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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

                      Daniel Matthews, CPRP

                      Daniel Matthews is a Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner and freelance writer with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

                      How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Slowly Destroying Your Life 15 Killer Tips on How to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) 10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams 15 Telltale Signs of Narcissistic Behavior (And How to Deal With It) What is Psychotherapy? How It Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams

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                      Published on October 8, 2018

                      13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

                      13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

                      Are you having trouble sticking to a family budget? You aren’t alone.

                      Budgeting is difficult. Creating one is hard enough, but actually sticking to it is a whole other issue. Things come up. Desires and cravings happen. And the next thing you know, budgets break.

                      So how can you stick to a family budget? Here are 13 tips to make it easier.

                      1. Choose a major category each month to attack

                      As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” With that in mind, one approach to help you get into the habit of sticking to a budget is simply starting slow.

                      Spend too much on Starbucks runs, eat out too often, and have an out-of-this-world grocery bill? Choose one bad habit and attack.

                      By choosing one behavior to focus on, you’ll prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You’ll also experience small victories, which help you gain positive momentum. This momentum can then carry over into your overall budget.

                      2. Only make major purchases in the morning

                      If you’re making large purchases in the evening, there’s a good chance you’re doing so after a long day and you’re probably tired.

                      Why does this matter? Because our judgement tends to be off when tired – our willpower is compromised.

                      Instead, only make major purchasing decisions in the morning when you’re energized and refreshed. Your brain will be firing on all cylinders and your resolve will be high. You’re less likely to give in and settle at this point.

                      3. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

                      Have trouble with impulse buys at the grocery store? If so, there’s a good chance you’re going grocery shopping while hungry.

                      The problem here is that when you’re hungry, everything looks good. So you’re more likely to make split decisions on things that aren’t on your grocery list.

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                      Instead, make sure you eat prior to your grocery store trip. Then take your list, along with your full stomach, and go shopping. Notice how food doesn’t look quite so good when you’re not fighting cravings.

                      4. Read one-star reviews for products

                      Is there a product you just have to have (but maybe not really)? Check out the one-star reviews.

                      By reading all the horrible reviews, you may be able to basically trick yourself into deciding that the product isn’t worth your time and money.

                      Next thing you know, you didn’t make the purchase, you saved the money, and you feel good about the decision.

                      5. Never buy anything you put in an online shopping cart until the next day

                      If you are making a purchase online, it’s typically a two-step process. First, you click “Add to Cart” and then you go in to review your cart and pay.

                      The problem is that there not typically much reviewing during step two. It’s generally click pay and there you go. However, this is the perfect point to stop for reflection.

                      Once you add to your cart, your best bet is to step away until the next day. Let the item sit there and grow cold, so to speak.

                      This gives you a night to “sleep on it” and decide if you really want and need to spend that money. If you wake up the next day and still find the purchase viable, then perhaps it’s time to go for it.

                      6. Don’t save your credit card info on any site you shop on

                      One of the other pitfalls of shopping online is that fact that most sites ask you to save your credit card information.

                      While the sites will frame it as a method of convenience, the truth is they know you’ll spend more money in the long run if your credit card information is saved.

                      The “convenience” takes away one last decision-making point in the purchasing process. True, it’s a pain to get out your credit card and enter the information every time. But guess what? That’s the point. If that inconvenience helps you stay on budget, then it’s worth it. Which leads into the next tip.

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                      7. Tape an “impulse buy” reminder to your credit card

                      Credit cards make spending much easier than cash. When you spend cash, you can literally see your wallet emptying. A credit card comes out, then goes back in. No harm, no foul.

                      That’s why it’s a good idea to tape a reminder to your credit card. Customize a message that is something along the lines of “do you really need this?” or “does it fit the budget?”

                      That way when you pull out the card, you get one last reminder to help you question your decision and stick to your budget.

                      8. Only use gift cards to shop on Amazon

                      Amazon is probably the easiest place online to blow money. It’s just so easy to click and buy. However, one way you can slow the process down is buy only using gift cards. Here’s how it works.

                      If you plan on making a purchase on Amazon, go to the grocery store and purchase a pre-loaded Amazon gift card of the proper amount. There’s no convenience fee, so you literally pay for the money you’ll spend.

                      Now take that gift card home and load it to your Amazon account. There’s your money to spend.

                      Why does this help? It makes you have to purposely go to the score and purchase the card in order to purchase the item. That’s a pretty deliberate thing that takes some time, commitment, and thought.

                      This process will effectively kill the impulse buy.

                      9. Budget using cash and envelopes

                      As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot harder to spend cash than swipe a credit card. You can take this even farther by using only cash, and separating that cash by budget category.

                      Create an envelope for each category and stick the cash in there at the beginning of each month. When the envelope is empty, no more spending on that category, unless you borrow from another (be careful of that approach).

                      This can be pretty helpful for people that have a hard time following transactions in their checking account, or keeping a budgeting spreadsheet.

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                      The envelopes simplify the tracking process, leaving no room for error. Nothing hides from you because it’s tangible in the envelopes in front of you.

                      10. Join a like-minded group

                      Making the decision to stick to something like budgeting is difficult. It takes long-term commitment.

                      You’re going to feel weak sometimes. And sometimes you may fail. That said, support from others can help strengthen resolve.

                      Support can come from a spouse or a friend, but they won’t always have the exact same goal in mind. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a support group that’s likeminded.

                      No need to pay here, as there are tons of free communities that fit the bill online.

                      For example, reddit has multiple subreddits that deal with budgeting and frugal living. You can follow, subscribe, and get active in those communities.

                      This will open your eyes to new tips and strategies, keep your goal fresh on your mind, and help you realize there are others dealing with the same struggles and being successful.

                      11. Reward Yourself

                      When you set a budget, it’s usually with a large goal in mind. Maybe you want to be debt free, or perhaps you want to see $10,000 in your savings account.

                      Whatever the case, the end goal is great, but the end is often far away, making it hard to see the end of the tunnel.

                      With that in mind, it’s a good idea to set mini-goals along the way. This helps you still look at the big picture but have something that’s attainable in the short-term to help with momentum.

                      But don’t stop there – set rewards for yourself when you reach that small goal. Maybe it’s an extra meal out. Or a new pair of shoes.

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                      Whatever the case, this gives you something in the near future to look forward to, which can help with the fatigue that can result in pursuing long-term goals.

                      12. Take the Buddhist approach

                      You don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize some of the wisdom in the teachings. One of the tenets of the philosophy involves accepting that we can’t have everything we want. And that’s okay.

                      Sometimes you won’t feel good. Sometimes you’ll have cravings. You can’t deny them. But you can recognize them, accept them, and let them pass by. Then you move on.

                      Apply this to the times you want to do things that will break your budget. You’re going to have the desire to eat out when you shouldn’t. You might want to stay out and spend too much at happy hour with your work friends.

                      The feelings will come. Recognize them, accept them, but let them go.

                      13. Set up automatic drafts to savings

                      If you wait until you’ve spent all your budgeted money to deposit money into savings, guess what? You probably aren’t going to put any money into savings.

                      It’s too easy to see that as extra money and end up using it to treat yourself.

                      Instead, set up automatic savings withdrawals. That way, the money is marked and gone before you can even think about it. It becomes a non-issue. It’s no longer “extra.” It’s just savings.

                      Conclusion

                      Sticking to a budget can be difficult. No one is denying that.

                      However, if you can do a few things to set yourself up for success, and put some practices in place to curb impulse buys, then you can (and will!) be successful sticking to your family budget.

                      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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