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Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I could make that from scratch if only I had more time. So, instead, I’ll just pay a couple more dollars and get it ready to go?” Perhaps you find yourself saying, “There’s not enough time in the day for me to work on an extra source of income,” or one of a million other excuses behind why you don’t have time to do something.
If these questions resonate with you, you’re not alone. Very few people are truly efficient in using their time. I myself am constantly striving to improve myself in this department. Part of this journey for me has been researching just how I can make the most out of every minute. It’s not always easy, and the changes take time, but I’ve been trying to put most of these tips into action. Even in the last week and a half of incorporating these changes, I’ve seen a vast improvement in what I can actually get done in a day.
There are 1440 minutes in every day.
That’s a pretty big number if you think about it. On average, 510 minutes (or 8.5 hours) are spent sleeping or lying in bed trying to sleep. The average person works 456 minutes (7.6 hours) a day. That still leaves you with eight hours of time to fill, so what are you doing with it?
Well, here’s how most people are wasting their time;
- The average American spends 65 minutes a day on social media.
- The average American spends 186 minutes (just over three hours) watching TV. (If you’re over the age of 75, chances are you’re spending over five hours in front of the TV.)
- With 3/4 of Americans playing video games these days, the average time spent playing is 141 minutes a day (about 2.3 hours).
- People spend on average 218 minutes (that’s over 3.5 hours!) procrastinating.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to do things we enjoy. It’s how we take part in self-care, something I am an extremely big supporter of. The problem comes from the fact that most of us are spending over six hours a day doing things that don’t benefit us at all. While you’re watching TV, is it something motivational or educational, or is it just another episode of your favorite crime drama?
I’m not saying don’t watch TV, don’t go on social media, and don’t play video games. What I am saying is to pay attention to how much time you’re doing it. Maybe spend four hours instead of six. Try and get it down to one or two if you can. Trust me, it makes a difference!
What is the Most Important Thing (MIT) to you?
What is the most important thing to you? Is it turning that hobby of writing into a career? Is it working on your side hustle, trying to grow it so you can work for yourself one day and find financial freedom? Is it a healthier life? Is it a happier life? What matters to you? It’s a very personal question and something that most of us don’t really think about.
The reason I ask is that the first two hours you are awake are your most productive hours. They’re the hours where you have the most focus and motivation. So, when you wake up, try to focus on that MIT. Even if you have a crazy hectic schedule with partners and children. Even if you can only take 30 minutes for yourself, even if it means waking up extra early. Put in that time and effort into what you truly care about.
What are some of the things that will help you to use your time more effectively? Here are a few tips to consider…
Work from a calendar, not a to-do list.
This is something I’ve been doing for only a week or so, but I’ve seen a big impact on how much I’m actually getting done. Many people write to-do lists. However, a large chunk of what’s on it never actually gets done. In fact, studies show that a whopping 41% of items that get put on a to-do list are never completed. I know I’m guilty of it. I like to think of it as the graveyard for things I want to do but never complete.
If it’s something that’s important, write it down. While 41% of things on a to-do list don’t get done, odds are, you’re still more likely to do something (especially achieve a goal) if you write it down. Furthermore, if you set a time to do things, such as walk the dog at 8 am, and go to that board meeting at 10 am, you’re more likely to do them. It’s like appointments you’ve set for yourself.
Beat your future self.
I always think I will have more energy later. That it won’t be an issue to wash my dishes in the morning, or that that new routine of going for a run with the dog at 6 am every morning will be easy. I’m determined when I go to bed, but when I wake up? Not so much. While ideals are great, it’s sometimes human nature to be lazy and procrastinate. (Just ask my dog). So, sometimes, you need to beat your future self, or a term I like to use, snowplow your excuses out of the way.
The term snowplowing is actually something I’d learned in a course I took for working with kids with FASD. Basically, what it means is to push all the obstacles (or as many as possible) out of the way before they become an issue. Take my 6 am running routine as an example. Excuses I could (and have) used are things like, I don’t know where any matching socks are. I don’t know what top I want to wear, I left my running shoes in my car, literally, they can be endless. But, when you’re lying comfy and cozy in bed, why would you want to get up and go run?
Now here are the ways you can snowplow. Set your outfit out the night before (or some people will even sleep in their running clothes), and have a water bottle ready to go at the door. Put your alarm across the room. Somewhere where you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off (because by that point, that’s half the effort.)
You really just have to be honest with yourself and beat your future lazy self by overcoming each obstacle before you hit it comes up.
There will ALWAYS be more to do.
The hardest thing for many people to wrap their heads around is that, no matter how much you work on something, there will almost always be more to do. Working on a blog? There are always more articles or stories to write about. Gardening? There will always be weeds to pull. A project for work? Cleaning your house? No matter what you’re doing, there will always be more you can do. And honestly, it can feel very defeating.
The thing is, after working on something for too long, you start to feel tired, drained, discouraged, or you’re just not seeing the same results as when you started. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, we’re not superheroes or robots, and I think it’s something more people need to recognize.
Often, the best thing we can do for ourselves is set up boundaries. If we have a huge task, that will say, take 15 hours to complete, sure we could probably do it in one day, but what will the finished product look like, and how will you feel after? You’re much better off saying, “I will work for 8 hours today and finish the rest tomorrow.” A lot of people, myself included, need to learn to take breaks as needed instead of pushing through as we expect of ourselves. Like I said, no matter how much you do today, there will be more to do tomorrow.
Always carry a notebook.
This is something I only started doing over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve already noticed a difference. Do you ever find yourself thinking of an amazing idea, only to forget it a few hours later?
- This can be for notes, ideas, quotes, etc.
- Our minds are made for ideas, not keeping track of things.
- When we work on writing down, instead of trying to remember, it better frees our minds for new ideas.
Control your inbox.
- Your inbox often gets your attention.
- Shut off notifications – do it when you want to do it, not when someone wants you.
- Be intentional about your messages.
- SHUT OFF YOUR NOTIFICATIONS.
Attend meetings as a last resort.
- Say no more often
- I.e., say no to long meetings.
Say no to EVERYTHING that doesn’t support your immediate goals.
- Value your time, value yourself.
- When you say “yes” to someone else, you’re saying “no” to yourself, your dreams, your goals, etc.
Follow the powerful Pareto Principle.
- This is the Schedule 80/20 rule.
- 80% of results come from 20% of activity
- Don’t just work, be productive.
Focus on your unique strengths and passion.
- Delegate what you can
- Focus on what you want to get where you want.
Batch your work with recurring themes.
- Do one type of work at a time.
- Schedule Focus Days (the important, money-making tasks), Buffer days (catch up on less important, scheduling, emails, phone calls, etc.), and Free days (rest and recharge days.).
If you can do a task in less than five minutes, do it immediately.
- Touch things once. Get your bills? Pay them at once, or set a time to process.
- Get junk mail? Delete immediately. Don’t open it until you are ready to deal with it.
- TOUCH ONCE.
Routinely use early mornings to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit.
- What you do in your first hour or half-hour sets the tone for the day.
- Invest in yourself before anything else, motivational content, workouts, meditate, etc.
Productivity is about energy and focus, not time.
- Take care of your body.
- Most productive people take more breaks.
- Sprint, rest, sprint, rest, etc.
- A single task, complete focused attention, then break/refresh, then onto next
- Like writing sprints. Go all out.
- Where is my working sweet spot?
These are just a few of the many tips you can utilize to make the most of the time you have.
There are undoubtedly going to be more things you can do to be efficient with your time so that you can meet your MIT. Have you used any of the above tips? Are there other tips you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.
3 thoughts on “14 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Improve Your Time Management”
Thoughts on the advice to work from a calendar instead of a to-do list
A calendar works for the few things I do that are possible to estimate how long they’ll take in advance, and that are not likely to be interrupted … or rescheduled by TPTB (the powers that be). A lot of my projects are exploratory or “researchy” in nature and highly impossible to guesstimate how long (if ever) they might take to complete. The military used to hand out very practical notebooks of a width to fit in one’s uniform back pocket. Even those could be used for progress notes on things of indeterminate length.
One of the things I find to be very irritating are marketing videos on topics of great interest to me … but that do not disclose how long they will last … and especially that lack a pause button so I can take surprise (but significant) phone calls. Such arrogance and inconsideration leaves zero room for important interruptions … let alone use of a calendar for scheduling.
Another unforeseeably long item is committing to help a friend on a project where the parts, facts, how-to details, technical understanding or even changing goals are only disclosed (if ever) on the fly. A calender might help after the fact to record how long things took, but is likely to be useless for advance scheduling.
An invention or repair project is another where guessing its time length is pretty much impossible.
I gave up on TV quite a few years ago as the quality seemed to deteriorate. I have zero interest in social media which Edward Snowden has accurately, I think, deemed to be mass surveillance systems. Once I was a serious chess player but that’s old history now and video games today seem like useless time wasters. Long ago I was even a reasonably good piano competitor who was chosen to represent my school in district competition. Unknown to me I was picked instead of my piano teacher’s son. In a small town that ended my piano lessons. That lent credibility to the old saying about no good deed goes unpunished.
So I think there is a useful place for to-do lists — including some of the items that don’t get finished. Times, priorities, goals, resources and such all have a way of changing sometimes in ways that often don’t fit a calendar’s constraints. And then even calendar events sometimes go belly up. Last week after a lengthy conversation with one of my VA doctors, he asked that I stick close to the phone three days later between 8am and noon for his call and further discussion. So I put that on my calendar and did as he asked. He was a complete no-show. What I thought about that was absolutely not fit to print on my calendar.
I am a voracious reader but I don’t have the luxury of time to just curl up with a book and read it. Instead I turned to audio books, magazines, and podcasts. I invested in a good pair of ear buds and I’m able to multitask like crazy. By the end of the week, I’ve completed at least one book and I’m up to date on current events. My free time at home is sacred to me, so I schedule my personal phone calls during my daily commute as well as during my lunch hours. That way when I arrive home, it’s all free time that’s not interrupted. I don’t watch TV except for a live streamed news show that I listen to while preparing dinner and watch Tucker Carson and The Five the next morning on my phone while getting ready for work. When I prepare a meal, I double it so I have leftovers the next day. Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve learned the art of saying “No.” I say I’m sorry but that won’t work for me. That way, the other person can’t come back and tell me why my excuse won’t work. That’s a real time saver!
As a night person, the first two hours I am awake are when I am the least productive and focused. That’s also when I make the most mistakes and am the least efficient. There was some good advice here, but I would love to see the “night person” version of this article, I would get a lot more out of it 🙂