How to make the most out of your 9-5

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Recently, I heard a quote that said: “You have 8 hours in your day to sleep, 8 hours to work and 8 hours to do whatever else you want.’ It’s such a simple way to think about time, but it honestly blew my damn mind.

Of course, the exact breakdown is going to depend on your personal circumstances — a new parent is probably going to have far less than 8 hours to sleep, let alone work or do anything other than care their little human. Or, if you’re working on a huge project at work and are putting in crazy hours to meet a deadline, that time will likely be taken from either your sleep or recreation categories.

But I think it’s a great reminder to us all that ‘I don’t have time’ really isn’t a valid excuse to not be working towards our passions. Yes, we all have to sleep and work to pay the bills. But there’s a whole chunk in our day most of us still have left— I’m going to call this your 5 to 9. That is, your 5 am to 9 am, and your 5 pm (or, 5:30 pm for us here in Australia) to 9 pm.

How do you currently fill those white spaces in your day? For the majority of us, it’s sleeping in until the very last minute, watching Netflix and scrolling aimlessly on your phone. And of course, it’s totally fine to take time for these things! Self-care is important and sometimes, this means watching 10 back-to-back episodes of The Hills. But can you imagine how much you would achieve if you used even half of those free hours to commit to bettering yourself or working on your side hustle. You’d be on fire! That said, I know this can be easier said than done! Read on for 3 productivity tips for making the most of your 5 to 9.

1. Pick your 5 to thrive

I’m repurposing this concept from Rachel Hollis, who repurposed it from Tony Robbins (hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) Basically, these are the 5 daily habits that you need to be your happiest, healthiest and more productive self. For Rachel, these are staying hydrated, doing a morning routine, moving her body, practicing gratitude and eliminating one category of unhealthy food each month.

For you, this could be a mix of exercise, mindfulness, hobbies, self-development, socializing or anything else that makes you feel good. Pick your 5 non-negotiable activities and slot them into your 5-9 hours. Think about it — even if each one took you an hour, you would technically still have another 4 hours in your day for lounging around.

2.  Plan ahead

Okay, so it’s all well and good to pick out your feel-good activities. But a goal without a plan is just a wish! The second you feel tired or lazy or ‘too busy,’ it’s far too easy to revert back to your usual routine and flop down on the couch. So, schedule your 5 to thrive into your calendar just like you would any other appointment and set a reminder to make sure you actually do it! Streaks is a great app that can help keep you on track with your positive habits.

 3. Eliminate procrastination

One reason many of us feel we have less time in the day than we actually do is that we spend a lot of time thinking about what we’re going to do — rather than actually just doing it. By having a clear plan of how you’re going to spend your time, you can avoid some of this umming and ahhing. But unfortunately, that’s only half the battle. Procrastination happens to the best of us and it can strike for a multitude of reasons.

This article first appeared on A Girl in Progress.