Look at when you're usually late
iStock/monkeybusinessimagesIn order to change the behavior of constantly rushing, first you need to be mindful of when you are most likely to rush, says A.J. Marsden, PhD, a psychology professor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. Ask yourself: "Are you more likely to rush during your morning routine, during boring or routine tasks, or before your workouts? Knowing when you have a tendency to rush will help you pinpoint the reasons for your rushing." This will help you avoid creating emergencies for yourself, which leads us to her second suggestion.
Learn to say no
iStock/fotostormBe realistic about how long a project will take you and consider other obligations in your life. Before responding to other people's requests for your time and energy, take a minute to really consider if you have enough bandwidth to fulfill it. If you don't, it is okay to say no. "Taking on too much often causes us to rush through our work. If you're not comfortable saying 'no' to others, practice saying 'no' with a friend or colleague. Being able to say 'no' to others will help lighten your schedule," Dr. Marsden says.
iStock/fotostormLittle breaks, even just five minutes, throughout your day can help recharge your brain and even improve your productivity, according to a recent Cornell study. Giving your mind the opportunity to wander and process the events of the day in real time can also help you recalibrate if you've been getting off-track.
Don't pre-worry about being late
iStock/HalfpointDon't spend time focusing on the possible consequences of being late. Psychologist Jennifer Guttman, PhD, always tell clients to use the mantra I'm not late until I'm late. "People use so much mindshare getting anxious about the possibility of being late before they're even late," she says. "Focus that energy instead on making sure you are completely prepared for when you arrive." To help avoid being late in the first place, Dr. Guttman suggests setting your alarm in the morning 10 minutes earlier than you think you need to get up—because starting the day off rushed is a sure way to start off the whole day on the wrong foot." Plus, waking up early is one of the many habits of successful people.
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Mentally tell yourself to slow down
iStock/Andy-NowackThis may seem counterintuitive to people who are always in a hurry, but it may help you get more accomplished. "Often, people are rushing around working on tasks and not fully completing any of them. They're off to the races with the next task before the last one was completed," Dr. Guttman says. "As the day wears on, they become more hassled, feeling like they really can't cross anything off the list because nothing is technically fully completed."
Use a timer for everything
iStock/fstop123"If you tend to take too long in the shower, time it. Set a timer to remind you that it's time to leave the house to go to a meeting, or it's time to get off social media and get back to work," says Dr. Guttman. She suggests making a plan to work for a set number of hours and then put on a timer to go on social media as a means of self-reinforcement for another set amount of time. When the timer goes off, hold yourself accountable. Go back to work for another set amount of time, and self-reinforce again with social media for a job well done. "You will feel better for having gotten more accomplished and having held yourself to a higher standard, and most people feel proud for spending less time on social media each day," Dr. Guttman says.
Meditate on your tasks
iStock/OlgaorlyMike Dow, PsyD, a psychotherapist, author, and television personality in Los Angeles, knows that most of us would love an extra hour or two to hit a meditation or yoga class, but people who hurry tend to have very little "extra time." That's why he suggests mindfully meditating while you do everyday tasks—by simply tuning in to the present moment. "Pay attention to all of your five senses while you're engaged in an activity. Instead of eating while checking your email or worrying, just eat. When you shower, shower. Same goes for walking, washing dishes, or even making love," he says. Chances are, if you're focusing on what's in front of you, you'll feel calmer and more able to handle all of your other tasks—and you'll likely get them done faster if you don't stop and start or get distracted.
Do less at once
iStock/Rawpixel-LtdDr. Dow also suggests trading in multitasking for strategic "doing." "Hurriers think they're saving time while multitasking, and this may be true when you're doing two very simple things like stapling a stack of papers while you're watching TV, he says. But brain scans show that what you really do when you multitask is rapid single-tasking, and, in doing so, you lose time and efficiency by switching back and forth. "This is especially true when you are doing something more complex like working on a spreadsheet while having an important conversation with your significant other," he says. "Do one thing at a time, and you'll end up saving time. The more time you save, the less you need to hurry."
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Build in space between appointments
iStock/ChoreographTherapist Mallory Grimste says that when she first opened her therapy practice, she made the awful mistake of scheduling six clients back-to back, all in a row. "Thankfully my clients were kind and understanding when I needed to step out between appointments to use the bathroom or sneak a quick snack," she says. Her advice: Schedule time for bathroom, lunch, and reset breaks. "Just because you have space in your schedule, does not mean it needs to be filled with work, appointments, or other obligations." Also, feel free to book nothing on your calendar—an hour to literally do nothing.
Prioritize, and don't always schedule to the minute
iStock/xijianGrimste also suggests making a general plan for the day, rather than a tightly programmed schedule. "Obviously there are items that need to be scheduled at a certain time such as an appointment, however, having a general list of tasks makes it easier to follow and complete," she says. "I try to keep my main list to three MITs (Most Important Tasks) to complete that day; then if I complete those items I can move to the rest of my list which I often am able to do." Don't miss these effortless ways to be more productive.
Plan for the unknown
iStock/BraunSEven if you're running right on time, odds are good that other people aren't. If someone else is running late, that, in turn, will make you late, and that can make you crazy. (Learn the best ways to tame your anxiety.) There's always traffic to account for, public transportation that doesn't run on time, and longer lines at stores and pharmacies than you anticipate. Knowing you've got a cushion can really take the pressure off, so bring a small book or listen to a guided meditation on your phone in case you find yourself with some time to kill.