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10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half

10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half
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One of the biggest things people in our incredibly busy and fast paced lifestyles today yearn for is free time. Whether it’s to spend time with family, friends, or by ourselves, we all need more hours in the day. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave work early every day and have more time for yourself without having to sacrifice your pay or productivity? Ah, to have more time to enjoy your life!

If you’d like to know how you can optimize your work life, put in fewer hours a week and still be productive at work, we’ve got a few tips for you. Here are quick and easy techniques that together can cut your working hours in half, affording you more time to do the things you love.

Remember, being productive and efficient is really more about working smarter, rather than working harder.

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1. Plan your day the night before.

Every night before you go to sleep, create a to-do list for the next day. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A list of three to five core objectives that you intend to accomplish the next day will do. Focus on what’s necessary and what will push you to meet your objectives. This way you won’t have to spend hours trying to figure out what’s important and what you need to do next. As Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advocates, spend 20 percent of your time plotting the things that will bring in 80 percent of the results.

2. Keep your workstation neat and organized.

This should go without saying. You need to keep your workstation neat and organized to ensure you operate more smoothly. Organization creates more time in your day and plays an important role in how much you accomplish. Spend time arranging your desk in a way that you can easily access what you need fast. Get rid of stuff you don’t use and keep only those items that you need and use often. Even if you have to invest a few hours in getting organized, do it. It will pay off in a big way.

3. Come a little early to work.

The early morning hours when it’s nice and quiet is a good time for productivity. Many people say they can leave two hours early if they add an hour at the beginning of the day. Arrive at work early and you will reap similar benefits. Besides, do you really need eight hours of sleep per night? Train your body to only sleep six hours a night so you can wake early before 6 a.m daily and prepare for work. You’ll create more time in your day.

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4. Work your best hours.

Just because early morning is a great time for productivity doesn’t mean it’s the only time. Figure out your most productive time of day and milk it. If you’re most productive 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., work then. If you hit your peak in the afternoon when most people are shrugging off, work then. Don’t feel constrained to work the traditional early bird schedule. Work your best hours to safeguard your productivity. It doesn’t make sense to work when you’re the least productive just because others work best then.

5. Stick to your day’s to-do list.

Many people create wonderful daily to-do lists, but don’t actually follow through and stick to them. Don’t be one of those people. Create your daily to-do list and follow it. Efficiency says to start with the most important or most challenging project of the day first so you can tackle it when you’re the most productive. Make it urgent and get it out of the way then move on to the smaller, less challenging and more pleasant tasks.

6. Focus intently on tasks.

A study examining the practice habits of musicians discovered that a violinist who practices intensely for four focused hours gets more done than those who practice for seven hours but less intently. This finding typifies most other endeavors in life, including work habits. Focus more intently on the hours you put in at work and you’ll be likely to need to put in fewer of those hours. Value your “focus time” at work and be frugal with that resource.

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7. Stop multitasking.

Focusing on tasks intently means no multitasking. When you multitask and try to do 10 things at once, you destroy your productivity and end up doing none of them well. The human brain is not designed for multitasking. Multitasking hinders the brain from processing and retaining information as it should. Often you’ll have to go back and reread or redo something just to complete it well. This wastes time and slows you down. Do one task at a time and stay present. You’ll do it better and much faster this way.

8. Limit interruptions.

Every interruption, however brief, means you have to spend time regaining focus. That is lost time that you won’t recover. Limit your accessibility when working and stop checking your phone every five minutes and your email every 10 minutes. Let people know you are not to be disturbed during your “focus time” at work. You can give them a schedule of “open-door office hours” when you are available to engage with others and respond to issues. This way you’ll protect your focus and avoid distractions.

9. Respond to e-mails in batches instead of immediately as they came in.

E-mail is a big time suck in the office. It can take you hours to compose and answer all the messages in your inbox. Cut the hours you spend a day on e-mails and also prevent e-mail distractions by lumping the messages and answering them in batches instead of immediately as they come. For instance, read and compose e-mails on three set times in the day, such as 11 a.m, 3 p.m and 10 p.m. You’ll notice it will take you significantly less time to clear out you inbox and send all necessary e-mail.

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10. Track your time and repeat what works.

Productivity and efficiency is a matter of experimentation. What will work for you might not work for another person. Therefore, it is necessary that you track your time and know not only how you are spending your time, but also which techniques are helping you save time. When you find something that works, repeat and strive to improve it. In the same breath, review and change what doesn’t work. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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