Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, or dwell on how much more you could accomplish with just a little more time? What would you do with an extra hour in your day? Spend more quality time with the spouse or kids? Get an additional hour of sleep? Finally get the house clean? Get a little bit more work done? The point here is that we could all use an extra hour in our day, for one reason or another. Obviously, there are only 24 hours in a day, no matter how we look at it. But fortunately, there are some ways to steal back an hour of our time that is wasted elsewhere. Here are some ideas to try.
1. Monitor your time.
Monitoring your time helps you to become fully aware of how your time is being spent - whether it is being spent wisely or it is being wasted. For example, are you spending too much time checking your social media or email accounts? Are you spending too much time in front of the TV screen? Are you spending too much time walking around aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do next? You’re probably actually doing most of these things, and then some, a lot more than you even realize. A good way to audit your time is to use a timer and keep a time journal. Once you realize where most of your time is going, you can then begin to make changes and steal back AT LEAST an hour of your day.
2. Exercise regularly.
Biking and Hiking Club / Google
Although it sounds counter-productive since we’re supposed to be finding ways to save time and not spend even more of it, exercise is extremely important, for our health and for saving time alike. Research has shown that exercise increases problem-solving, creativity, cognitive function, and especially productivity. One study from NASA even showed that employees who exercised on a daily basis worked at 100% efficiency after 7 hours, while those who didn’t exercise saw a decrease of 50% over the course of those 7 hours. In other words, it took those who didn’t exercise twice as long to accomplish the same tasks. Therefore, exercise, in essence, saves and creates more time for us.
3. Stop trying to multitask.
Again, it may sound counter-intuitive, but multitasking actually tends to kill more time than it saves. This is mainly because every time you switch your attention to something else, it takes extra time to refocus and motivate yourself all over again. Although it usually only takes a few minutes to revamp, the time adds up quickly if you’re constantly switching back and forth between tasks. Instead, simply focus on one thing at a time with extreme intensity. Eventually, you’ll find that this actually saves a lot more time than multitasking.
4. Create a routine and stick with it.
Having a routine provides us with a sense of control over our day and allows us to put ourselves in autopilot mode after a while, which can be extremely effective and convenient. Being able to run on autopilot keeps us from worrying so much about the smaller details of the day and allows us to focus and spend more time on the important things. Creating and sticking to a routine is especially important for those individuals who work from home. Set strict work hours and do not work outside of these hours, just as you would if you worked outside of the home. Having these guidelines or boundaries for yourself will help to keep you productive and on track throughout the day, in all aspects of life. This will, in turn, help you to win back some of your lost time.
5. Schedule time blocks and work in short sprints
Whether at home or at the office, you can’t expect to work for 8 or 9 hours straight with no interruptions. You also can’t work at your fullest potential if you’re constantly being interrupted. So what’s the time-saving solution here? Block out short periods of time for yourself - usually only about 2 or 3 hours at a time - and just work uninterrupted and as thoroughly as possible for those few hours. When your designated time is up, or you’ve completed a specific task, take a short break, regather yourself, and then start your next block of time. Another tip in regards to time-blocking is figuring out when you are most productive and scheduling your work during these times. For example, if you’re most productive and full of energy early in the morning, make sure your first block of time starts during this time.
6. Don’t procrastinate.
If you’re someone who is a huge procrastinator, know that you are most definitely not alone. Many people who struggle with this use the “only touch once” rule. This means that you simply get things done the first time around, rather than procrastinating. Whether it’s doing the dishes or responding to an email, avoid putting things off until later. Wash your plate as soon as you’re done with it, instead of leaving it in the sink until later. Respond to that email as soon as you receive it, instead of planning to write back later. Resolving things at the time they arise, rather than saying “I’ll get back to that later,” frees up that “later” time for more constructive and productive work.
7. Get your priorities straight.
While setting your goals, getting your priorities in order, and planning your routine all take some time up front, it will most certainly save you time throughout the day. Figure out what’s really important, get rid of what’s not necessary, and delegate to others whenever possible. You should also create and use prioritized checklists of daily tasks and responsibilities. This will save you time in that you will be able to work more efficiently with a checklist right in front of you, and you will also spend much less time trying to remember what you were supposed to get done. By having your priorities in order and using a checklist to accomplish your tasks, you can be sure to save at least an hour of your day.
Don’t feel like you have to use each and every one of these methods. It’s completely normal for some of them to work wonders for some people and not-so-well for others. Read through them all, reread them if you have to, and then decide which one(s) would work best for you, your work style, and your lifestyle. If you find that that one actually isn’t for you, go back and choose another one. This isn’t supposed to be stressful whatsoever; it’s also not rocket science. It’s really just trial and error, and it’s supposed to help you to become more productive and steal back an hour of your day!