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7 Ridiculously Simple Ways To Gain More Time In Your Busy Day!

7 Ridiculously Simple Ways To Gain More Time In Your Busy Day!
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“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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Bonus tip!

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!

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Alice Dartnell

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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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