Life Plan Strategies for Busy People

to do list
Clearing your "to do list" is challen.

desifoto/Getty Images

Do you need a new life plan? Is your schedule packed, and your to-do list approaching a page or more in length? This level of busyness is becoming increasingly common. In fact, despite the wide assortment of time-saving devices now available, people are busier now than they were decades ago when we were less efficient with our time.

While many people say that they'd like to be less busy, it's often difficult to form a new life plan, know exactly how to pare down a schedule and which activities to cut out -- everything is important, right? Here are some concepts to keep in mind when deciding how to trim down your schedule.

Get in Touch With Your Values

This is a popular exercise that's widely used with life coaches because it's so effective: make a list of your core values, the top few things that are most important to you. (Many people say family, health, and things like that.) Then look at all the activities that fill your schedule. Consider removing any activity that's not in line with a core value.

Visualize the Life You Want

Here's another approach involving the law of attraction, which can also be highly effective.

Imagine the life that you want. Imagine it in detail, focusing more on your desires than on how hard you think it would be to realize them. Get a picture that's both realistic and exciting to you. Now, look at that list of activities again, eliminating things that don't add to that vision, and adding activities that do. The key here is to maintain the vision of the life you want and make decisions based on that.

List Your Trade-Offs

When saying, "yes" to new activities, people don't always stop to think about what they are saying "no" to as a result. Because of the limited number of hours in a day, each activity you choose to take on will eliminate a different choice. You can pare down your schedule by keeping this in mind.

With each activity you find yourself doing over the course of a week, ask yourself if there's something else that you'd rather be doing that would better serve you.

Would you get more out of working out than watching television? Would you rather be spending time with your kids than doing a favor for that ungrateful acquaintance? Stay conscious about your choices for a week, and you should find yourself knowing exactly what needs to change.

Consolidate Activities

While multi-tasking isn't as productive as once thought, there are some effective ways to combine or streamline activities without detracting too much from your goals. For example, while you can't talk on the phone and write an email at the same time without being less articulate at both tasks, it's easy to save time by talking on the phone while you clean.

The key to successful activity consolidation is to pair a thought-intensive activity with one that's more physical, or one that you can do on "auto-pilot". It's a good idea to bear in mind which activities require full attention and which require less mental concentration when finding two to combine.

Take Shortcuts

Is there a way you can cut corners without cutting quality? For example, can you use pre-cooked ingredients while making dinner, put your sprinklers on a timer, or streamline tasks at work? If you really make it a point to look for such shortcuts, you'll likely start seeing them everywhere.

Use Stress Management Strategies

When we're too stressed, we don't always think clearly; sometimes we feel trapped and overwhelmed. If your stress response is constantly triggered, you may operate from 'emergency mode', reacting to demands without really thinking instead of proactively seeking out simplified solutions. Also, chronic stress can impact your health and emotional wellness, creating even more problems. While you're working on creating a new life plan, it's important to include stress management techniques in the mix! You can start with these quick stress relief techniques, and add in some of these healthy lifestyle habits, too.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.