Our lives are now apparently busier than they have ever been. Surveys suggest that most of us feel under increasing pressure to fit more into our days. This survey even found that people felt too busy to take part in the survey! For some of us, work is the primary culprit. Now that working from home is so easy, employers expect us to work round the clock, and productivity is constantly monitored.
For others, it is social pressures that create a feeling of never getting enough done. Whether it’s physical or academic success, the achievements of those around us make us feel like we should be doing more. Social media platforms like Instagram have undoubtedly made this feeling worse.
Some people’s response to feeling so overwhelmed is to simply try to ignore it. I think a different approach is more rewarding. Instead of simply trying to pretend that the feeling of being over-stretched doesn’t exist, you should try to get more done in the limited time that you have.
That might sound easier said than done, but there are some very simple things you can do to immediately begin to get more out of your time. These things do not focus on one aspect of your life and change it in a dramatic way. Instead, they affect lots of different aspects of your life in a small way. On their own, the time saving will be moderate, when implemented together, they could save you hours of time every single day.
Listed below are 5 easy ways to fit more into your day.
1. Teach Yourself To Learn Faster
No, I am not telling you to avoid going to school. What I am talking about is a learning technique that is as old as recorded sound. But it is one which very few people actually seem to employ. I am referring of course to the practice of recording yourself speaking about a certain topic, and playing it back to yourself as you go about your day.
For example, imagine you are learning Japanese and you want to use this technique to learn faster. You would not doubt be listening to lessons, writing down phrases and sentences, and speaking along with prompts from the teacher.
You would then prepare a mock interaction using the new grammar structure or vocab you have learned that day. You would record yourself speaking this interaction out loud, save it as an MP3, and then store it on your iPod. You would then listen to it while you are doing something that doesn’t require a great deal of concentration, be it walking to work, waiting for a train, making dinner, shopping, or cleaning your house.
As your collection of self-spoken lessons grows, you would cycle through them in chronological order, over and over again, as you go about your mundane tasks.
This does two things. First, it forces you to speak both sides of a conversation on a regular basis. Speaking is the most important part of learning a new language. Not getting enough practice speaking is why so many people struggle to get their language learning off the ground.
Secondly, as you listen to yourself speak, you will be more inclined to listen to the words being spoken than you would if it was a podcast recorded by a stranger. Whether you are really paying attention or not, you will be listening to what is being said, refreshing your brain of conversations you first recorded weeks ago, thus solidifying them in memory.
Some people even go as far as to play recordings of themselves speaking as they sleep. While I have my doubts about this method of learning, I believe that you should try to fit this method in however you can. Be careful though; not getting enough sleep will hurt your learning more than this technique will help it!
2. Divide Your Time Into Chunks
Many of you may not have heard of the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ before now, but it isn’t anything new. Successful people have been using it in various forms for a long time. Those of you who are easily distracted will find this trick particularly helpful. The technique is ludicrously simple but devastatingly effective.
Basically, you choose a unit of time to be your ‘working block’; 25 minutes is a standard starting point. You then set a timer for that amount of time, and work solidly until the timer runs out. You then take a short break, say 5 minutes, before starting the next cycle. After a designated number of cycles (usually around 3), you take a longer break.
The beauty of timed working like this is that you eliminate the temptation to check your emails, make a cup of coffee, or talk to your colleagues. You know that you have a five minute break coming up, so it’s much easier to work solidly until then.
This is more important now than it ever has been. Pretty much everybody now has the internet at their fingertips. It is so easy to take a quick 30 second break from work to check Facebook or Tinder. These 30 second breaks often grow into 30 minute hiatuses from work, so it’s important to minimize them.
The best thing about the Pomodoro Technique in my opinion is that you no longer measure work in the amount of time spent at the office or sat at your computer. Instead, you measure your productivity in the amount of time spent actually working. I have found this breeds an element of competitiveness. If you have a friend who also uses a timed working technique, you will naturally try to fit more Pomodoro blocks into your day than them.
This also leaves you to actually enjoy your time spent not working without feeling guilty about not working. Few of us actually enjoy procrastination. We spend that time worrying about the work we have to do. When using the Pomodoro Technique, you can relax during your breaks, because you know that you are not actually supposed to be working during that time.
Give the Pomodoro Technique a try yourself today and you will see just how much of a difference it makes.
3. Banish Time-Consuming Cardio With HIIT
How long do you spend each week in the gym trying to stay trim? If your main reason for spending hours every week pounding the pavements is to keep body fat at bay, then you could achieve the same results in a fraction of the time by employing high intensity interval training.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is where you alternate between a slow to moderate jog and bursts of all-out sprinting. A common tempo is 30 seconds of sprinting, followed by 2 minutes rest. This is repeated for how ever many iterations are desired, with four being pretty standard.
You can play around with the time scales, but this would be a good place to start. As you get used to doing four 30 second sprints, you can either extend the number of cycles, extend the amount of time you need to sprint for, or reduce rest times.
Studies have found that HIIT is significantly more effective at burning body fat than steady state cardio. Other studies have found that HIIT gets you in much better physical condition than jogging at a steady pace. Anyone who has done HIIT for a number of months will tell you that their fitness is far above what it was when they jogged almost every day.
So, not only can you potentially save hours each week, but you can actually achieve better results! Since HIIT shreds body fat faster than steady state cardio, and since it seems to get you in much better condition than just running, you probably don’t need to do HIIT as often as you would normally jog.
Furthermore, your body probably won’t be able to take high intensity training as often as it can handle jogging; you will naturally need to take some days off, which translates to even more time saved each week. You can’t ask for much more than that, can you?
Try swapping your daily jog with a 10 minute HIIT session three times per week and see how your body responds. In the vast majority of cases, time savings will be felt immediately, and changes in how your body looks might start to become apparent in as little as a few weeks.
4. Tailor Your Diet To Your Goals
I don’t need to tell you about the impact your diet can have on your day to day life. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to enhance physical or mental performance: your diet essentially sets the limits of what you are capable of. I am not overstating things here. By tweaking your diet in seemingly small but very precise ways, you can supercharge your performance at work, in the gym, at home studying, and even in your social life.
For example, say you are looking to cut down the amount of time you spend studying. Instead of just studying for less time and letting your results suffer, you can try to sharpen your focus and get more done in the same amount of time. One way to do this is to optimize your diet for cognitive performance. Common tactics include consuming more oily fish for the DHA content, more eggs for the choline (a prerequisite for the formation of key neurotransmitters), and keeping carbohydrates low.
If you are spending longer and longer in the gym trying to get rid of lingering body fat, then a subtle change to your diet could make a world of difference, allowing you to spend much less time in the gym.
You can find plenty of professional, fat loss orientated diet plans out there. You will also be able to find plenty of information on particular substances and how they can help you speed up fat loss. By introducing things as simple as green tea and chili peppers, you could shave days off your fat loss timetable.
These changes wont make a massive difference in the short term, of course. The instant benefits may be imperceptible, but over the course of a career, their cumulative effect can be profound.
5. Cut Down Cooking Time With Intermittent Fasting
Few things can make as big of an impact on your daily routine, and on your life, as intermittent fasting. You may not think of cooking and eating as being huge drains on your time.
Lots of you will really enjoy cooking, and will balk at the idea of cutting down on one of the things you enjoy most. If you lead a stressful life, cooking is without doubt a very effective way to unwind. But if you are desperate to fit more into your already very full day, then intermittent fasting could be for you.
Put simply, intermittent fasting is when you only consume food during a specified eating ‘window’. Some people use an eight hour window, others simply consume one meal per day – it depends on the individual and their experience using such techniques. In any case, once the eating window is over, you only consume zero to low-calorie drinks: water, green tea, black coffee, and so on.
I need to make this very clear: intermittent fasting is NOT a diet. You should aim to consume roughly the same amount of calories as you normally would. Intermittent fasting isn’t about how much you eat, it’s about when you eat it. No particular food group is banned, and you aren’t expected to cut back on any of the foods that you love.
All you are required to do is restrict calorie intake to a narrower window than you are used to. This helps you fit more into your day in two ways. First, the obvious: you spend less time shopping for, cooking, and eating food. Secondly, some of the supposed health benefits of intermittent fasting help you make other areas of your life more efficient.
For instance, it is well known in the fitness world that intermittent fasting can significantly accelerate fat loss. This means spending less time in the gym or out pounding the pavements.
Intermittent fasting can also help improve sleep quality, meaning that you get much more out of fewer hours in bed. Basically, by not eating for hours before going to bed, you let your body’s normal growth hormone release cycle take action. This leads to a deeper sleep, as well as enhanced fat loss and muscle recovery. I have heard countless people saying that they wish they didn’t have to sleep so much; intermittent fasting can help you achieve that.
Intermittent fasting is also known to help enhance cognitive performance. Many experts in this field think that periodic fasting can work wonders for your focus and attention span. While research is on-going, this is just another reason to give intermittent fasting a try.
Fit More Into Your Day Today!
This article is not supposed to be a definitive answer to the question of how to fit more into your day. If you do want to fit more into your day, then the best way to go about it is not, in my opinion, to take drastic measures.
You shouldn’t completely ditch one portion of your life to free up room for another. If something makes you happy, you should still try to make room for it, whether it’s sports, studying, or spending time with friends. The healthiest way to fit more into your day is to make small, almost imperceptible changes to the various parts of your life in order to make them more efficient and less time consuming.
The techniques I have presented here are things you can introduce today. On their own, each one might only make a small difference to how much you are able to get out of each day. But if you make changes across the board, you will find that you are able to get more and more out of your waking hours, which will either make you more productive or free up spare time for friends and family.
Either way, don’t put it off or dismiss it as not important. Your time is the most valuable thing you have. Start getting the most out of it today!