There are 168 hours in a week. Are you getting the most out of that time or are you wasting it? If you’re working 60 plus hours per week — there’s still enough time for you to do what you enjoy. There’s also time to grow and become a better person. So, what’s holding you back?

How will you take control of your time and your life?

Personally, I think the sizable problem is that you let others take control of your time. Eventually, you start playing catch-up on your work and complain that you don’t even have five minutes to yourself. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s how you can finally take control of your time and life once and for all.

Set goals.

You’ve probably read more than your fair share of goal setting advice. Without clear goals, either at home or work, you don’t have direction and focus. You need both. Additionally, setting goals motivates you to take action, sustain momentum, and targets and objectives build character.

Goals help determine how you want to spend your time.

The problem is that there’s a tendency to create and make lists of unattainable goals. As a result, we feel overwhelmed and are less likely to follow through. So, how can you develop goals that will stick? Here’s where you can start:

  • Write down your goals. Make sure that your intentions are specific. Have a clear-cut definition of what this goal is; develop a game plan how to achieve your target.
  • Create a consistent routine. A routine varies from person to person. But, I have a morning routine that sets my day up for success — I always knock-out the most challenging task for the day first. My afternoons are spent on less important matters since I don’t have as much focus and energy.
  • Take one-step-at-a-time. Focusing on a large goal or even a massive step that is included in a major goal can make you lose focus. Break the object down into smaller tasks with manageable steps.
  • Find a balance between rewards and punishment. Take a moment and reward yourself when you reach a milestone, but, don’t ignore a failure to execute on a step. I don’t believe in setting up punishments — but one of the best ways to learn and grow is to acknowledge what happened. Take a close look at causations.

Find out where your time goes.

For a week or two track your time using a time log or time-tracking app like Toggl or RescueTime. The idea is to take note of everything you do throughout the day, such as your commute, phone calls with clients, deep-focus work, emails, social media, and walking the dog.

Individual Calendar Analytics

After analyzing this information, you’ll see where you’re wasting time. For example, if you notice that you spend two hours on social media, then you can start working on changing that behavior to regain some of your time.

Start your day with purpose.

There’s a lot of things we can’t control in life, but how you kick-off your day isn’t one of them.

I personally wake-up an hour before everyone else in my house. During this time, which is entirely under my control, I focus on activities that add value to my life. I write, read, reflect, exercise, meditate, and review my schedule for the day. Taking action to do these tasks may sound simple — but it takes commitment. This early morning routine puts me in the right attitude and mindset for the rest of the day.

One thing — Do Not — check your phone. As social psychologist Dr. Ron Friedman explains, if you spend the first 10 minutes of each morning checking and answering email, you’re priming your mind for a reactive state.

Pay yourself first.

One of the first rules of finance is to “pay yourself first.” Most of us budget our finances, but do we budget our time?

Think about how you usually spend your time. Do you wake-up and rush to work for someone else? Did you cut your gym time short because you’re doing a favor for your friend? Did you cancel your weekend trip with your friends or family because a client has an emergency?

If you have said, “yes” to any of these questions, you’re putting yourself and your goals last. Instead, embrace the “pay yourself first” philosophy to your life. The idea is that you need to put your priorities first before anyone else’s. If you’ve completed your preferences and priorities for the day, then you can accept requests for your time.

Schedule your distractions.

Whether you want to admit it or not, distractions are one of the main reasons we’re not as productive as we should be. Think about picking up your phone to check a text only to spend the next 30-minutes scrolling through your social media feeds, or helping someone. A time-suck is when a colleague asks if you have a minute — you help them — then spend the next 20-minutes talking about The Masked Singer. 

Schedule easily with friends

There are simple ways to reduce interruptions, such as turning off your phone, using apps to block distracting websites, and closing your office door. At the same time, distractions are inevitable. Instead of continually battling interferences all day, schedule specific times in your calendar to allow for little interruptions. If you are addicted to your socials, spend 10 or 15 minutes every hour or two checking your email and social media.

Not only does this “social” scheduling prevent minor inconveniences to build-up into more substantial distractions — sometimes taking a few moments out to check your notifications can actually be good for you. Our brains only have so much focus, and an occasional break can rest your mind for the next set of concentrated study.

If you keep intense pressure on one thing for too long you can get stuck in a rut called cognitive fixation — and it can hinder creativity and performance. Allowing yourself to get distracted now and then gives your mind a rest. After a short break, you can return to more critical tasks feeling re-energized and focused.

Reduce your commitments.

You’ve already tracked your time and know exactly where it’s being spent. Take a moment to review your time log and go over your calendar with your past appointments listed there. As you go through your old calendar appointments — ask yourself, “Is this activity actually important or is it unnecessary?” If the activity is not essential — remove it from your calendar.

In many cases, there may be more commitments that used to be necessary. For example, you may have joined a local business organization to network when you launched your business. However, as your business scales, you no longer have the time or need to attend these weekly meetups.

Break “default” habits.

There are a lot of bad habits that we do automatically. For instance, you may come home from work and plan on watching an episode of The Office to decompress. Next thing you know, you ’ve wasted two or three hours watching TV.

Rather than defaulting to these former bad habits — you can start being more selective with your time. Ideally, something productive will help you achieve your goals. Skip your nightly visit to the Dunder Mifflin and learn something new, exercise, or spend quality time with friends and family.

Focus on the present.

We all have what seems like a million things to do each day. Whether or not these activities are truly essential — your todos have a knack for preventing you from being fully present.

Let’s say that you’re reading an industry case study or conducting market research. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you remember that you have a conference call at 3 pm. Tomorrow you have a dentist appointment, and on Friday you have to go out of town for a business trip.

While all these things may be activities you don’t want to forget about — continually worrying about what you have to do next distracts you from completing what you need to do right now. One of the most effective ways to start controlling your thoughts is by using mindfulness and meditation. These memory helps will clear your head and encourage you to live in the moment.

Create your own schedule.

For those who are self-employed, making your own schedule shouldn’t be a problem. But, where exactly do you start?

Most individuals begin with the traditional nine-to-five workday — but consider creating a schedule around when you’re most productive. If you’re an early riser and ready to start work at 7 am, then that’s when you should start your day. If you’re exhausted by 3 pm that may be your closing time — or you can snag a little nap to refresh yourself. Having a schedule around your most productive hours will help you get more done — since you’re working during your peak hours.

If you work for someone else — many employers are willing to provide a flexible schedule, giving you an opportunity to work around some of your peak hours. As an added perk, creating your own schedule achieves work-life balance. If you have kids, for example, you could work while they’re at school and then spend the afternoon with them. Making and using this schedule gives you quality time with your family while eliminating childcare costs.

In whatever way you choose to model your life going forward; don’t just let your life fly-by on auto-pilot. Take control of your time and your life and have a purposeful existence.