How many times have you heard someone say, “I never have enough time!”? Maybe you have even said it yourself. I hate to break the news to you...we all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day which means 168 hours per week. There is nothing that anyone can do to change it. For some people that is the bad news. There is good news, however. You are in charge of your time. Now I can already hear some of you arguing that isn’t true because the boss claims a lot of your time, family or friends want some of your time, there are personal life tasks to be taken care of, and that is all before you even think of doing something fun. But if you just take the time to read this article, I can promise you some tips to save some time later…and even create some new time.

I love the following quote from Cheryl Richardson:

Time is finite. You only get a certain amount – 168 hours a week, fifty-two weeks a year, and that’s if you’re lucky. Time is a gift that most of us take for granted. We get so caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we rarely stop and take a serious look at how we’re spending this gift. Instead, we use appointment books, electronic calendars, and other elaborate tools in the hope of scheduling our time more efficiently. But these tools just perpetuate the myth that we can somehow “manage time.” The truth is, we can only manage ourselves. The only way to truly make more time is to say no, schedule less, or cancel appointments. This is called “self-management,” not time management.

You may want to read that again. It’s not an issue of managing time; it’s a matter of managing oneself. Since organizing is about replacing non-functioning habits with functioning ones, let’s look at some of the habits you need to develop in order to gain time.

Habit #1: Learn to say “no”. For most people, the ability to say “no” is difficult if not impossible. For such a short word, it can be almost impossible to say. The best place to start is to develop a standard answer to give anyone who asks for your time. One example might be “Can I get back to you in a couple of days; I need to check my calendar before I commit to something new?” You have to create a statement that works for you and that starts to roll off your tongue the minute someone says, “Can you ____?” You may have to practice in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable. If someone indicates that they can’t wait, then be prepared to immediately decline. After you have had time to think about it, look at your calendar, or discuss it with someone, be as short and direct as you can and don’t be swayed by reasons they may use to get you to change your mind. Keep the words of Anne Lamott in mind, she says, “I live by the truth that “No” is a complete sentence.” Here are some statements that may be useful:

“My schedule is full for that (day, week, month, year, etc.)” You do not have to tell the person anything else. Even if they indicate that the task won’t take to long, be firm and repeat the statement.
“I need to decrease the amount of stress in my life by cutting back on tasks. I hope you understand.” Again, do not give any details. Just make the statement and move to another topic of conversation.
“My (spouse, family, friends, etc.) need my full attention at this time so I am unable to take on additional activities.” Don’t elaborate. Just maintain your stand.

Be aware, if you are a longtime “yes” person, there will be people who will be unhappy when you start saying “no”. Be strong. It takes awhile to develop a new habit and you are bound to meet outside resistance.

Habit #2: Silence the internal people-pleasing voices. Part of saying “no” is the ability to stand firm with others. Another part of saying “no” is the struggle against the internal people-pleaser voices. Not everyone has these, so if you don’t, you can skip to habit three. For those who know exactly what I am talking about you’ve may experience fear that someone might reject you if you don’t say “yes”. You might feel like it is your duty to say “yes” to all requests; it is almost a driving force. Unfortunately people who are addicted to approval from others are usually disappointed because while it is possible to please lots of people, it is impossible to please everyone. There will always be someone who isn’t happy with us for some reason or another.

One of the best ways to quiet your internal people-pleaser is to empower yourself by answering the following questions truthfully:

1. “What stops me from saying “no” when I am asked to do something that I really don’t want to do?”
2. “What is the worst thing that could happen if I say “no”?

Resist the temptation to rationalize. For instance, when you ask yourself the second question, it is very tempting to say something like “that person will think less of me.” That is certainly not a “worse case scenario”. It may help you to write down your answers or to discuss them with someone. You won’t be an approval addict one day and then not one the next. You are forming a new habit. It is a process that will take time and may include the occasional setback.

Habit #3: Block out time on your schedule. I am talking about literally blocking time on your paper or electronic calendar. Most people write down the time that an appointment starts. This is not enough. You need to write down the ending time if you know it or estimate it is you don’t, you also need to plan for transportation time. If I have an organizing session with a client that is from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., then I will mark my calendar to denote the actual session time but I will also indicate the time I need to leave my office and the time that I expect to arrive back at my office.

Noting “actual” appointments may seem pretty logical, but what about all of the other activities that fill your day? Whether we are talking about personal or professional tasks, it is best to allot a specific time for them to get accomplished. For some reason we tend to think that “everything will get done”. In reality, less than we think gets done because we don’t plan time a specific time to work on the project nor do we estimate the amount of time the job will take. Let’s take this article as an example. It doesn’t write itself. I actually mark a specific time in my calendar that says “write ezine”. But that isn’t all; I predict how much time it will take to compose. Remember the rule of thumb, estimate the amount of time and then double it. If you end up with extra time, great! But you will usually find that you are much closer to actuality when you double your guesstimate. Once you start doing this, you will probably notice that you have a very full calendar. Maybe you have more activities than hours (hence the reason many people don’t get enough sleep)! This actually leads us back to habit one about learning to say “no”.

If you don’t have a calendar, time to get one, I won’t discuss all the factors to be considered when choosing a calendaring system. Suffice it to say, you need one that works for you.

Practice, practice, practice! That is the only way that you will create these new habits that will give you more free time and more freedom to decide how to use your time the best. It’s a process. It takes work. In the end you will be able to cherish the gift of time more freely.

Author's Bio: 

Janice Russell. North Carolina’s first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice Russell, and her firm, Minding Your Matters® Organizing, have built a reputation for helping business and residential clients organize their space, items, documents, and time using the flexible structure principle™. Janice’s workshops on topics such as tackling the “no time” trap, perishing paper piles, and stopping stuff from being overwhelming are dynamic, informative, and practical. Minding Your Matters® is dedicated to helping people achieve organization with lasting results™ in their personal and professional lives. Janice is highly regarded within her industry. She is a Golden Circle Member of National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and past president of the North Carolina Chapter of NAPO. Janice is the author of the book Get Organized This Year! and the audio Stop Letting Stuff Overwhelm You. For more information, please visit or call 919-467-7058.