A Refreshing Approach to Making the Most of Your Time How To-Do Lists Increase Stress by Acting as Nagging Wish Lists . . .

One thousand four hundred forty.  That is the exact number of minutes each of us has each day.  What we do with those minutes, however, differs from one person to the next.  Some people spend time watching television.  Others read and conduct research.  Some spend their time surfing the Internet looking for the next funniest cat video. Others start meaningful projects.  No matter who you are or what position you hold in life, we are all in the same boat when it comes to time.  We all have 1,440 minutes in every day.  If you’re like me, you want to make the most of each and every one of them.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose 1,440 minutes to represent time.  Actually, the inspiration came from New York Times bestselling author, Kevin Kruse.  As Kruse (2015) states, “We routinely let people steal our time, even though it’s our most valuable possession.  The magic number that can change our life is 1440.”  I loved the concept and decided to write about it!

Kruse’s “1440 minutes” concept inspired me to look deeper into how to make the most of each and every minute of my day, and hopefully help others do the same.  Here are two key lessons that I’ve learned.

Ditch the To-do Lists

According to Kruse, keeping a to-do list rarely works. In fact, these lists can increase stress levels.  In reality, to-do lists are the equivalent of ongoing, nagging wish lists.  They are unrelenting, and when left incomplete at the end of the day, augment stress and frustration. To-do lists act as a catch-all for all the tedious errands you need to run, or trivial jobs that need doing around the house.  According to Kruse, the reason to-do lists don’t work is that they are not anchored within one’s day.  Put another way, items jotted down on a to-do list are not properly weighed in terms of their importance and the amount of time they will take.

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So, what’s the solution?  The answer is quite simple and very doable. Rather than using to-do lists, Kruse recommends diarizing all errands and tasks in a well-kept calendar.  Need time to go to the grocery store?  Block it off in your calendar.  Need to bring your dog to the vet for his shots?  Block it off in your calendar.  Want to meet your best friend for dinner?  Block off your date in your calendar.  Get the idea? This practice quickly becomes a routine and soon, you will see your calendar as an extension of who you are.  You won’t be able to leave home without it! There are various forms of calendars out there.  I prefer electronic calendars such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook since I tend to edit my calendar often.  These programs keep my information neat and organized.  If I want something on paper, I can always print out a page.  The fact that I can access my calendar on my iPhone, iPad, or computer is also a bonus since they all sync seamlessly.  However, there is nothing preventing you from going the traditional pencil-and-paper route and keeping a traditional paper calendar/planner.  The point here is to add ALL activities and errands into your calendar (whether it be electronic or paper).  By assigning tasks a specific date and time, you are committing yourself to completing them—and things get done!

Keep a Notebook

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A number of highly talented and productive individuals, such as English business magnate Richard Branson, have the habit of carrying with them a simple notebook.  Why is this such a powerful tool?  At any given moment during the day, you are always ready to take down valuable information, insights, quotes, or any other piece of inspirational information that can potentially have the power to enrich and change your life!  What’s more, daily note taking (or journaling) is a great way to document your life.  It also liberates your mind from all the white noise and reduces stress by unburdening you from having to remember every little detail of information that comes your way.

I remember waiting in line to see a Broadway show. My husband and I were talking with people behind us, a charming couple from Kansas City.  We started talking about leadership.  At one point in the conversation, the gentleman decided to share some great leadership resources.  Since I had my handy notebook with me, I took down his recommendations.  Later that day, I went back to my notebook and researched the books and podcasts he had recommended.  Today, those tools are in my resource library and I know that I can access them whenever I want.  If I hadn’t had my notebook with me to capture this information, I would’ve missed out on the opportunity to further my personal growth.

Key Takeaways

  • You only have 1,440 minutes in a day; make them count by guarding them ruthlessly.
  • Block off every activity in a well-kept calendar instead of using a to-do list.
  • Take a notebook with you everywhere you go to jot down important and inspirational information.  (As an aside, I like the Moleskine notebooks. They are classic, beautiful, and functional.  However, any notebook will do. Try out a few and see what best suits your needs.)

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