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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

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    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

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                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.

                      What is Psychotherapy? How It Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make) A Proven Way to Make Underperformers Do Much Better How To Choose The Right Alkaline Foods? Here’s What You Should Be Eating

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                      Last Updated on August 20, 2018

                      30 Fun Things To Do With Your Friends Without Spending Much

                      30 Fun Things To Do With Your Friends Without Spending Much

                      Spending time with friends is, in and of itself, a great way to pass the time without spending a lot of money. But if you and your friends are used to going out to clubs, pubs or eateries together as your way of hanging out, then you can change it up a bit and save some money too.

                      No matter where you live, there are plenty of places to go and do fun things that don’t cost a lot.

                      If you are having trouble convincing your friends to do things on the cheap, then be upfront with them. Tell them straight out that you can’t spend that kind of money right now — and don’t let them pay for you either. But here are some great alternatives you can offer.

                      30 Fun Things To Do With Friends Without Spending Much

                      1. A potluck dinner party. Host a dinner party and ask everyone to bring a dish to share. If you are not comfortable with cooking, maybe try and learn how to cook a new dish together with your friends.

                      2. Host a spa day. Give each other manicures. Try out new hairstyles. Make some facial masks or exfoliates using natural, at-home ingredients. Then drink mimosas.

                      3. Movie marathon. Log into Netflix and watch every episode of “Stranger Things” Or do an ’80s movie marathon, watching “Pretty in Pink,” “The Breakfast Club” and all of our old favorites. Don’t have a Netflix membership? Get the free trial just for the marathon!

                      4. Pinterest party! You know all of those cool Pinterest crafts you say you’re going to do? Do them. At home one night with friends. Then make up some of those bacon-wrapped whatevers you’ve been dying to try!

                      5. Go to the park. Pack a picnic. Hang out. Watch people. Play on the swings.

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                        6. Have an organization party. Set up a day of each weekend where you go to each of your friends’ houses and help them clean out a closet, a room, a garage, whatever. Serve drinks and food and trade stuff among yourselves.

                        7. Hold a yard sale. After all of that cleaning, why not hang out together and make some extra cash too?

                        8. Concerts in the park. All summer long, many parks host free concerts. Go with your friends. Hang out, bring a picnic dinner. This is a very relaxing way to chill out on a hot summer night after work.

                        9. Volunteer together. Offer to do the yard work for the local senior center or hang out with the kids at the YMCA. After a few hours of volunteering together, you will have new respect for each other and something new to chat about.

                        10. Play board games. Drag out the Scrabble or the Yahtzee. You can hang out and play all sorts of games with large groups or small ones. Hold a tournament and compete against each other. Here’re some board games ideas.

                        11. Video game tournament. Not into board games? OK. Well, how about a video game tournament? Whether it’s the latest dancing game or “Call of Duty,” play against each other and award prizes (or food) to the winners.

                        12. Grab a ball and a bat and go play baseball at the local park. Grab a basketball or a tennis racket. Most parks have courts and fields you can use for free as long as there isn’t an organized event going on.

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                        13. Go to the school play. This might cost a little for admission, but it’s a great way to support your community and have a fun time.

                        14. Iron Chef night. Bring your friends over and have an Iron Chef night where you cook dinner out of only the items in your pantry. No buying anything!

                        15. Go dumpster diving. Yup. I said it. Check out the dumpsters in your area and see what you can find. You might even find dinner! Here are some tips for respectful diving.

                          16. Go to yard sales. Take all that money you made at your yard sale and cruise around your town together looking for cool stuff. Maybe you could even fix something up and resell it.

                          17. Go fishing.

                          18. Go camping.

                          19. Find some cool trails around your town and go hiking. Here’re some of the best hiking trails you should try.

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                          20. Get out the bikes and bike everywhere for a weekend.

                            21. Dig out the old croquet set — or borrow your Mom’s — and play croquet. Do it! Totally fun.

                            22. Swap movies and music. Have everyone bring over a box of old movies and CDs they don’t want anymore — or don’t watch anymore. Then swap with abandon.

                            23. Go on a walking tour of your town. Most towns or cities have a historic district. Find out if there is a walking tour available. If not, make one up!

                            24. Scavenger hunt. Put your friends to the test — yes, this is for grown-ups — to find different things in your city…like a certain bike rack, a vintage sign, that sort of thing. The winner gets a dinner cooked by the losers.

                            25. Find out when the free days are at your local museum or zoo. Most have them and they can be great fun to visit with friends.

                            26. Hold a quilting bee. No, you don’t have to be fancy — or old — for this. Grab some old T-shirts that you love, old jeans, whatever. Cut them into squares and sew them together. Who knows? Maybe it will become a regular thing?

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                            27. Go to Open Mic night. Your town is likely harboring some great talent at an open mic night that has no cover and cheap drinks!

                            28. Go to a religious service. Even if you’re not religious, going to a service in an unfamiliar religion can be enlightening and a great way to meet new people.

                            29. Find a swimming hole. Head to the old town swimming hole — or find a new one. What a great way to spend a lazy afternoon with friends.

                              30. Start a book club, card club (canasta anyone?), sewing club or scrapbooking club. Something you and your friends like. My parents used to belong to a cooking club where once a month all of their friends gathered at one house and the host family cooked a meal from a different country. I learned a lot about food that year.

                              You don’t really need to spend much to have lots of fun with your friends! Pick a few of these ideas and start trying them out this weekend with your friends!

                              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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