things. We accomplish more tasks. We also create more free time, allowing us to take a breather and appreciate all our accomplishments.
There is a feeling of deep satisfaction, of almost-bliss, that wells up when we manage to cross a task off a list or when you look back through your journal or calendar and you see how far you’ve gone, how productive you’ve become.
Once you hit that spot, then you’re ready to tackle an even bigger undertaking: how to create bliss in all aspects of your life.