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10 Ways to Put Time to Work for You

10 Ways to Put Time to Work for You

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” -Jim Rohn

If you’re looking for a walking (well . . . ticking) contradiction, time fits the bill. It’s our most precious resource—and our biggest nemesis. It’s impossible to get rid of it, but there’s never enough of it. You can’t save it up, speed it up, or slow it down. So what can you do with it? Make the most of it.

Check out these 10 tips for making time work for you.

1. Strategize It

strat

    You probably already sense that you get more done at certain times of day. Some people naturally feel their best and brightest in the morning, while others are just beginning to get their groove on around midnight. Put time to work for you by making a concerted effort to learn when you work most productively,then get deliberate about scheduling your most important to-do’s done during that time.

    How will you know when you’ve found your peak productivity hours? Daniel Gold, author of  Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, says you’ll know you’ve hit peak productivity hours when you’re able to work on a given task for about 90 minutes without getting distracted.

    And how do you figure that out?

    2. Track It

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      Take guesswork out of the ways you’re using your time and when you’re operating at peak capacity, by tracking it. “Patterns will show themselves if you start tracking [your time],” Gold says. What’s the best way? A tool that doesn’t use any more of your precious minutes recording tasks, adding up minutes and noting breaks.

      Mobile time tracking is an effortless way to get an easy, accurate picture of where your minutes, hours and breaks are going. TSheets Time Tracking (the top-rated mobile time tracking app on Apps.com) offers a free version for freelancers and a paid version for business (with a 14-day free trial).

      Once you have the app, all that’s left is to enter your job codes (these can be anything from “grant writing” to “lawn mowing” ), then track and switch tasks with one click from any mobile device or on the desktop. Not only will you get a more accurate view of where your minutes and hours are going (and when your peak patterns are), but you’ll have more accurate billing hours for your clients.

      3. Prioritize It

      prioritize

        It might seem like a no-brainer, but one of the best ways you can make time work for you is to prioritize it. It’s easy to get bogged down by urgent, not-important tasks. Evaluating each task based on this quadrant formula from Steven Covey can help you keep a focus on the not-urgent, important tasks that so often get pushed off your plate and give you a sense of “always running, never getting anywhere” when it comes to the really important things.

        It can also be psychologically tempting to leave the big stuff until the end, telling yourself that if you can just get all those pesky “wildfires” out of the way, you’ll be able to focus on the important things. However, it’s more likely that the Quadrant III tasks will continue to pop up, while the Quadrant II tasks are left undone.

        According to psychologist Amy Morin in Psychology Today, we also procrastinate our most important to-do’s while taking the time to put out less important brushfires because, “When we categorize a deadline as being in the present, we’re likely to start working on the goal. When we decide something falls into the future category, we file it in our “someday” archives, making it easy for those goals to be neglected.”

        How to overcome the focus on urgent and non-important goals? Take a look at your non-urgent, important tasks and add a “now” component to them, so you get the ball rolling. Morin says, “Even if your goal is something that will take a long time to reach … you’re more likely to take action if you have time limits in the present. Create target dates to reach your objectives. Find something you can do this week to begin taking some type of action now.”

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        4. Focus It

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          While it’s important to look at the big picture so you know where you’re going and what your overall goals are, doing so constantly without honing in on the specifics that will get you there can leave you feeling unfocused and overwhelmed. Read: not maximizing your time. Choose just a few things per hour to accomplish, then keep your focus on them.

          The time window and number of tasks will depend on what you want to accomplish and how you break down your tasks. However, keep in mind that the key to making this tip effective is to choose bite-sized tasks (or break larger tasks into bite-sized tasks first). Instead of saying “I will contact everyone on my client list today about our new promotion,” decide you’ll contact three clients in the next half an hour, accomplish your task, and repeat.

          The buzz from setting out to accomplish–and then accomplishing these tasks is no small reward, which will keep you motivated to continue onward. As author David Nowell states in Psychology Today, “It’s a great feeling, when your head is full of 50 things you could be doing right now, to know [you’re] in exactly the right place and doing exactly the right thing right now.”

          For more tips on focus, check out this article about how successful people plan their time!

          5. Time It

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            What should you do with those bite-sized tasks you’ve set out to accomplish in a given amount of time? Make yourself accountable and stay on task by using a timer. Any stopwatch (or stopwatch app) will do, but if you’re looking for the real deal you’ll want to get yourself a little tomato-shaped timer. Why? Keep reading.

            Pomodoro means “tomato” in italian. And the Pomodoro time management principles are, as Pomodoro itself says, “at once deceptively simple to learn and life-changing to use.” It pretty much hinges on using a timer system to keep yourself on track with those segmented tasks you’ve made for yourself, with an immediate reminder that there is a NOW deadline associated with them (in the form of a timer).

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            It works by setting your tiny tomato timer to 25 minutes, then working on a given task without interruptions until the timer goes off. Then taking a 5-minute break and repeat the process. After every four pomodoros, take a longer break.

            6. Stop It

            stop

              The human brain can only survive for about 11 days without sleep, and yet, sleep tends to be one of those things we push to the backburner in effort to make more time in the day. We work later, wake up earlier, and tell ourselves “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But recent studies show that sacrificing sleep could ensure that day comes much sooner than you think. And even if your death isn’t on the line, the death of your productivity certainly is.

              According to Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, a sleep-deprived mind lacks focus and drive to stay on task. It’s simple: When your brain is tired and your mind is foggy, the less productive you become. Likewise, the Journal of Sleep Research claims that people tend to make smarter calls and wiser decisions after they’ve had a good night’s sleep. That’s because your brain uses your REM cycle to remove toxic proteins from its neurons–a process that can only be completed while you’re asleep. Cut that process short, or skip it entirely, and those proteins will wreak havoc on your ability to think.

              High performance coach, Cheryl Hunter, suggests changing the way you think about sleep by setting a self-imposed bedtime. This gives your mind something to aim towards and encourages you to go to bed at the same time each night–which enables you to fall asleep faster. Allowing yourself to succumb to a healthy amount of shut eye (around eight hours a night) not only increases your productivity, but all that clear thinking is guaranteed to free up some extra time.

              7. Enjoy It

              enjoy

                The less you enjoy something, the more time it takes to complete. Case in point: Think of the last time you took a bite of food you didn’t like. Chances are you probably spent a lot of time pushing that food around on your plate, and an even longer time chewing it. Now think of the last time you had to do something you didn’t enjoy. You probably procrastinated, and the task took way longer than it had to.

                However, if you can inject a little enjoyment into everything you do, the job will get done much faster.

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                Do this by turning your focus to increasing the quality of the task at hand. Whether you’re cleaning the bathroom, or working on a big project at work, focusing more on doing a great job (and less on scrubbing the toilet) turns the task into a form of art. You’ll feel motivated, productive, and much happier to do it.

                8. Refocus It

                refocus

                  The average person receives more than 85 emails per day–combine that with nearly 100 texts, Facebook notifications, and instant messages, and it’s no surprise that many people have a hard time focusing. And if you’re one of them, check out these helpful apps and websites that are guaranteed to eliminate distractions and allow you to focus on the task at hand.

                  • Self-Control: This OS X application allows you to block access to certain mail servers and websites for a predetermined amount of time. So if you’re feeling distracted by your Twitter feed, you can prevent yourself from viewing the twitter page for however long you need. But here’s the caveat: If you decide you want back in, you have to wait for the timer to run out. No amount of restarting your computer, or even deleting the app can lift the block. PC users can download Freedom, a similar app.
                  • Think: It can be hard to focus on one thing at a time when you’ve got more than a handful of windows cluttering your computer screen. Think allows you to focus on one application or page at a time by “hiding” everything else under a nearly opaque backdrop. Think is currently for Mac users only, but PC users can enjoy a similar environment through Isolator.
                  • StayFocused: While many apps and websites offer to block access for certain periods of time, StayFocused, a Google Chrome extension, increases productivity by simply limiting your access. Only want to spend 30 minutes checking email? StayFocused will kick you out when your time is up and you won’t have access to those time-sucking sites for the rest of the day.

                  9. Fuel It

                  fuel

                    You know what they say, “you are what you eat.” So if you want to be more productive, you gotta stock up on snacks that increase productivity! Some foods are more obvious than others (we all know that bananas can give you that extra boost you need each morning, and green tea helps you focus), but there are a few superfoods you might not recognize.

                    • Eggplants help improve communication between brain cells and messenger molecules–which keeps your brain sharp! But you’ll only reap maximum benefits if you also eat the skin.
                    • Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that improve your focus and concentration, and milk chocolate is proven to boost your memory.
                    • Sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins and can increase your mental processing power. They’re also shown to increase your mood–but that’s a happy side-effect.
                    • Carrots don’t really help you see in the dark, but they are a great way to fuel your brain at a steady pace all day long–allowing you to focus on important tasks at hand!

                    10. Maximize It

                    max

                      A recent study from MIT determined that the average American spends nearly two full years of their life standing in line. From standing in line at the grocery store to standing in line for your favorite ride at an amusement park–that’s a lot of wasted time. Yet another study conducted by Vitals.com found that patients can expect to spend 21 minutes in the waiting room each time they visit their doctor or dentist. And while it can oftentimes feel like an eternity, that time adds up to wasted hours each year.

                      Maximize that time by catching up on your email, brainstorming your next big project, or jotting down a few notes that will enable you to get a head start later. Making the most of every spare second can free up veritable hours of your day.

                      Featured photo credit: pexels via pexels.com

                      More by this author

                      Dan Matthews, CPRP

                      A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

                      Why Happiness is a Choice (And a Smart One to Make) 15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything How to Identify Your Limiting Beliefs and Get Over Them 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) How to Start a New Life Without Sacrificing Everything You Have

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                      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                      How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

                      How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

                      We all like to dream about being financially wealthy. For most people though, it remains a dream and nothing more. Why is that?

                      It’s because most people don’t set their mind to achieving that goal. They might not be happy in their current situation but they’re comfortable – and comfort is one of the biggest enemies of growth.

                      How do you go about developing that millionaire mindset? By following these simple steps:

                      1. Focus On What You Want – And Take It!

                      So many people are too timid to admit they want something and go for it. When there is something that you want to accomplish don’t think “I could never actually do that”, think “I could do that and I WILL do that”.

                      Millionaires play to win, not to avoid defeat.

                      This doesn’t mean to have to become a selfish jerk. What it means is becoming more assertive and honest with yourself. You don’t have to grab off other people. There is a big pot of unclaimed gold in the middle of the table — why shouldn’t you be the one to claim it? You deserve it!

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                      2. Become Goal-Orientated

                      It’s almost impossible to achieve anything if you don’t set firm goals. Only lottery winners become millionaires overnight. By setting yourself attainable goals, you will get there eventually. Don’t try to get rich quickly — get rich slowly.

                      Let’s take the idea of making your first million dollars and expand on what kind of goals you might set to get there. Let’s also say you’re starting at a break-even position – you’re making enough to get by with a few luxuries, but nothing more.

                      Your goal for the first year can be having $10,000 in the bank within a year. It won’t be easy but it is doable. Next, you need to figure out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

                      Always look at ways to make growth before cutbacks. With that in mind, you might want to see if you can negotiate a pay rise with your boss, or if there’s another job out there that will pay better. You might be comfortable in your old job but remember, comfort stunts growth.

                      You may also have other skills outside of your workplace that you can monetize to boost your bank balance. Maybe you can design websites for people, at a fee of course, or make alterations to clothes.

                      If this is still not enough to make the money you need to save $10,000 in a year, then it’s time to look at cutbacks. Do you have a bunch of old junk that someone else might love? Sell it! Do you really need to spend $10 on your lunch everyday when you could make your own for a fraction of the cost?

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                      If you are to become a millionaire, you need to start accumulating money.

                      Here’re some tips to help you: How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

                      3. Don’t Spend Your Money – Invest It

                      The reason you need to accumulate money is for step three. Millionaires tend to be frugal people, and that’s because they know the true value of money is in investing. Being your own boss goes hand-in-hand with becoming a millionaire. You’ll want to quit your regular job at some point.

                      Stop working for your money and make your money work for you.

                      Rather than buying yourself a new iPad, that $500 could be used to invest in the stock market. Find the right shares (more on that later), and that money could easily double within a year.

                      There’s not just the stock market — there’s also property, and your own education.

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                      4. Never Stop Learning

                      The best thing you can invest in is yourself.

                      Once most people leave the education system, they think their learning days are over. Well theirs might be, but yours shouldn’t be. Successful people continually learn and adapt.

                      Billionaire Warren Buffet estimates that he read at least 100 books on investing before he turned twenty. Most people never read another book after they’ve left school. Who would you rather be?

                      Learn everything you can about how economics works, how the stocks markets work, how they trend.

                      Learn new skills. If you have an interest in it, learn everything you can about it. You’d be surprised at how often, seemingly useless skills, can become extremely useful in the right situation.

                      Start developing the habit of learning continuously: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

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                      5. Think Big

                      While I advise to start off with small goals, you absolutely should have a big goal in mind. If you have a business idea, then that is your ultimate goal – to start that business and make a success of it. If you want to invest your way to millions of dollars and do little work other than research, then that is your big goal.

                      There is no shame in not achieving a big goal. If you run a business and aim to make $1 million profit in a year and “only” make $200,000, then you’re still significantly ahead of most people.

                      Aim for the stars, if you fail you’ll still be over the moon.

                      6. Enjoy the Attention

                      To be successful, you have to be willing to promote yourself and enjoy the attention to a certain extent. Now the attention doesn’t need to be on yourself, it could be on your brand, but attention definitely attracts money.

                      Never be embarrassed to get your name out there. That means finding a spotlight and being brave enough to step right up underneath it.

                      If you run a business, try contacting the local papers. You’d be surprised at how amenable they often are to running a story about you and your business, and it’s all free publicity.

                      Above all, remember: You control your own destiny. Push hard enough for anything and you’ll get it.

                      More About Thinking Smart

                      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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