“There just isn’t enough hours in the day.”
“I can’t remember the last time I had quiet time to myself.”
“I would love to but I am afraid I am too busy.”
“I am sorry I am late (again).”
Be honest here. Hands up if these are the kind of comments you say on a regular basis… and I don’t just mean one a week or month, but pretty much every day.
I’m fully aware that the physics of time have not changed. There are 24 hours in a day, exactly the same as there was 1,000 years ago I know, but it just feels like time is more squeezed now, and that our days seem more busy. Our days can feel so busy to the point that sometimes we feel exhausted, worn out and rushed by the end of it. Some of you might even feel that you’ve failed at having a productive day or ticked anything off from your ever-growing to-do list.
But I am going to let you in on my secret… you CAN get more time in your day. Not physical minutes but space in your day to do more if you follow these 7 ridiculously simple ways to gain more time in your busy day.
Follow them well and you might even have time for yourself, whether that’s a long soak in the bath, picking up the guitar you promised yourself you’d start to learn or simply coming home at a sensible hour that allows you to cook a meal from scratch.
Secret time tip 1: Keep a log
In order to work out where you are spending your time, I suggest you keep a time log. You will need to do this for at least a week to get a full cycle but ideally do it for a few weeks to get a broader picture, especially if like me no two weeks look the same. Log how you are spending your time hour by hour. This is a time to be pedantic and specific. After you have logged a week or two, take a close look at how you are honestly spending your time, not how you think you are spending your time. Perhaps you are spending more time on your commute, dressing the kids, making dinner, or nattering to your acquaintances by the photocopier more than you thought?
Secret time tip 2: Batch and bulk
This has to be one of my favorite techniques for saving time. I batch and bulk the majority of tasks, in the office and at home. This works especially well for chores and necessary (yet boring) tasks too!
For example, let’s take your homemade lunches you take to work. Firstly well done for taking the healthier and cheaper route (buying your lunch every day at work is said to cost us £1,800 a year). But to save time you really need to get on board with ‘meal prepping’. (FYI #mealprep returns over 4 million results on Instagram). Rather than spend time each night making tomorrow’s lunches, chose one specific day to do the whole batch (I prefer Sunday evenings). Whilst I agree making all your meals takes the same amount of time whether you do it day by day or in one go, it is the preparation, shopping and washing up that you’ll see the reward, having to only do this once.
This batch and bulk technique can be applied to most things. My husband writes all the reports for his team in one batch, my dad does all his accounts on a Monday and I dedicate time to do my emails in chunks rather than one by one as they come through. It’ll save you time and gain you focus.
Secret time tip 3: Eliminate (or at least reduce)
Take a look at your time (or better still your time log) and see what chores, tasks and activities you could eliminate. That’s right – completely get rid of! This will work for simple, repetitive or boring chores (I don’t suggest you use this as an excuse to your boss for not writing the weekly analysis).
For example, perhaps you could give some household chores to the kids, or automate some systems (for example direct debit payments and automatic renewals). Perhaps you can buy items such as toiletries, tinned food and cleaning products in larger quantities so you have to refill them less frequently. If you can’t completely eliminate some tasks, then at least try to cut down the time spent on tasks.
Secret time tip 4: Turn off distractions
We all like to think we can multi-task, but in reality, we really can’t. (I know you’re thinking “but I can”… you can’t). Mute the distractions and I guarantee that you will get things done quicker. Stop responding to every ping and beep your phone makes and focus on the task at hand. I guarantee this will make you more efficient, which in turn, gives you the gift of more time!
Secret time tip 5: Don’t procrastinate
I am not an ethnologist* but I am pretty sure that other mammals in the animal world don’t procrastinate like the human does. I don’t remember watching a wildlife show, where the lion whilst hunting, became indecisive about what species of antelope to hunt. He just goes for it. Nor do I recall ever having watched a dog, unsure whether to case the ball that his owner has so lovingly thrown.
Procrastinating, pondering and mulling over options is a sure fire way to eat up your precious time, because the more you dither, the more time you are wasting. I truly speak from the heart on this one as I used to be terrible at making simple decisions. Complex, long term decisions at work were a doddle but when it came to what restaurant to choose, what plans I should make for my in-laws visit or what to wear to the party, my mind was a jumble! Whilst you might only have wasted 20 minutes here or there, over the weeks, that adds up! Now, I limit decision-making time to a few minutes on unimportant or reversible decisions. If you still can’t make a decision, then simply ask someone for their opinion and go with that.
* Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationship between them
Secret time tip 6: Look for “dead time”
Don’t write off the importance of even the smallest snippet of seconds. For example, spending 10 minutes each day mindlessly waiting for the bus to work every morning doesn’t sound a lot, but that is 50 minutes in a working week, and if you are making the same journey back, that is a whopping 100 minutes a week you are wasting your time on. Now before you say “but Alice, I have to get the bus to work” my point is about looking for this ‘dead time’ as I call it, and finding ways to fill it productively. Perhaps listen to an audio book, write your to-do list or use the time to text people back. I have flash cards to help me learn Japanese which I whip out during ‘dead time’.
Secret time tip 7: Put a time to things
This is a tip I have only been doing myself this year but the results have been huge when it comes to helping me save time. On every to-do list, I allocate an amount of time I think I should be dedicating to it (or physically can). This helps me on two levels – first, because it keeps my timings disciplined (when the allocated 20 minutes are up, the task is done) and second because it helps me set expectations. I can quickly see if I am packing too much into my day. The other week I had a to-do list that was starting to come off the page. When I allocated my timings to do it, I realized I would need 9 hours to complete it yet I only had 5 hours! I could then see what was urgent for that day, and what could be put off. If I hadn’t had done this, then no doubt I would have been beating myself up at the end of the day for not completing everything off the list!
My bonus tip for you all, before you begin implementing my secret time tips first ask yourself why you want this extra time.
Do you want to just feel less busy, or spend more time with your family or free up your Saturday morning to take those jazz dance classes you always said you would? By identifying this, you have a strong motivation to stick to these tips. For example, the next time you start procrastinating, when you remember that being quicker will allow you more time to see your family will be a sure fire motivation to crack on!
I hope these tips help you like they have helped me!
I am one of those people that want to do it all – I want to try as many things as possible to get the most out of life. For that reason, I want to make sure I cram as much as physically possible into my days (without burning out like I did 10 years ago).
Following these tips will help you enjoy the now, be more productive and spend time on the things you love to do!