Life seems to continuously get busier. We’re more connected than ever and the expectation that we’re accessible 24/7 seems to be the new standard. It’s easier than ever to spend a day having not actually accomplished anything beyond pushing communication around from inbox to inbox. And before you know it, you find yourself in a constant state of communication churn. It’s a dangerous pattern, and one that’s far to easy to slip in to.

For the entrepreneurs out there who are wearing all the hats in their business, or the working mom who has to accomplish all of her tasks before the oh-so-strict daycare pick up time hits – pause for a minute to ask yourself this question:

Am I spending my time or investing it?

We need to make a conscious effort to get ourselves off of the hamster wheel and start being intentional with our time. This is easier said than done, believe us, we know first-hand! But, the outcome is worth the effort.

With only so many hours in the day, and more distractions than we know what to do with, we need to get real about our priorities and adjust our days so that our time reflects them. That can feel a little daunting, so here are a few easy ways to get started:

Define your priorities, in general, and as they relate to a typical week

  • What are the non-negotiable tasks and activities in your life and your business?
  • How do those activities rank in order of importance to you?

Establish boundaries

This is huge. So huge that we’ll follow up with a dedicated post just to this topic. But the cliff notes version here is that you need to identify what you’re willing to budge on and what is off limits when it comes to the priorities you’ve identified. If sitting down to eat breakfast as a family every morning is one of your priorities you aren’t willing to budge on, that means you need to establish boundaries around scheduling morning coffee meetings.

This may seem counter-intuitive to an entrepreneur who sees every meeting as a potential business builder, but if you aren’t taking the time to invest it in the things that are most important to you, before you know it you’ll end up on auto-pilot with a muddy vision and little energy left for the things that fill your cup.

Learn to optimize your schedule

Once you’ve established your priorities and established boundaries to protect them, you need to identify when you’re able to most efficiently complete the other tasks and activities that demand your attention on any given day. There’s no getting around it, there will always be work and activities that we are required to complete – but we need to identify when they work in our schedule so that they don’t disrupt what’s truly important to our success and well-being.

If you are a morning person, perhaps getting up 30 minutes earlier to get the “need-to-do” tasks out of the way works for you. Or, that might be your guarded time for getting a workout in. Either way, identify when you can focus on the priorities and when you can check off the mandatory items so that you can progress throughout your day.

Learn to say no

This one is tough, especially for women. We want to do it all and are willing to say yes to some things at the detriment of our own well-being at times. This goes back to your boundaries. It’s okay to not do it all, so give yourself permission to say no if you can’t make the commitment work within your schedule and priorities.

Identify on the outcome

Before you commit, think about what the outcome will be. Does it align with the priorities you have set? Is it enriching you personally or professionally?

Your decisions on how you manage your time will not and should not always be self-serving, but they should absolutely be intentional. When we choose to make informed decisions about our time, we are investing in ourselves so that we have more meaningful work and relationships.

Think back on about your past day, or week, or month. What sacrifices did you make that you wish you wouldn’t have? And what boundaries should you have established that would have given you more freedom in the long run?

Investing our time is effort, no doubt. But it is also incredibly rewarding in the growth and purpose in our every day.